05 July 2008

One reason writing fiction is hard

From the introduction to Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card:

[The] difficulty of creating a character increases with each new major character that is added to the tale. Characters, as most writers understand, are truly developed through their relationships with others. If there are only two significant characters, then there is only one relationship to be explored. If there are three characters, however, there are four relationships: Between A and B, between B and C, between C and A, and finally the relationship when all three are together.

Even this does not begin to explain the complexity—for in real life, at least, most people change, at least subtly, when they are with different people...

I have seen this time and time again with my friends, with other family members. Our whole demeanor changes, our mannerisms, our figures of speech, when we move from one context to another. Listen to someone you know when they pick up the telephone. We have special voices for different people; our attitudes, our moods change depending on whom we are with.

So when a storyteller has to create three characters, each different relationship requires that each character in it must be transformed, however subtly, depending on how the relationship is shaping his or her present identity. Thus, in a three-character story, a storyteller who wishes to convince us of the reality of these characters really has to come up with a dozen different personas, four for each of them.

04 July 2008

Happy (Belated) Independence Day

What better way to celebrate our nation's birthday than by setting off 10 tons of explosives?

I went to Boston's Esplanade and had a gorgeous view of the fireworks. They manage to outdo themselves every year. Highlights: pastel color fireworks, fireworks that explode in cube shapes and in smiley faces, fireworks attached to parachutes (or balloons, I couldn't tell), the biggest shells I have ever seen, and explosions that feel like a kick in the chest.

The 1812 Overture with live ordnance is also something that has to be experienced.

I picked up a copy of the New York Times yesterday, and they had printed a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence full page on the back of one section. I read it and it moved me to tears. It is one of those things that makes you feel good, not just about this country, but about humanity. Thanks, NYT.