Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Something Wicked ...

I'm expanding upon the idea of a metaphysical pov that I developed a few months back.
The idea came from a theme in my novel: We judge based on limited knowledge (from a point somewhere along a continuum of time); what can we know?
This concept itself is at the heart of The Maggot Farm: We might believe something to be so at this moment, but by the time we go to bed our beliefs might have been shattered or radically turned about. Moreover, the concepts of change and of reversal are staples of a good novel structure.
So, consider the opening to this sentence:
What I do not know about Buster and, indeed, what I will never discover ...
Peculiar isn't it!
The narrative is written first-person present tense. The future is unknown (to both protag and reader).
The idea that the protag could describe something that he doesn't know is odd enough (and is a good means of spotting rookie authors who have yet to grasp povs), but when coupled with an arcane foresight, the sentence is infused with a sort of omniscience that can only originate in a disturbed mind.

Rather like the musical numbers, I had intended to use this metaphysical pov once only, but it has a special power; foresight is a wonderful component of suspense.
Expectation/anticipation as a driving force becomes more powerful still when a countdown is introduced. The greater the expected effects of the future event, and the shorter the countdown, the more heightened the suspense. (NB. We can further increase tension by shortening the countdown some time after it has begun [moving goalposts].)

There are many ways to create expectation.
The result of the boulder catching up with Indiana Jones is created in our heads by shared preconceptions: Boulders are heavy, therefore boulder on Jones = crushed. Imagine the effect if the boulder were a small rock, or if the boulder were twenty miles away and rolling slowly. Or imagine if the boulder rolled over him and then he climbed to his feet, dusted himself down, and strolled away unscratched.
But maybe it's not a boulder - perhaps it's something alien and we need to create a shared expectation. Here we might use a demonstration. Send your Star Trek red-shirt onto the planet and witness his demise at the hands of an evil beasty. At this point, we judge the evil beasty and any preconceptions are amended accordingly/as necessary.
Premonitions are curious things. What would happen if Kirk, or even the red-shirt, see the red-shirt's demise before it occurs? The Final Destination movies use this premise: Death's coming for you next! How different is this to our preconception of the boulder's death-inducing properties? One is assumed, one is demonstrated, and the other is a possibility (depending on your views on determinism). Maybe? Either way, they all bring the/a future into the present.

The metaphysical pov allows me to allude to Corus' mental state, and also affords me opportunities to open suspense threads - to form something in the future, something that may or may not be inevitable. By layering these suspense threads using a multitude of techniques (more later), all bundled into the time allotted to Corus before his demise (for the fish have sung of his time of death and the clock is already ticking), I can increase my chances of holding the reader at the edge of their seat through to the denouement. Well, that's the theory anyhoo.

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