Friday, March 6, 2015

Force of Hobbit

Yet again, the disciplined study of physics contributes to your understanding of the elements of story by offering opportunities for you to see the interaction of dramatic properties.  In this particular case, the understanding of force causes you the back off for a few moments from actual characters or, rather, to see characters as forces.

Force is actual power or potential, waiting in the wings as a character about to step on stage to deliver lines of dialogue and physical actions which are focused to provide a result.  Some characters enter the story with force or power, based on social or political positions or ability.  Other characters are depicted as latent forces, meaning they will grow into force as the story progresses.

Not all force is efficient.  Some vehicles you see from day to day in city and freeway traffic require relatively greater quantities of fuel to propel them.  Some characters have the equivalent of complicated engines, capable of providing force provided they are well fueled.  To put that another way, the characters and the engines are high-maintenance.  Each has a particular sound, a low, throaty rumble suggestive of the power, looking to unleash itself.

Some characters and some vehicles betray internal sounds rather than purr at idle.  Sometimes these characters falter, quit, or make random sounds suggestive of one or more internal ailments.  You could say of each that they are also high-maintenance, but in the other way of requiring constant triage and emergency treatment.  An older car may stall or belch exhaust smoke or require roadside attention.  Such a vehicle translated into character may require times in which to recover from various types of hangover.

As readers and writers, we tend to judge characters and cars in terms of their potential for generating force.  The car engine is often represented in terms of square liters of displacement, delivering X top speed.  Characters are represented in terms of their apparent eagerness to perform one or more tasks that will produce specific goals.

Some automotive dealerships use euphemisms about their products, such as single-owner or previously owned, these appellations contrived to take the sting off the word "used."  A used car seems somehow at the lower end of the scale of quality.  Even the term used in connection with a Bentley or Alfa-Romeo carry the sound of anomaly.  Used Ford or Chevy sound suspicious on their face.  Give a character a "sixty-dollar Chevy from a used car lot" and you are in effect telling the reader this character has severe burdens.

An engine or a character with demonstrable inherent force speaks to a vehicle with a potential if not actual destination.  Thus does story begin to form; you, for instance, would prefer a Porsche or Ferrari as a getaway car, were you robbing a bank, rather then the sixty-dollar Chevy Impala from the used car lot.

The engine or character meet the laws of physics and drama in the way or ways they change the direction of other forces such as friction or tradition, which may be in motion or idling on the sideline, ready to step up as opposition.  Indeed, what does drama and physics have to say about opposing forces?  Plenty.  What efforts are needed to overcome opposing forces, both in the garage and the manuscript.

Characters appear at times as forces for change or forces that have been blunted in the past, but are now ready for another shot at a goal.  They may also have to overcome some inherent force that has been biologically or experientially hard-wired into them.

Where ever you look, characters collide in a rhetorical or hyperbolic mash-up of the bumper car rides at carnival midways, and only yesterday, while reading a review of a book on the history of world wars an near world wars, there was the judgment that war was an arena into which two or more countries, each believing in the rightness of its cause, enter.

Gentlemen, and ladies, start your engines.  And may the force be with you.

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