Sunday, February 19, 2017
Shape of You
Good by half
This is about writing, it always is, but first an observation that will lead into the subject.
I’m in Church this morning and the priest is talking about all the hatred we have seen since the election. He mentioned violence but that doesn’t tip his hand. There are always at least two sides to the story. You can protest an administration (negative) or stand up for someone’s diminished rights (positive). Alternatively, you could want change and hopefully for the better. We all want change for the better, assuming the status quo needs tweaking.
Yesterday, James Scott Bell spoke at our RWASD meeting. He sold a skinny book about writing your book from the middle (Write Your Novel From the Middle). Skinny, because the beginning and ending were missing, LOL. I thoroughly enjoyed his insights and bought the book.
He said in the middle of a three act structure should lie a look in the mirror moment (not necessarily literally) in which the main character reflects on who he is. He knows if he doesn’t change in some way he will die, either physically or by losing everything he values. This can send the journey and the character in a negative or positive direction. This reflection need not have a statement of resolve, but the reader should see that the character either is considering— consciously or subconsciously— change. Stay tuned. Perhaps he’ll make it.
Primarily, Professor Bell didn’t use romance examples. He didn’t just present comedies. However, I say writing is writing, that in every novel tragedy strikes in one form or another. It is best to know the three act structure as presented by Aristotle, thoroughly. The clown can fall on his ass in a comedy and who will kiss his boo-boo? Could Professor Bell tailor his examples to the audience he’s speaking to? Sure, if he has the time, but I say a liberal arts education or in this case, an education, which compares and contrasts genres and types of writing, is more valuable because it opens your eyes. It may give you new tools or a fresh take. I see that all story writing is the same. The protagonist is on an internal and/or external journey in which he and/or his environment changes.
Some of my colleagues said that everybody already knew this technique. I didn’t, but then I thought through my novels. All of them had a mirror moment. Some colleagues I talked to had a complete revelation from his lecture. They were going back to the drawing board to do something…Like take a mirror moment out of act 1, for instance.
All this reminded me of a psychology lecture on human proficiency.
Your character is:
1. An unconscious incompetent,
2. Conscious incompetent,
3. Conscious competent,
4. Unconscious competent (the best). A good example of this would a basketball superstar. You’d really have to pin him down for him to lay out all the steps (of the mind and body) he’d have to go through to make that 3 point play. Or, consider Tom Brady leading his team back against impossible odds. How’d he do it? He’s an unconscious (super) competent.
I would add that if the unconscious competent paused to reflect he would recall the steps he took automatically and know them as the building blocks of success.
Whether you are on the top of your game as a writer or someone struggling to become better it is always good to step outside your comfort zone.
Ed Sheeran, in Shape of You, 2016, chooses a mirror moment for both the hero and the heroine. Will both want more than just enjoying each other’s body? The hero hopes for more but we don’t know if they will become a couple. The heroine wants sex, but we don’t know if she’ll change under a man’s love.