Monday, March 9, 2015

Ventures in the Dramatic Lottery

 Most of the characters you've developed long-lasting relationships with have some memorable flaw, some enormous obstacle to overcome with which, when you first met them, they were still struggling to achieve.  

In the process of becoming acquainted with these characters and learning how to forge your own, you've learned there is some burning desire they wish to achieve.  Indeed, they may have pestered you with the details to the point where you were forced to wonder why you have no such desire at this level of intensity.

More than a few of these characters have another common trait:  they have wished to pursue some career or personal goal that would place them well within the statistical anonymity of the median range.  

Many persons in reality strive for and achieve this goal, but such characters cannot be allowed to do so because of the harsher dicta of story.  Such persons must be yanked, hurled, or duped by random chance into the dramatic martyrdom of victimization.

Small wonder Mary Shelley's memorable novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus made its way into print in 1820, when all about her poets and writers were concocting narratives in which characters were being assembled in much the same way the unnamed creation of Dr. Frankenstein was assembled, a part from an actual person, a trait from another, a goal or attitude from yet another.  Dr. Frankenstein's creature goes so far as to remind his creator, "I am the Adam of your labors."  Your own characters have spoken to you in any number of ways, including one memorable one in which the character, speaking to you in a dream, told you she'd been given the wrong name.

Characters such as these resonate with most readers from the working and upwardly mobile middle classes, many of whom have had experiences with such troglodytes as bureaucracy, random happenstance or accident, or some accidental mistake from which they attempted to extricate themselves with a combination of sincere apology, due diligence, and a willingness to pay to be excused from their error.

On closer inspection, we can see how it is that most skilled writers have in fact experienced all these symptoms, apparent injustices, and random acts of malicious fate, for these are in fact symptoms, apparent or real injustices, and accidents of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Many skilled writers of your personal and readership acquaintance began their ventures in the dramatic lottery as a result of some illness beyond the ordinary ones to which we are all subject.  Those, such as yourself, who had no asthma or polio or some illness of that intensity to deal with had instead vast experiences with loneliness, leading them to the recourse of most writers, reading and imagination.

The three-legged stool of the writer's being is loneliness, reading, and imagination, the balance of which has another defining quality, making the individual observant, suspicious, self-sufficient, all to the degree that removes the writer from that removes them from the median of anonymity.  This is not to say writers are anti-social or lacking empathy for their race, rather to suggest a kind of asocial vision through which they are able to detect human foibles, sometimes even their own.

You find yourself floating the possibility here that the writers and characters who appeal most to your own profile of qualities are those who nudge and follow their characters to that hoped for anonymity, where they can observe, make sense of the anomalies, and seek some of the accommodations denied to Dr, Frankenstein's assemblage.

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