Thursday, May 13, 2010

More Psych 101 for Writers, Readers, Characters

Once again Professor Walker guides you through what Pavlov's Dog never did learn....

Q#3 -- How does 'health and stress' play a role in fiction writing?

Answer: Health and stress are like chicken and egg, hand and glove as one is so closely linked with the other. The health of the author and the reader are crucial to the process. Lose your health and the first interest to go is sex followed by reading. Laugh track here. Seriously, a loss of the ability to concentrate, focus, draw on memory is devastating to the creative process and reading is a creative process as well as writing. Too much stress bad things result all round. Too little stress...well isn't it like blood pressure and so many things?

Everything in moderation. So health and stress are crucial to reading and writing, and inside the story, characters also battle health issues and stress at every turn. In fact, the stress level for the typical fictional person would likely kill any real human being. Imagine being at the stress level of an Indiana Jones for a day.

The stress level and problems an author creates to plague his creation are crucial to a story, because in essence every working story is a war. One side wants X, side two wants Y, and they stand in one another's way (goal). It is stressful to chase a killer, to race toward a goal, to attempt to achieve but the brass ring is just out of reach.

The old admonition is to get your character up a tree, then soak him with rain, pelt him with rocks, hit the limb he's on with lightning, have the limb careen to the earth where you've placed a family of bears or cannibals who're awaiting the poor sap. Any stress in the cartoon version of Tarzan? Disney films even for children have to carry conflict, else no story. Conflict and overcoming conflict is the essence of story.

Stress, conflict, tension...the high wire upon which the story character walks and fails or prevails. It's the job of the author to establish bedrock characteristics (DNA) in a Tom, Dick, or Harry, and then to challenge these rock-hard, supposedly unshakable traits. You can't let a character rest in a state of bliss (not for long anyway). Stress and health play a major role in the creative process indeed.

I have STRESSED out a lot of my readers and writers with the twists and turns in some fifty ODD novels over the years, and frankly that is my job, and I enjoy doing it but it is still stressful, so I gotta get away from the writiing when I can and get off my duff and get some exercise other than traveling to the refrigerator!

Find me dealing with The Curse of the Titanic, a journal on the writing of my latest novel at Dirty Deeds - Advice (google it).  For more writing help visit Miranda and I at Write Aide

1 comment:

Jinky said...

I'd never stopped to think of tension as stress before. But you know, it makes perfect sense. Kudos.