Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Conversation without Comfort Zones Becomes Dialogue

During the course of a given day, when you are away from your writing area, and in particular when you are in a classroom, your conversation leans toward the comfortable and considerate, even at those times when you are expressing a difference of opinion. 

You have in place a filter that you've tweaked over the years, by no means in the sense of being politically correct, rather instead of being considerate.

Such thoughts of considerate conversation and a recent invitation to dinner combined forces when you were preparing for a two- or three-part presentation on dialogue, in no small measure because of your reason for refusing the dinner invitation, your awareness of the host's cooking abilities notwithstanding.

Whenever the topic shifts from conversation to dialogue, an elephant wends its way into the living room, whereupon it sinks to its knees, then attempts to cover itself with the closest rug , in most cases leaving more uncovered than not.  "Ah, I see you allow elephants in the living room. How nice that you allow them to take the chill off with a rug."

Given your recent preoccupation with triangulation, when conversation shifts to dialogue, the point of reference to be avoided is the elephant, which in this case becomes the metaphor for comfort zone.

Your living quarters, smaller these past going-on-seven years, are well insulated from adjoining walls, meaning few neighborly sounds. Perhaps a bit chilly during the winter months, but a heater tends to that, while, in the summer, a cross-ventilation makes for the right ambient temperature. Nearby washer/dryer. Sufficient light and privacy, interesting views outside each window. A veritable comfort zone. Difficult not to feel comfortable when you are "in," either for working, reading, eating, or listening to music.

Your own sense of a comfort zone includes being away from disturbances and yet able to connect via Internet, telephone, or any variation with new experiences, even experiences contrary to your own and certainly opinions and beliefs contrary to your own. You appreciate a lively exchange of opinion, however at variance with your own, and in a growing recognition, you enjoy the discomfort of well-expressed critical commentary on your beliefs, your work, your demeanor.

Dialogue pushes the comfort zone, sometimes sweeping it entirely aside with its rancorous, undermining persistence. When characters appear too mindful of the comfort zone, unless this is done with deliberation by the writer in the service of a notable effect, story stops short, the way you are sometimes forced to do while driving in city traffic. 

At such moments, most of the books, magazines, water bottles, items of food in the process of being ingested, and more often than not your cell phone take on a life of their own, not realizing they should have stopped. 

The laws of inretia take precedence over the rules and conventions of dramatic narrative. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Story, a product of movement, stays in motion until a sudden break causes it to stop, whereupon chaos beyond disorder.

Well-planned inertia can take you out of your comfort zone, show you something you'd not previously considered, then help you understand how comfort zones are mere way stations from which to experiment, improvise, and imagine.

Well-executed dialogue begins with the recognition that there are no hand rails or supports; you're out there without your iPhone and its potential for calling help, consulting Google maps, or latching on to some GPS guidance.

With well-executed dialogue, you are in the midst of strangers, all of whom seem to know your name, or you find yourself, as if in a dream, among persons whom you believe you know--but they respond to you as though you were a stranger. Neither approach is comfortable.

But think about it this way: When you come to sudden turns in your reading that no longer seem plausible, your response at setting the material aside is anything but polite conversation.

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