Saturday, August 24, 2013

Possibilities to Consider When Falling

Someone is falling.

Perhaps that falling individual had been climbing only moments earlier.  Or maybe standing at an edge.  A precipitous edge.  Perhaps that individual was mounting an escalator at a train depot before falling, trying to read from a Kindle Fire, a novel, say, while moving upward.

Well, perhaps the individual who is falling is also late for an appointment or, in fact, quite early, with generous time to spare.  How often do you hear about individuals falling when they are early for an appointment?

Could it be that the individual who is falling is a man of middle years, or an emeritus academic or physician, a doctor, for example, who once performed orthopedic surgery?  On the other hand, suppose the individual captured in free fall is still quite young, head and heart throbbing with tumescent dreams.

Or maybe a woman, not only falling but doing so at a moment in her life where there are important decisions to be made.  Is her fall in any way related to the important decisions clamoring for her attention?  There is something compelling about her shoulders, her posture, both standing and in stride.  

If she is in fact the person falling, does the suddenness of her no longer standing or in full stride but rather in fall, in any way detract from the excellent configuration of her shoulders?  Probably not.  Destabilizing events, sudden shifts from ordinary such as standing or striding, tend to grab our attention and hold it, focused tightly on the fall.

So there is this woman in free fall.

How far does she have to fall before she lands?  What will she land on? Will it be a controlled landing or an awkward one?  If we knew she had such a notable posture and excellent shoulders before she began her fall, would we have concerns about these aspects after her fall was completed?

Falling, you see, is an excellent beginning.  If we find ourselves at opening moments of story, where someone, by most accounts a complete stranger to us, is captured in free fall, so too is our interest captured.  We wait for that individual to complete the fall, watching to see how she or he negotiates the fall, responds to the impact of landing.  We learn significant things about that person from the mere way of landing and the response.  

Had we seen that person before the fall, there exists splendid probability that we would not have noticed.  Except perhaps for the woman with the extraordinary shoulders and posture--at least, those of us who are men would have noticed because we are given to believe we are hard-wired to notice such things.

So there you are, a lesson in beginnings.  A dramatic approach to a way to cause some readers to care, perhaps even to the extent of rooting for the person who is falling.  Perhaps even to the extent of awakening some curiosity about what the person was doing before the fall.  Perhaps even entertaining some suspicion that the person in fall had been pushed or nudged.

If it is true that you are hard-wired to notice a woman with extraordinary shoulders and posture, it is important to your wishes to understand the mechanics of story telling for you to know how to place such information in the order of awareness of a narrator.  If you were to see such a woman falling, it would cause you greater concern if you knew about her posture first, and your awareness of her posture would vanish, shoved out of the way by your concern for her safety.

Of course, there are other possibilities to consider.  The person falling may not be in an actual physical fall but rather a fall from grace, a fall into or out of love, a fall in standards, a fall from stature or position.  Stories may begin with such falls.  

We care about qualities in all things only after we see them in some moment of stress or conflict.  There are any number of species of insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals you were completely unaware of until you first learned about them in context with their being an endangered species.

Some species is falling.

Someone is falling.

What will you do?

You will begin by caring.

If the plight of the species or the individual is interesting to you, abundant with intriguing detail, your caring will evolve into rooting, and they will reside among your friends.

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