Thursday, September 1, 2011

Perspective

Perspective = Perception + Interpretation + Backstory / (mood x hormones) +square root of time - blah(conflict + hope)


My son meanders to my car, a handsome fellow among a sea of clothing choices.  He flops his book bag in the tiny back seat of my convertible Jag, asks to put up the top, turns the radio down and keeps looking at me as I try to back around the yellow fuel efficient dinosaurs. 

"Hey Mom, do you know where the crossroads of America is?" he asks in his twelve-year-old engineer studying metallurgy voice.

"Um, Nebraska?  Or maybe Oklahoma City. That is where I-40, I-35 and I-44 cross," I say, knowing he's only happy with a detailed guess.

"Nope.  We learned today that Carthage, Missouri is the crossroads of America.  Isn't that interesting?" he looks at me expectantly.

Oh, good grief, every small town makes some claim. Looking at the figure standing in the street with her mouth open, finger disappearing into it's favorite location and her feet not moving, I am thankful we are not the booger capital. "Ok, but how is that based, sweetheart.  You know little towns like to claim things, that are more advertisement than truth." I wait for a pick-up to pick up the kid. They are blocking the road and all traffic movement for blocks, while said kid sends snotty texts to someone she is probably 15 feet from, here in the crossroads of boogerville.

"Well, I have been thinking.  It could be true.  Crossroads.  That is the key word.  Now we all know it is urban myth that demons live at crossroads.  So, if Carthage is the crossroads of the whole country, what would live here?" he asks, turning in the seat to study me.

"Oh, that is funny!"  I grin at him.

Finger waving in an old professor lecturing way, he says, "On Supernatural, the devil lived in Carthage. Demons live at crossroads and Carthage is the crossroads of the whole country.  You live here.  You do kinda creep me out, Mom.  Do you have something you need to tell me?"

I glance at him, and grin and shush him, like we have a secret. "So, you still want ice cream?"

He twists back forward, looking at his hands. "Might as well," he says with a small nod, then mumbles, "before you melt it all..."

Perspective - an authorly account.
A) My son loves me enough that even if I am Satan, he will still eat ice cream with me.
B) My son will dine with Satan to get ice cream.
C) My son is concerned enough with this subject that he put all those plot points together, to have a conversation with his Mother.
D) I should check his master-blaster for rosary beads, and fish them out before he sizzles me.
E) My son needs a new haircut and a Doctor's appointment.
F) I am scary.

How is this about writing?

As authors, or wanna-beez, or wish-we-weres, it is our job to understand each of our characters perspective, explain the motive for that perspective and put it in conflict with another character's perspective and motive.  

I see many little stories, that set up a wonderful conflict, then resolve all the bad stuff in a couple of lines and poof, the conflict falls into the abyss while we go on to read 20 pages of what is for dinner, and witty little exchanges that do not push the story anywhere.  Some of this is quite charming and, believe me, I am horribly guilty of it. (uhemm, thank you Beth - no more amaretto scented pages)

But, as authors, even if we know all, we must not 'over explain', partially because we easily lose the conflict if we do.  We must see every possible angle, then choose the condition that both enhances the story and fills the conflict void.  Our job is not to fix the world for our characters.  We must avoid playing Mommy and kissing all the booboos. Our characters are not us and will make different choices from what we would make.  If all your characters believe exactly alike, they can't be in conflict.

That brings us to motive.  Do you know why Mary-Sue just fainted?  If it is from blood loss, fine.  Blood loss is a motive for fainting.  Seeing a boy kiss her best friend, is not.  Hearing bad news, is not. Getting your story out of a Plot-hole corner is not a motive for Mary-Sue Heroine to faint.  Ever.  Boys do not rescue fainting girls, unless you are writing period romance.  Boys who are really mad at Mary, are not going to lug your fainting girl up stairs and fall in love out of concern.  The boy must have motive, and you must know it, even if you don't explain.

Motive - must be tied to perspective.
Marty-Hugh Perfect sees Mary-Sue Heroine faint.  What happens?
Nothing.  You have no past, no perspective, no motive -- so anything you make happen is occurring in a bubble. (You can open with that -- but why do any of your readers care?)  

Do not write scenes as soap bubbles of stuff that happens. You do not write every moment of life, but they must exist in perfect clarity in your authorly mind.  That is the only way to slip motive into a story without info-dump.  Knowing the whole life of your character up to the opening scene gives you perfect perspective of each character. Think of it as putting a straw in water and blowing a stream of bubbles surrounded by every moment of the characters life.  You are in charge of the bubbles, but they automaticly fall within the kenetics and physical dynamics of each character's surrounding life.

Having pretty eyes or exceptional hair, does not equal perspective.  (Perhaps for character two - the vision of character one's pretty eyes is a small motive, but physical description should be in your notes, not the first page.) 

Here is what I mean.  Same scene written two ways.
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Marty-Hugh watches Mary-Sue walk across campus.  There are people looking at her because she is not popular and they all make fun of her.  Mary hardly notices them because she is reading.  She is smart and there is something about her that makes him want to talk to her, even if his popular friends won't approve. Her hair is messy and she is dressed like a yard sale, but her perfect orange eyes make him not care about her cloths, but what is under them.  He is the first to notice that she has just been shot and he runs as fast as he can, wanting to reach her as she lays on the ground.

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That girl, the one who had killed the class rabbit in second grade, has her book open and her face bowed to it as she floats above the sly glances and mocking faces of her classmates.  Marty-Hugh ignores his friends, a wistful curl touching his lips, as he follows her ambling path and unfashionable hips across the broad green breach of popularity. The soft pop barely registers in his mind, but the blood that decorates her in stereo, back and front, before she lurches, twists and collapses, has his feet playing track star before anyone else sees the world is erupting in red sorrow.    

>>>>Which one do you care about?  

They are both an opening scene in which a violent, life changing event, is going to occur in the first paragraph.  A popular boy watches a unpopular girl walk.  He likes her.  What do you learn about him in each version -- that is perspective.

Now I just knocked the scene off - so it is far from perfect - but just to make a point, I want to compare some phrases.
1) Line one, you learn her name (so what) and she is walking (so what)
2) Line one, you learn he has known her at least from second grade to now (history is there) and she killed a bunny (gives you a glimpse of backstory without dumping it on you - I know she killed the poor bunny by letting him chew on her eraser, thinking he liked it, she didn't know bunny tummy doesn't do well with eraser nibbles --but you don't need all that - you suspect this may be one event that has challenged her ability to be popular) You learn that she reads or studies as she walks - she is not well liked and that she seems to not notice anyone.  Also you are given one ID for her - That girl...you don't know if it is a complement or not --but even if he isn't thinking of her by name -- to him she is some form of a person who stands out in some way.

If you, as an author, don't know all this stuff about your characters then you will fall into the trap of making physical characteristics the description and blowing air bubbles of floating blah for scenes, stealing the pure flow from your story. People read because they can get an open line to the perspective of another human being - (pseudo-human being).  There is an intimate connection to characters because you get to step in and be one with them.  If you don't understand all the pieces of a life - you rob your readers of richness in your characters.
 
Motives can't be determined if you don't know them. (very frustrating for reader)

I can't jump into my son's head and say -- this is the one reason he acted in this exact way.  In real life we don't even understand ourselves very well at times.  In your stories, if you don't know, you should stop and find out or you will end up with plot holes, corners, and flat, dull beings with cool made up names -- pretty eyes -- and nice hair. 

With deep perspective, conflict will naturally ramp up - flow will be there and you can tell a satisfying story.  That is what it is about - at least from my perspective.

P.S. -- I have been gone - not blogging.   Life bombs - working on my crafty issues and being a little under the weather -- (double entendres, not cliche') have been contributing factors.  I now have a working lap top and we seem to have a working tower again -- yeah!  Thanks to everyone and I will be visiting blogs and saying howdy's as time allows. 

3 comments:

  1. Excellent post! This will definitely be something I keep in mind as I work on my second draft.

    You have an awesome blog here, so I am passing along two awards, the Versatile Blogger Award and the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. Check out my blog post for details, and congrats!

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  2. Great way of putting it. :-)

    That's pretty much the reason why I don't start writing before I don't at least know a little bit about my characters.

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  3. Such a great post! Love visiting your blog!

    Lola x
    http://lola-x.blogspot.com

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