clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, January 28, 2013

Expected, Unexpected

I wrote earlier this week about habituation. I was writing on the aspect of language which makes phrases invisible. Have enough of these invisible phrases and your prose disappears. The artistry that you bring to a story as the expedition leader drifts away and eventually the emotional lifeline you give your reader fades, too.

I become very frustrated after giving one of my drafts a cooling period and re-reading it because I see all the bad language. I see the over use of modifiers to cover my insecurity in saying "here...this thing is this thing: believe it."

Sometimes, I see these habituated phrases. Sometimes, I see these habituated characters.

Above is an astronaut pin. When I was in school, it was just about the symbol of godhood to we lowly engineers.

Now, you have a character in your story sitting at the bar with one of these on his lapel. How's that work for you? Is it a boy scout drinking coffee waiting on his buddy to come out of the head so they can go on their way? Is it a fellow working on his second double scotch hoping the sirens outside just keep on driving.

We can make either character work. In the context of the story, which works better for the reader? Good gone bad or good out of place?

Habituation might have the buddy coming out, the steely-eyed rocket jockey over-tipping the owner's wife behind the bar, and leaving to meet some guy named Gunther at Villa Pacific Retirement Community where he rules the croquet court.

Characters need to be interesting. They need not be invisible. The cop isn't grumpy.  He's considerate and articulate considering he's working on his master's in comparative literature in the evenings.

Characters compliment one another. Immemorable  characters compliment nothing.

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