Monday, October 15, 2012

In the Writer's Bubble

Questions of major importance for storytellers:

Who’s telling the story?  (If it’s you, there’s trouble ahead when you seek a publisher.)

Why choose that particular character (or characters)?

Why not use the more impersonal, objective, omniscient perspective? (Go ahead, but make sure there’s enough return postage on your SASE.)

You want a source for telling the story with some stake in the main dramatic problem and its outcome. No question about it being Dorothy Gale’s story in The Wizard of Oz.  None.  An ideal source for a narrator is someone who is committed to reaching an outcome, someone who has a stake in that outcome.  (You may not agree with the source or even like her or him, but if you get into that person’s needs and feelings, you’re still likely to root for that person to achieve the expressed goals.

The choice you make for the filter or point-of-view of the narrator(s) is as important to the overall outcome as the photographer’s choice of a filter (or not) and the degrees of exposure in a photograph.  The choice of narrator(s) has a direct effect on how the story pays off in emotional value. Most of us know tomorrow is another day, but when Scarlet observes that likelihood at the end of Gone with the Wind, the statement resounds.  After all these years and readings.

An impersonal perspective in the narrative point of view distances the writer and the reader from what the characters felt as the story evolves, leaving the reader to turn to you for hints (descriptions) of how to react.

Twenty-first-century story is based on evocation rather than description.  Don’t get smart-ass here with the observation that your story is set in the past, say the nineteenth century.  Nineteenth-century stories carry the sound of the nineteenth century narrative, complete with author stepping up (and in) to comment.  Never mind longing for the old days.  Get with the twenty-first century, even if writing a narrative set in, say, the nineteenth century.

We are more prepared to “get” story if we feel it.  Authorial presence has become an intrusion and distraction.  Today, the conventional wisdom is to rely on characters and our own interpretations of their behavior.  Authorial intrusion in narrative is the equivalent of Fox TV news elbowing its way into journalism.

You believe readers tend to pick their preferences based on how the reading experience makes them feel.  There are no right or wrong answers associated with reader choices.

Stephen King is a writer who impresses you big time with his technique, his choice of themes, and his seemingly unearthly ability to establish the tingling sensations associated with fear.  All of this tells you he has developed his deft approach for evocation of fear to an enviable precision.  When you read him, it is to see how he stays on message with such skill.  His message is fear.  You do not read to be frightened.  You read him to learn ways you might use to evoke the sorts of things you wish to evoke, things such as suspense, tension, discomfort, even dread.

Reading to become frightened is every bit as admirable as reading to make discovery or to be confronted with puzzles of behavior and choice.  By reading to become frightened, the reader can learn how to withstand some of the amazing terrors Life presents at all levels.

You read to discover how you feel in tight-fitting situations involving your own behavior and the behavior of others.

Not all that long ago, you expressed your disappointment in another writer to that individual by telling him you thought better of him.  Having said that and reflecting on it for some time, you also wondered how many persons past, present, and future might have occasion to say that of you, to have the disappointment in you that has led them to realize they’d expected better performance and outcome from you.

Everything you write is in some way or another a reflection of what you read and why.  This is a win-win situation, one that offers you the sense of dipping into your observations and fantasies in order to extract results that will leave you less baffled and tentative as you leave the writer’s bubble after getting in your day’s pages before venturing out to edit, teach, befriend, and accept friendship.

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