Monday, May 9, 2016

Funnels, Filters, and Prisms

In the worlds of physical reality, a funnel is a pipe with an enlarged, conical mouth, which makes transferring liquids, particles, and numerous powder, seed- or grain-like substances from one container to another without spilling.

In those same worlds of physical reality, a prism is s solid, pyramid-shaped form with two interior polygons, transparent in nature, used to transform invisible rays of light into a visible spectrum of colors.

A filter is also a mechanism for dealing with the passing through it of one or more media to remove some elements in suspension within the medium. Filters are indeed porous; they may be layers of sand and gravel or charcoal. 

Filters may be paper or cloth. The thing or things being filtered may be the items of focus within a given filtration process or, quite the opposite; they may intend to prevent certain elements such as sulphur or mercaptans from brewed coffee.

Useful as these devices are in physics and chemistry labs, kitchens and coffee shops, they also have functions in narrative and in that special, structurally arranged narrative we call story. As a filter can effect the end result or governing personality of a filtrate, it can also have measurable impact on the way a narrative emerges from the author, on its way to the printed page or computer/electronic reader screen.

The accomplished writer gives readers, through choice or choices of narrators a sense of personality and atmosphere. Writers,editors, critics, even teachers are aware how, through the years of their reading, storytelling has evolved to the point of matching more closely with the facets of dramatic narrative. 

The more recent stories do not rely as much on the shadowy presence of the writer, in effect slipping in stage directions as the story progresses. "He was a short, furtive-looking man who shifted his gaze constantly as he walked, as though he were being stalked by a predator."  Pure authorial description. Or intervention. Such a sentence could be "fixed," with the author being filtered out, the filtrate being made to seem as though the description were not author's description but rather a principal character's inner thoughts.

We funnel dramatic information into a story, some authors yanking on the handbrakes to provide a full description the protagonist has either wandered into or, worse yet, is about to wander into. Much as you admired the novels of Aldous Huxley, he funneled background and descriptive information into his novels, causing you almost as much energy from the exasperation as energy required to consider and ruminate on his ideas.

The prism becomes your favored media for breaking the powerful beam of dramatic energy into its component colors, adding through implication colors not readily available to the human eye. We know such colors exist. We've seen them in museums or galleries or in some special edition of The Scientic American, or The Smithsonian, wherein we're tantalized with ultra-violet and black-light vision, shown things we would not see under more normal circumstances.

Small wonder we need these filtration, funneling, and refraction devices, mechanisms that break down the humdrum of the quotidian for the sake of the arranged and enhanced reality we've come to think of as story.

Like the vast particulate information passing through funnels, filters, and prisms, story will find its way through,

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