Saturday, October 1, 2016

Class Warfare in Genre Fiction

There is a vital question for you to consider relative to the stories you compose and your preference in the stories you read by other writers. The question extends to your students, past and present, because your reading of their stories has in its special way, had the same effects on you as reading stories by your favorite writers.

Until you thought of the question, you had no idea how important it was nor of its actual and potential effects.  "Which would you rather overhear, strangers or intimates?"  This is a loaded question, You're glad you raised it to yourself, before anyone else did."

 A potential answer is to say you'd more often than bot, thus about 60 or 65 percent to 40 or 35 percent, prefer overhearing strangers, because you see as a part of small talk the attempt to confirm visual suspicions about the stranger, his or her manner of dress, his or her apparent expertise in putting simple outfits together. 

Places of birth or schooling can provide useful clues, extent of education, political preferences. Such tastes as ports or places traveled also help place the new individual somewhere on the social and experiential scale, above us and thus to be treated one way or below us and thus to the potential of another form of treatment. 

This approach might help you if you were in sales, politics, public relations, or some other profession where you were having to assess and categorize strangers with some downstream agenda in mind. At a rather basic level, supposing you were a sales rep for Lexus or Audi. 

You might be keeping an eye out for the occasional individual you could call to ask, "Ready to think about that 3G of your dreams? Or even more to the point, "Something I'd like to let you in on, an A-3 with low miles I just took in trade. Could be an easy fit for you?"

In any case, no harm in watching strangers interact and sort one another from the class-standing-experience level, watching some of the masks and disguises we resort to when taking ourselves out for a night among the populace. Bound to be some nice presentations of the individual and the way he or she presents her resume. Does it leave more questions than answers?

Your preference is for characters who know one another long enough to have formed some basic one- or two-word response, possibly a plus sign or a minus sign, perhaps even several of either. You want characters who have had a history, experienced anticipation, disappointment, possibly even betrayal at the hands of one or more others.

You want the character who can see that the newcomer to the group, in spite of all her protestations to the contrary, has not so much as set foot on the campus of Smith College, let alone in any way been a part of matriculation thence. You want to see snobbery, prejudicial behavior, and pure, raw like and dislike, born of past associations, in process.

Most of the stories and plays involving characters with linked past histories are among your personal favorites, and this might well be the reason why.

No wonder you are sometimes snippy and sharp after an intense session of composition; you're coping with a good deal of class warfare.

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