clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Very Much Like Something Else

At left, a lovely turn-of-the-century rectangular cow. This was from the days when agriculture tried to imitate geometric ideals and thus we have Blackbird at left.

What makes our story accessible? What makes it the subject of "must read" lists?

Premise figures in large part.

Dialogue that moves the action is another part.

Our execution of the story with the air of emotional attainment is a third.

We must understand or recognize the emotional position of the characters or, if not in the print, we readers must be able to formulate our own emotional reflection of their state which fits the evidence provided.

We have to understand what the character feels and we must understand that puzzle in the context that we see the character.

We don't want to know "Suzie's mad."

We want to know Suzie feels uncertain and insecure about her husband Brad's conversation with Jeanie across the room at the party when it appeared Brad and Jeanie had an understanding between them of more familiarity than Suzie suspects is reasonable.

Brad has a demonstrated relationship with Jeanie which is of a closer nature than Suzie's relationship with Jeanie. This fact seems out of place to Suzie.

Now, in a couple of paragraphs of dialogue, we need to show Brad and Suzie in conflict and display Suzie's distress without her actually telling Brad why she is agitated (because wives rarely come out and say "I'm angry you seem to know Jeanie better than I do").

If we execute these two snippets of dialogue in the car properly, the reader understands both emotional perspectives and - in the interaction of husband and wife - the status of their marriage at this point.

We haven't yet come to any action.

Aliens landing on the road in front of them? Easy, compared to presenting the emotional status in very few words. Hell, I can't describe the need to describe the perspective in as succinct a manner as a writer needs to make it happen on the page.

If we handle every interaction in our stories with an eye to the Jeanie and Brad dilemma, we have a story that is emotionally attainable and stands a chance of being an accessible piece of fiction.

We materialize our premise in the broad sweeps of story. We materialize our characters in the interaction between them. The strongest stories for me do both things.

I suspect you as the reader might say the same.

As the writer, it's easy to focus on the machinations of our plot. The reality: characters are people readers want to know and whose emotions we readers want to understand.

It's getting better everyday. Breathe. Write.

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