Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Power Points

 Whether the concept appears outside of you or somewhere in the confines of that inner sky you refer to from time to time as a mind, you have picked up a charge of power that goes shuddering through your entire awareness.  It is a concept, and you are now faced with the opportunity to bring it to life as a story or an essay.

In these exciting moments, you have power over it, the ability to manipulate, bend, twist, reverse, engage until it becomes something recognizable.  This power is energizing.  You are alert to the storm of possibility, intrigued by the mystery it encodes.  You wonder what it will reveal to you.  It is in many ways like meeting someone exciting, perhaps more curious than you, surely brighter; an individual walking with perfect calm and poise on a high wire.

In a matter of moments, as you see the potential for this relationship, the power has shifted from you to it.

Somewhere along the way, your fiction began to make sense to you when you understood how close the relationships are between characters and power, between scenes and the tidal nature of power, and, in recent years, the relationship of power between you and the project itself.

Stories set themselves in motion for you, pushing away from the shores of concept and into circumstances where intent produces consequence, where intent is nudged and governed by power, where, as consequence becomes more apparent, power has the upper hand.

It is not easy to let go of the power you think you have at the outset of a story.  After all, you were the creator; you brought these circumstances and boundaries to bear.  Didn’t you?  As the originator, even if the concept you saw was something external—a conversation in a market or coffee house, the sudden gesture of intimacy at a restaurant, perhaps even the way you felt when someone, in the act of making a point, touched your hand or your arm, and the result was something you’d not begun to expect—you called the shots, you had the power.

First thing to learn:  that kind of power—apparent power—is illusory.  Some characters are, accordingly, driven or ruled by illusory power.

Second thing to learn:  some power is accidental.  The sincere gesture, intended to convey only some polite or conventional response, had not been intended as anything else, but it has had on at least one character the effect of grabbing an electric eel.  No problem if the giver of the sincere gesture fails to realize this accidental power.  Alas, no story, either.

Third thing to learn:  characters who sense they are hostage to a particular power, take steps to neutralize the power, then dance about in celebration of existential freedom from that particular power are walking lightening rods, their waving about actually causing another strike of lightening from another source.  Or perhaps even the same source.

Fourth thing to learn:  love is recognition of power.  Love is also a willing surrender of power; this done in understanding that too much power and too little surrender produces resentment.  Unselfish love is the willingness to surrender power.  This must be done in an atmosphere of trust.  If you do not trust whom you love, you will be thinking about control and its loss rather than about surrender.

“You take it.”

“No, I want you to have it.”

Two lines and already a story is in progress, one that could evolve into an argument, a negotiated settlement or trust, or a demonstration of the superficiality of the characters.  Possibly even other permutations.

Sometimes you have the power over the material, other times the material has you in a hammerlock.  The system works best when you trust one another, when you trust yourself to give up stubborn holds on the material in expectation of a surprise you had not thought to be possible.

Abuse of power is a Petri dish for story, but it has less to do with you trying to browbeat the characters into submission to a pre-conceived template. Story is best served when you understand the tidal nature of the process of creation—where you are in control, and where to let go.

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