Thursday, April 10, 2014

Trust

 Of the many qualities and conditions apparent in a dramatic narrative, few are more loaded with potential for misadventure and misunderstanding than trust.

Confirmation of this observation is immediate:  there is the fraught matter of trust among the characters, followed by the even more intensified matter of trust within the reader.

Readers must first be made to trust the depth and texture of characters.  Then readers must be nudged along their stage of involvement to trust the inevitability of mischief and entanglement among the characters, even to the point of making assumptions or predictions of ways in which the characters will behave.  This is significant because readers who do not speculate about outcomes can be said to have not connected with the characters.

Last but by no means least in the calculus is the presence of the author and the need for the author to trust the characters to the sufficient degree of not trying to restrain them when they want to step forth to respond as they would rather than follow directions.

Trust also informs the way this last bit of business is in reality a conceit.  The writer has created the characters in order to have them do specific things, such as have an agenda, then act on it.  The writer has created other characters to oppose these wind-up-toy  protagonists by opposing them in every way possible.  But the character has taken on a life of its own, its agenda an armature about which are wrapped traits, experiences, prejudices, and attitudes chosen with care in the knowledge that the character must have the ability to surprise.  

In a true sense, the writer has constructed the character because of her quirkiness or his tendency to live as a marginal being.  But the writer has also given the character a stress point of a specific durability which, as the writer well knows, cannot last beyond that point.  The writer knowingly in effect takes the brand new car out on the freeway at rush hours.

Your approach to storytelling has evolved over time.  You approach them as you do sometimes in Reality, when you find yourself in a gathering of complete strangers, many of whom appear to you to have an extensive history. You approach them, observe them, watch their behavior, aware you are going to ask some of them if they'd care to appear in a story you have in mind.

Of course they object; they wish to maintain their illusory sense of power that comes from being unobserved, under some gun of some deadline or directive or social custom.  You, who know them so well, nudge them toward steps where they are scurrying to break free of a web of circumstances that remain intransigent; they apprehend, and they punish.

Look how the atmosphere of suspicion and unease pervades the writing area.  The reader may not trust the characters who, in their turn, are likely not to trust one another.

What is true here?  The truth is the mutual surroundings of suspicion. The truth is a prevalent sense of bigotry or its own best-case scenario, a gradual-but-growing distrust of the sort you drew upon when likening your first approach to characters of your own as individuals you've met at some teary-eyed wake,

Because you have read scarcely enough and written scarcely enough, you have not achieved sentimentality with your characters.  You are critical.  You've called upon them to misread, mistake, and misdiagnose, which they do.  You look for ways to push them toward  the noir regions where they are forced to live, under assumed names and identities, every wary in their freedom.

Why not just do the time or take the punishment or accept the consequences, you ask of them before setting them off to work?

And their response to you:  Perhaps in real life, but this is the slippery depths of despair and longing.  This is the place where civility swirls about the drain, then gurgles on its way out.  And we trust you to recognize this.  If you do not, we will surely remind you.

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