Monday, August 8, 2011

Comfort Zones

What feels right for you?

Shouldn't be too difficult to get a handle on that.  After all, it's your comfort zone we're talking about.

Do you need a dollop of honey on your oatmeal.  There are those who enjoy a pinch of salt on their slab of watermelon.  Are you one of these? And how about aromas; what scent of your SO is a turn-on for you?  While we're on that subject, what is a turn-off?  (Madras shorts, right?)

Music.  For you it's The Stones.  No?  What about a giant jump to one of the Bach family; Papa J.S., or maybe one of the kids, C.P.E., or J.C.?

And you groove on redheads, go all weak and cuddly at the sight of a Cezanne, think Magritte was a clown, can't imagine why all the fuss about Andy Warhol.

You, of course, would not be caught dead in a garment woven from synthetic materials, non?  Nothing but cotton for you, pima or Sea Island.  So they wrinkle and need a touch-up with an iron.

Don't even mention red meat to you; gave that up when you quit smoking.  Forget sugary soft drinks or those ten or twelve pounds you were carrying around but not really doing anything constructive with.

What have we forgotten?  Oh, yeah:  sea or mountains?

Don't forget dogs vs. cats.

You're still holding back, aren't you?  Okay, conservative or liberal?

Now, we've got you.  Make a list or a big Post-it Note.  The heading?  Why, "Me," of course.

Keep it handy.  Somewhere in your work area.  That's you being described there.  From now on, there can be only one of you (if that many) per story.  Everyone else has to be different, and the one who is you has to fall in love cross-grain to your own preferences.

Not only that, everyone has to be treated with the same respect and evenhandedness you observed for yourself.  That means no summary judgments from you.  That means a cadre of individuals, each with the easy conviction that they're right, coming into every scene you write.

One of your characters wants to infer (note the arc of nuance in that splendid verb) some breech of taste or ethics or cultural integrity in one or more others.  That's okay for your character--but not for you.  Another powerful word:  innuendo,  Someone in your narrative wants to send innuendo scooting into the resume of another character.  You're the director; you've cast these characters.  Now, they're at work, using their individual take on sense, sensation, and sensuality (overt or covert) to add texture to their individual agenda.

Cool; very cool you've got someone else other than you doing it.  After all, that's what story's about, isn't it?  Also what writing fiction is about.  It;s up to you to manage the characters, see that each starts with his comfort zone intact.  Then comes the destabilizing event--the one that sets the story on its roll down the hillside.  Once that inertia is achieved--once you get it going--each character is shaken, thrust, pushed, shoved out of his/her comfort zone.

Which brings us back to you.  What do you do when you are evicted from your comfort zone?  Knock back a few Mars bars?  Six-pack of ale?  Maybe margaritas?  Maybe you're into coffee or an impossible romance, or a trip somewhere (Remember the song, "Lush Life?"  A weekend in Paris/Will ease the bite of it...")  A carton of Oreo cookies?

Ah,how shrewd you are.  You see where this is going.  So make your list, already.  Remind yourself how you use your senses to help you respond to the stress of drama in your life.  Then make sure each of your characters uses a different sensory/sensual/sensuous profile, each according to his and her own personality.

The great thing about approaching your characters and their sensory awareness this way is that you might pick up some valuable hints for the next time, as the poet (Wordsworth, old pal) put it:

The world is too much with us, late and soon.

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