Guilty as Implied

One effective tool in bringing a reader into a story is a presumption by a character. Although this sort of statement is made in passing, the information it conveys can reveal an entire side to a character that was previously unknown. Let’s take an example: “Not enough time had passed since she threw Dad out of the house for her to . . .” That might shine a light on a teenager’s resentment of his mother. The passing remark provides context that goes beyond typical adolescent snark.

How can you attain the familiarity with a character to make such a remark? You can start with a timeline of events the character experienced before the book starts. To continue the prior example, what if the mother is dating a new man that the boy doesn’t like? When did that start? Is he the first man she has dated since the marriage? What did the teenager think in the immediate aftermath of his father’s departure, and how has that reaction matured since then? The answers to all of these questions, and more, could become implicit statements.

With further exploration you can provide more fodder. If the boy interacts with his mother, their conversations can also include assumed knowledge. The first argument about the new lover that they have in the book doesn’t have to be the first one they’ve ever had. What were their positions in the previous argument(s)? How have they shifted to provide a better line of attack next time? For instance, if the mother states that she has a right to enjoy her life, the boy might have conceded the point. So what does he come up with the next time? He still doesn’t like the boyfriend, and he still is suffering Oedipal jealousy. At what point does the boy give up on persuading the mother and start mouthing off directly to the boyfriend?

You can extend the probe via another connection: the boy and his father. Let’s say dear old dad has a drinking problem. What were the power dynamics between him and his wife before the problem became abject? What were the circumstances around the start of their marriage in the first place—i.e., their relatives? What was his relationship to his son before he split? Is he trying to con the boy through denigrating his former spouse? That in turn invites nailing down how the boy reacts. Does he regard himself as a crusader who can patch up the marriage if only Dad would give up the sauce? Does he know he’s being conned? 

By now you should have a pretty complete picture of what happened and when. None of that stuff has to go directly into the book. You can insert pieces as assumed points either thought by the character or through interactions with the concerned others. Because you know the full story, you’re in command of the narration.

“I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to fonts of wisdom and knowledge.” —Igor Stravinsky

Copyright @ 2021 John Paine. All rights reserved. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.