Monday, 27 October 2008

Breaking Rapport

Note to self: Delete temporary internet files.

It was lovely breast-stroking into an old neighbour at the pool yesterday. I caught up with the educational and recreational exploits of his kids (I babysat for them and now they're teenagers; there's nothing more effective for making one feel one's age) and he gave the lowdown on life in the Promenade. He finished his lengths and left the pool, and I planned to stay in a bit longer. However, the pool attendant called me over and explained that the pool was double-booked: I could stay in the deep end whilst a baptism took place in the shallow end. I would've stayed, but there's something odd about swimming in front of fifty or so churchgoers. So I got out too.
And there we were, my old neighbour and I, towelling ourselves opposite one-another. The conversation began again, but this time rapport was well and truly shattered. He looked at the wall behind me as he spoke, and I looked somewhere near his hair. Off came his trunks. I found myself speaking over him and the conversation staggered and stuttered. Off came my trunks. Then a silence, followed by a bit of whistling and then a brief and courteous farewell.

'You're only supposed to shave the bloody sides off.'

Conversely, this is beard week, in which several work chummies and myself will be pruning our beards each day, depilating our way from today's full beard through to Friday's pencil moustache. Tomorrow is The Man Who Would be King day. Why? Not sure, but you can bet there'll be rapport oozing from such mimicry.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


This year's Man Booker award goes to Aravind Adiga.
Chair of the judges, Michael Portillo, said of Adiga's The White Tiger:

'In the end, The White Tiger prevailed because the judges felt that it shocked and entertained in equal manner.'

There's something to consider.
He continued:

'The novel [deals] with pressing social issues and significant global developments with astonishing humour.'

Okay, loads more to consider.

The global developments bit interests me.
No idea where I read it, but I was fascinated by the idea of events growing from a personal to a global significance.
Our protag's quest would open with a small/personal significance, and this would gradually grow throughout the novel, the ramifications spreading their tentacles outwards, affecting other people, perhaps ultimately affecting the whole world/universe/of existence, etc.

Take James Bond.
We find him chasing Mr Little who is attempting to steal a little book. On thwarting him, James discovers that Mr Little is working for Dr Big, and Dr Big needs the little book to gain access to a big facility. James catches up with Dr Big, only to discover that he is working for Hugo Huge, and Hugo needs to access the big facility to take control of a huge satellite. But it is Boris Gargantuan who needs the big satellite to wreak gargantuan havoc ...

Mr Little never works for his friend, Mr Equally-Little, nor does he work for Professor Miniscule.

Bigger and bigger.

'But what about The Incredible Shrinking Man?' I hear you declare (or, at least, you might do when I attach a picture of The Incredible Shrinking Man to this post).

Well, an ordinary man is engulfed in a mysterious mist and shortly after finds that his clothes don't fit him anymore (for which he has my sympathies). The problem affects him alone. He visits his doctor and the problem is now shared with the doctor. Then he confides in his partner and she too is embroiled. Then her brother, and then several more doctors. Soon, the world's press is camped out on his doorstep (and he even shares his problem with a midget woman who is passing by with the circus).

He might be shrinking, but his predicament balloons: at first it is his, and ultimately the entire world is in on it. (Unfortunately, he falls into the basement and everyone forgets about him.)

Yep, it's that forward momentum again: things growing and taking on ever-increasing significance (at a controlled pace).

This is where things get scary!
I'm finding something of a hesitation within me as my protag's deeds begin to move beyond the confines of his immediate existence. I can visualise a radius around him; he becomes the epicentre of an earthquake.
He is reasonably easy to control, but now that this radius expands to absorb others, I'm having to make lots of important choices about what to mention and what to ignore ... and how I might retain full control of this explosion!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Guppy Poem

Fish are playing a rather large part in my life at the moment.
So I've written a fishy poem.
(There's a little bit of rude wordiness in it.)

-Guppy Poem-

I went into the pet shop
And I bought myself a guppy
And I put it in a bowl and went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning
All excited at my purchase
I was horrified to find my guppy dead.

It was floating on the water
With a terrible expression
And a twisted mouth that made me feel quite sick.

So I showed it to the shop man
And he said 'It's little wonder:
'That's a puppy, not a guppy, stupid dick.'



Thursday, 2 October 2008

A Greater POV

So we're in first-person and we're limited to what this character knows and to how this character experiences the world about him right ..?

Hokay, take a look at this simile used by my first-person narrator/protagonist to describe the sound of the rain on his umbrella:

... like a bonfire of tuneless glockenpiels.

Given that his quest is a musical one, I chose for him an auditory PRS. Note that this is a Primary RS and not an exclusive one. (By choosing a Primary RS, I am siding with the likes of Hemingway. The argument here might go something like: Because we each have a PRS, by giving one to our characters, they become more like real people, and we can use their PRS to characterise. However, by choosing to prioritise one RS over the others, we jeapordise our chances of forming any rapport with those readers whose PRSs are different to any given character's.)
So my protag hears the world about him - his map of the world is defined primarily through an absorption of sounds.
The associated word palette would reveal itself like this:
I hear you; that rings a bell; sounds like a good idea, etc.
His love of music - his PRS - would influence every observation.

In NLP, Representational Systems are referred to as modalities. Modalities are our means of experiencing the world.
The building blocks of such senses are called submodalities. Here are some examples:

Visual: colour (or b&w), brightness, contrast, movement, speed, size.

Auditory: words/sounds, volume, tone, timbre, duration, speed.

Kinesthetic: intensity, pressure, texture, weight, temperature, duration, shape.

In expressing our thoughts, each of us works up from a Deep Structure - the abstract stuff prancing about in our minds. As this stuff makes its way out, it is pruned and jumbled (generalised), and the resulting expression is revealed.
For a simple example, imagine a forest and then describe it. Note the things that you choose to mention and those things that you choose to omit. Note too how accurately (or not) your description reflects what is in your head. And, if you can't imagine how different your description of a forest would be to everyone else's, get some pals to join in. We can see how varied multiple interpretations are of the same word: forest.

We do just this with our chosen style: we mention some stuff and not other stuff.
But a first-person narrator dictates the style.
In order to control the style, we would need to understand this narrator - his RSs and his psychology - the way he maps the world and the influences born from his experiences.

This works to our advantage in plotting.
At any one moment in our plot, we mention some stuff and we suggest some stuff and save some other stuff for later.

So let's imagine that my protag is already making some destructive plans in his head. It's just this kind of internal conflict that seeks to reveal itself, through words and body language and so forth. Rather like those police training videos in which the audience is invited to spot the tell-tale signs of guilt. (I remember the drug search in which the villain simultaneously professed his innocence whilst backing towards a cabinet. Can you guess where he kept his stash? :-)

Our first-person narrator isn't necessarily going to confess his guilty thoughts (or any other of his private and clandestine thoughts). Indeed, they may not be fully formed in his head. But, they are likely to edge out of his consciousness.
This could be regarded as a first-person form of Chekhov's gun - a subtle bit of foreshadowing.

The point of a palette is that an entire scene or, more probably, chapter is painted with it.
Therefore, the theme would be repeated. In this way, Chekhov's gun is dismantled into many parts and spread across the prose such that the foreshadowing is ingested subconsciously.

In these ways, we can link the reader not just to the first-person narrator's conscious musings, but to something much deeper within him: just as we impart knowledge at strategic moments in order to give a plot momentum and changes in direction, we can connect the reader to the narrator in the past, the present, or the future - we can allow the reader to consciously understand things beyond the narrator's understanding, just as we can allow the narrator to withhold information from the reader.
There are things even within a first-person narrator that he himself is unaware of.

So we're in first-person and we're limited to what this character knows and to how this character experiences the world about him right ..?