Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Game faces

A scene is the dramatic unit equivalent to diplomatic negotiation. Representatives from the various points of interest need to be present in some setting or arena. All parties involved enter the setting with some attitude toward a specific topic. The topic may be historic, recent, or a combination of the two.

Sometimes the topic involves matters so sensitive that insignificant details such as seating arrangements, shapes of tables, and yes or no to flowers need attention before substantive matters can be entertained. The higher the passions of the negotiators, the greater the substance of minor details becomes. The more pissed you are going in, the greater your chances for losing it over a trifle. 

The dramatic and diplomatic scene often begins with an agreed upon agenda or the agenda's second cousin, an attempt to produce an agenda. Here we are. Without admitting neglect or fault, here's what we will be talking about.

In order to agree what we will be talking about, we need to agree on a definition of the matter we are here to discuss. You, for instance, were introduced to the topic of what most parties to the matter would agree was the American war fought between 1861 and 1865. 

When you first learned of it, you were living in Los Angeles, where it was presented to you as The Civil War. When you moved to the East, and, later, to New England, the event was known as the Civil War and The War between the States. When you lived in Florida, it was known as The War of Northern Aggression. 

Fiction presents delicious opportunities when the various parties believe they are gathering to discuss A, but each party believes its interpretation of A to be the correct meaning. The reader is left to understand that each party differs, a condition referred to as dramatic irony.

More delicious dramatic courses are served while the negotiators grow more suspicious of each other, which causes major distrust and stubbornness. The menu has not yet been decided. We don't know yet if the salad proceeds or follows the soup course much less do we have a hint about whether the salad shall be dressed with oil and vinegar.

Diplomats are often seen as calm, detached persons, immersed in the polite give-and-take of negotiation, compromise, and the chiropractic manipulation of results to reflect victory for all sides. Such visions are more palatable than manipulative or cynical ones, but experienced readers know game faces when they see them.

Experienced readers want scenes with gloves off, bruised knuckles visible. Diplomats clink champagne flutes after they conclude negotiations, toasting what we think of as civility and accord. 

Experienced writers see scenes as pending files. There is a motive behind each clink of the champagne flute. Experienced readers wait with none too much patience for the gloves and game faces to come off.


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