Monday, June 23, 2014

Newton's Laws and Story Laws

 Consequence is the price we pay for what we have done, what we have not done, and also for things done or not done that have no direct connection to us.  Until someone turns up a secret.  Or someone wants something that person, under ordinary circumstances, would not think to want.

Some things make workable equations the moment you consider them.  Take Causality = Consequence for an example.  Could have come right out of Sir Isaac Newton.

Causality is a force that inspires or directs an action or event; it is the momentum necessary to overcome an inertia of stasis.  Once the condition of stasis is overcome, the consequences, when traced with a focused vision, produce most of the necessary events for a story.

Easy for you to say "most of the necessary events."  Depending on the kind of story you're after, "most of the necessary events" is the equivalent of a recipe telling you, "add some vegetables" without telling you what kind of vegetables.

Story starts with a condition of stability or as close to stability as the characters and their various agendas will allow. Something happens to upset that stasis, destabilize it, bring down some cosmic force with a convincing demonstration of its intensity.  Someone in the ensemble cast of characters wants and has been brooding about a change in some status or other. 

Story can--and often does--stop with thin characters or unimaginative motivation. Someone wants an abstraction rather than a specific.  Someone wants more specificity than to be loved.  Someone wants to be loved by a particular person.

So let's take a closer look at what could be considered imaginative motivation.  Let's take the characters and their motivation from the story focusing on a young woman, Antigone, and her Uncle, King Creon.  To simplify the path of causality, Antigone has two brothers, both of whom were killed in a battle.  This battle took place in Ancient Greece.  

When you consider the relative dumbness of reason for another ancient Grecian battle, the Battle of Troy,as in The Iliad, then consider some of the more modern conflicts, it is quite possible to conclude that we have not evolved much in our ability to continue as social animals.  

You could say of war then as well as now, War is an expensive and dumb way for settling dumb issues that could just as well been settled by diplomacy.  When you read The Iliad,  you don't spend much time thinking the whole thing began because when Paris found out Helen was married to someone else, he didn't shrug his shoulders and say, "Oh well."

At any rate, one of Antigone's brothers is given a ceremonial burial.  The other brother, Polynices, had political issues with King Creon to the point where the king has denied him any burial at all, much less a ceremonial one.

Okay, a few dominoes of causality have fallen at this point,  The brothers are dead, and King Creon has made it clear that Polynices is to be left to rot or become food for the feral dogs, rather than being embalmed and buried.  

This fact alone would, in accordance with the religious beliefs and practices of the day, deny Polynices into the underworld and any chance of any kind of the afterlife considered to be a given by the then prevalent religious beliefs.

The real destabilizing event--events, actually--involves Antigone's insistent determination to bury Polynices.  The real story here is not Antigone against King Creon.  Each had tangible love and respect for the other.  The clash is between Antigone and convention.  If you thought Hamlet had a rather messy last scene, go back to reread Antigone.

You could say Antigone was from a dysfunctional family.  Her father was King Oedipus, which puts you on alert from the get go, but her mother was Jocasta.  Yes, that Jocasta, who, in fact, was also the mother of King Oedipus.  Antigone is thus her father's half-sister.

You cannot help comparing such stories to their more modern counterparts, where the social structuring and dynamic are different but the potential for causality remains pretty much the same.  Two individuals in the recent play and filmed version of it, August, Osage County, who seemed a well suited romantic match were let in on the secret that they were brother and sister.  The story here was about romantic and inter-family dynamics, seeming to argue the thesis that any relationship is a crap shoot.

How easy it was in past times to associate the strings of events we sometimes find in life and often find in story as Fate or, if you were Greek, The Fates.  Or maybe if you were something other than Greek, Destiny or Fate or Karma.

Or story.

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