Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creating Continuity in Your Writing

Change vs. Balance:  Harm/Care vs. Reciprocity

What does that mean?

Well, before I get to what it means, let me just start with what brought me to this place:  comments.

Specifically, I came to ponder the relation of change versus balance and harm/care versus reciprocity through comments such as these:
  • The most important thing about story is change.
  • All of our stories need to illustrate justice.
  • It's boring when nothing changes.  I don't care about it.
  • Nothing is happening in my stories.
  • My stories don't seem to fit together.  They're just stories.
  • At bottom, there's an esprit de corps, a unity, a feeling that we're all in this together.
And I came to realize that all of these comments address some very fundamental aspects of human nature and, thus, about the nature of the stories we come to expect.

First, on our character:
  1. We are born with a temperament.  Most mothers have a good grasp on their child's temperament before the child ever leaves the womb.
  2. We are changed through experience.
  3. We are hardly ever completely changed--we are still recognizable through our temperament (change vs. balance).
On karma/the rules of life:
  1. All mammals are generally concerned about the care and/or harm of fellow members of their species (normally within family groups, but up to and including all members of one's "in-group" however one defines that in-group).
  2. Many mammals, and humans to a spectacular extent, believe that reward and punishment should be the result of one's actions which impact the care or the harm of others (Shunning occurs in animal groups too!).
  3. When the harm/care event and reward/punishment step have been completed, society goes back to a kind of balanced state of normalcy (again: change in the form of the harm/care event vs. balance in the form of the reward/punishment step and reciprocity in that the harm/care event initiates the reward/punishment step).
This particular post will be locating the stable and changing elements of our character, unifying our stories, and recognizing that harm/care and reciprocal events that likely cause the changes to our character.

Rather than thinking cold about the words that describe your fundamental character, I suggest that you find descriptions of yourself first.  It is much easier to react to prompts than it is to delve them up out of nothingness.  Places that you might find descriptions of yourself would include:
  • The notes left in your high school yearbook
  • Old scrapbooks
  • Cards from friends
  • Your horoscope:  Eastern, Western, Celtic or other
Once you have read a description of yourself, ask yourself whether it fits you.  Now take a piece of paper and write down how you see yourself.  Ask yourself how you were when you were younger and how you are now.  When you have finished, you should have a list of three descriptions:
  1. Your core temperament
  2. Your younger self
  3. The you of the present
From here, look at your collection of stories.  Ask yourself three questions:
  1. How well does each story portray your core temperament as well as your self at that point in your life?  If the characteristics are missing, consider emphasizing them--usually with more colorful words for your own actions (instead of "walked" use "stomped," "sidled," "ambled," etc.) or telling asides (e.g., he asked for my help--as if I would ever say "no" at that stage of my life).
  2.  How well does the collection portray why you are the way you are?  Have you included the incidents that really changed your life?  Have you put them in places that they make sense (i.e., have we learned enough about you from previous stories to understand why the experience in this story affected you so much)?
  3. Have you included the stories that set up the important incidents?  These stories build your conflict.  They come to show us the type of person you are and the type of karma (for lack of a better word) you and those around you are building for the *big* events (the climax in fiction).
For this week (and don't worry if you don't do this since I'm finally posting now):
  • Review one story from your collection.
  • Evaluate how well it portrays *you.*
  • Try to strengthen your verbs, thoughts, and comments to more appropriately characterize yourself both at the core, then, and now (and remember that many memoirs have a reflective voice that indicates the author's perspective at the present time).
  • Make a list of stories that this story relates to--and hold onto it for next week!


No comments:

Post a Comment

There was an error in this gadget