clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Chain Gang

At left, illustration of convicts at hard labor.

I awoke in the middle of the night suddenly aware of what bothered me about a contemporary story I had read before bed: a lack of fear.

The protagonist stumbled along wrongly accused of murder and destined for prison. He makes some bad choices on his road to ruin and that - as we say - is the story.

I couldn't quite place what stuck me as off. Then in the middle of the night: a lack of the transformative effect of fear and desperation.

Sure, there was a transformation. I missed it on the page because the author provided us clues in only narrative description and not in the outlook or revelations of the protagonist himself.

In a "close" story where we are alongside the protagonist, we can lose the point if the author interrupts immersion to shove it at us. We're so used to blocking out ham-handed attempts at info dumps that we miss the point in our haste to read on and get back into the immersion.

Several lessons there, I think.

The least of which is: normal decent Joes have a healthy fear of justice: miscarriage or not. Trust your fellow man in a jury trial? I'd sooner play Russian Roulette.

I always play Russian Roulette in my head. 17 black and 29 red. - Tom Waits.

A pithy quote from T Bone Burnett here:

Someone stole my identity and I feel sorry for them.

 That's a story in one line, folks. The story that goes along with it? We all should write one.

I'm off to put some fear into a character. You should be afraid, too.

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