Friday, December 14, 2012

Cause and Effect in Characters

The first diagnosis was Raynaud's Syndrome, with the added-in-haste emendation, "with idiosyncrasies."  Those idiosyncrasies soon outweighed the symptoms that caused the original diagnosis.  Next step, let's try lupus erythematosus, which had the advantage of being a problem with the autoimmune system.  Indeed, your symptoms matched some, if not all the visible benchmarks of that unpleasant affliction, shortened as if making it sound familiar would make it more friendly or at least not so virulent.

Besides, lupus erythematosuys opened the door to prescribe that glucocorticoid known as Prednisone, which has its own approaches to idiosyncrasy in the numerous potentials for side effects.  You came in earlier, with some hand and toe symptoms that led to suspicions you may be harboring Raynaud's syndrome, then behaved as story should by becoming worse and less understood to the point where one or more doctors felt it worth the risk of idiosyncratic response from Prednisone to let it have its way with your symptoms, which were regarded by the doctors who saw you as undocumented laborers are regarded by Republicans. Your symptoms were upgraded to undifferentiated immuno-anomalies,

Sixty milligrams of prednisone a day is considered the highest dose without increasing the likelihood of idiosyncratic responses.  There you were, with it and, later, a compound called a beta-blocker, normally given to individuals suffering from angina.

The three previous paragraphs are backstory, linking you to your actual past, a theme you are examining for the third day, and the relationship between cause and effect as these factors apply to character.

Had this been fiction, you might better have said that at a point in your fifties, you'd contracted some odd, undifferentiated auto-immune system uproar for which you were prescribed a compound that is the medical equivalent of truck drivers on amphetamines--necessary evils for the overall, greater good, but watch your wallet.

This is not fiction, it is discursive, investigative build up to why some characters do what they do and as well why, in the process, they become game changers, in similar fashion as that wonderful random force, Anton Chigurh, created by Cormac McCarthy in No Country for Old Men.  

Prednisone has been known to have side effects in which the user gains weight, loses weight, develops edema and other forms of bloating, and as well experiences changes in personality.  You did none of these, but unbeknown to you, a more insidious idiosyncrasy was working away on the tip of the portion of the hip that fits into the socket.  Soon, the tip of the bone was covered with coral-like growths, which had increased in size to the point where they were scraping the socket of the ball-and-socket portion of the hip,

This discovery came after you seem to have resolved your immune system issues and were back on the streets, running your customary ten miles a day.

A particular vector of cause and effect got you to the point where you needed to take some steps to be rid of the effects of the scraping that accompanied each step you took.  You were literally sent off in a tangent from your accustomed behavior.

This is the sort of detail and effect you need to establish with characters in order to see how reality has shifted for all the individuals you create, what effects there are in their presence or absence.

Simple, pop-psychology build-ups are not sufficient to the task, nor is it necessary for you to include the relevant details.  What matters is that you know it, that you can see how it effects the character's present-time behavior and the character's vision of self as the character imagines being seen by others.

You were never going to be a commanding force as a runner.  Running was something you enjoyed and profited from well beyond your ability to compete or set standards for stamina.  Nevertheless, it is gone from you and you've put some effort into substituting swimming to the point where you did not consider yourself recovered from your cancer surgery until you could swim a mile and a half at least five times a week.

This is where things come together for some attempt at resolution, this area where thematic elements are resolved almost as they are in a musical composition.  The inherent pleasure in floating these things out that come from the autobiographical you is as significant to you as a character you invent, sharing her or his backstory to the point where you see if the character is driven or settled, accepting or resentful, jealous or confident.

This has nothing to do with awards or even setting personal best standards, rather this has to do with finding things you can do to make the things you cannot do any longer seem significant as regrets but not as life-diminishing anchors that weigh you down to the point where you are unwilling to investigate the potential of other things.  Therein, you have a line by which to measure the ways of yourself and the ways of your characters.

1 comment:

Querulous Squirrel said...

I have so had to learn the lesson of that last paragraph since my brain injury in June which still limits me in many ways cognitively. I have no attention span. I have a terrible working memory, juggling more than two ideas in my head at once, and mostly just one idea. Any interruption and the thought it gone. I'm adjusting. I'm pushing myself. But a lot is gone. My job is gone. I don't work with people anymore. But I write all day. i still have that. I can write. A blessing.