Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Increased Minimum Wages for Characters

Earlier this evening you were in a part of Santa Barbara that surprised you for a reason that seemed on the edge of being too convenient a metaphor.

For eight or ten minutes, you were in an area where your cell phone carrier, Verizon , has no connectivity.

You are used to having coverage.  To put it in more practical terms, the metaphor in mind, you are not used to not having coverage.

By driving a few more blocks, you were able to achieve connection and thus able to make the call that produced information you needed in order to be able to pick up a friend.

The metaphor is this:  You're used to having some sense of connectivity with the writing process, which means in effect that you're never more than an hour or so away from being able to take off on some project in the works or begin some detailed notes for later use, or even spend time in these blog pages, which you have come to consider the writer's equivalent of a musician running scales, if for nothing else than to hear the tonal progressions while maintaining manual dexterity.

You are in effect surprised when you think to compose and there is no reception, meaning you are cut off from the source of the signal.

As you did earlier this evening, the equivalent of moving away from the dead zone, a change of attitude or the deliberate focusing on a raw feeling is sufficient to produce results.

There is no way of estimating how long you had to move away from dead zones to realize that story extends well beyond description.  You cannot describe a condition, even one of extreme emotion, and expect to have that suffice as story.

There is no way of estimating how long it took you to understand that story not only went well beyond description, it is a stream of action, of movements, thoughts, responses, wishes, and interactions.  You can guess that you required something like forty years to learn that these actions, these moments, sometimes referred to as beats, when arranged in the proper order, produce the thing you despaired of ever being able to grasp, which is plot.  In a true sense, plot was your geometry.  How many times did you have to lurch your way through geometry in order to get it?

Pick a locale, any locale.  Pick a number of characters, all of whom are well defined with goals and individual senses of how committed they are to achieving those goals.  Now endow each of them with the unassailable sense that they are right.

A worthy practice at this point is to invent a scene in which as many of them as possible are together, each wanting to implement his or her agenda for accomplishing his or her defining goal.  Then write the same scene from the point of view of each character.  This is often necessary to get you out of the picture and the characters and their agenda up front.

Now you can pick the character whose point of view causes the greatest avalanche with the least amount of effort.  Now you are in story, beyond mere description.

If the project you need to be focused on is an essay or review, you need to pick a point of apparent plausibility and another that seeks to pick an argument with the plausible point.  Now you have two or more focal points in an argument.  Allow them to collide.

You can follow argumentative points with the same easy you can follow characters, that is, you can if you take the effort to make the points of contention seem less than obvious at the outset.

Story, whether invented or real, wants plausible contention of a seemingly polarized pair of opposites whom you've dragged to some negotiating table.  Neither pair of opposites is comfortable in the same story or essay with the other, much like young persons, at certain ages, feeling embarrassment when they are seen in public with their parents.  You are the facilitator, trying to forge some negotiated settlement.

Now, you can show off a bit, describe a few things, like how pissed each side is at having to have given up so much.

What we give up to get what we want is story.  What we get what we want without much effort is fantasy.

Sometimes jealousy and envy hover over the results of story like pesky flies on a summer afternoon.  The more we are aware of their presence, the more meaning the negotiations take on.

A character is most alone when that individual refuses to negotiate, either from fear of living with the inevitability of negotiation or the piled on hubris of thinking himself/herself to be so right that the other party has no bargaining chips.

Increase the minimum wage for characters as well as for restaurant workers.  Every character should have at least one significant bargaining chip.

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