Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Dramatic Lurk

There is hardly a story of any merit or emotional outcome that does not have some traumatic payoff lurking in the nearby shadows. You have not seen this specific condition autopsied in any text or class, which gives you the option to pounce on it and christen it The Dramatic Lurk.

Your own lifelong study of said stories of merit and emotional intensity leads you to conclude that an effective place to introduce this Dramatic Lurk awaits soon after the stratagems of opening momentum, the so-called hooker or gamut by which the potential reader's interest is piqued.

Within the Lurk one may place backstory, the relevant events and conditions that caused the front story to begin, King Sisyphus, for example, hitting on a young lady greatly favored by Zeus, or the even lesser-known back story of a certain prince of Troy being approached by three goddesses who wished him to judge a beauty contest in which they were contestants.

The fact of his accepting the invitation alone testifies to Paris' room temperature IQ, but accept he did, his prize a bribe from one of the goddesses, the most beautiful woman in the world. Who knew beforehand that this would lead to The Trojan War? Who knew the must beautiful woman in the world happened to be married? Who knew?

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And toppled the towers of Ilium? Ah, Helen,
Make me immortal with a kiss...

Nevertheless. Back to lurking. A character has been traumatized in the backstory, or spoiled, or given a hateful teacher or a remarkable and wonderful one. A character has been caused to have a morbid fear of spiders or mice. Your own "trauma" was a dislike of squash, which somehow came to an abrupt end when you were in your twenties. Not much of a backstory there, but you did and do have better candidates for some memorable ow-ies.

In that sense, characters are like used cars; they can be prettied up and made to look newer and more robust than they are, but there is some mystery under the hood, waiting to reveal itself.

When we meet new characters in reality and he or she seems a bit too absorbed in self, reminding us of his or her noble roots and background, we are quick to make some excuse to depart this invidiual's company, more than a little relieved to get away. In fiction, meeting similar characters who feel they need several paragraphs of lineage or accomplishments, we have the equivalent response, but now we are able to take even more direct and precipitous action: We put the book down with enough emphasis to remind us not to return under any circumstances.

However cynical or, conversely, of the glass-is-always-full vision we are, most of us wait to see a person or character in action rather than taking their own word for it. We've done that in the past before and found ourselves burned for having done so.

In order to get us interested in those shadowy places where hidden agendas and dark secrets lurk, you have to get out attention first. That's something that requires some doing. Too many street-corner vendors and scam-heavy Interned come-on ads await us on too many mean avenues.

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