26 June 2012

Do you know how to argue?

Nothing Earth-shattering to report...although if there were anything that had shattered the Earth, I suspect not many of us would be online. So cheer up!

As usual, I have been traveling during the early part of the summer, catching some moonlight where I could, getting into trouble and for the most part getting myself out, as well. I did achieve some writing goals. And I continue to advance across the battlefield of words! Each day a new scrimmage, each weekend of late-night revelry and weekdays of pre-dawn typestry, ah! "Never a day without a line"!

AIKO is my current dalliance, an intriguing novel I first penned in the late 1980s and resurrected months ago. I have added two new opening chapters which better set the stage for the main story. I have also added a third chapter whose information was embedded previously in a flashback of the original chapter one. The challenges have been, as always, creating believable conflict from realistically portrayed characters. How to make an argument? How to evolve that argument into a serious enough explosion that it sets the main plot in motion? It cannot be hurried, cannot be leaped over to get to the chase, cannot be told in real time. Balance is required, a fine and delicate balance that combines real time dialog with time-compressing exposition.

Nice guy, married to nice woman, discovers a secret. He shares it with the wife out of a "honesty is the best policy" idealism. Wrong move (perhaps). That leads them to argue. But the arguing must go on for several weeks. That could be the whole book right there: twelve chapters covering twelve weeks of arguing.

How do arguments typical unfold? In the grand world of professional rhetoric there are rules and strategies to follow (for example: 4 Stages of Argument). In the real world, however, people do not argue according to a plan but rather more closely following their emotions and only occasionally do they resort to some strategy that seems to be effective.

Arguments in the real world may start with the initial explosion of revelation and shock, followed by an exhausted recovery period, or a period of reflection on the merits of the argument. After the opening fireworks, there could be a recharging period, too: time to gather one's counterarguments, perhaps. Each side may want to present the merits of their views and/or discredit the opposition's view. There could be a sharing of facts and opinions intended to persuade. Or a presentation of suppositions ("Suppose this happened....") and hypothetical situations ("If you do that then...."). There could be a lull for depression, hopeless feelings, nagging uncertainty, followed by renewed anger and the willingness to push beyond one's normal threshold of violence. Real arguments do not usually unfold according to a logical pattern.

What is possible? What is likely? What is plausible given these characters' already-established personalities, conscious and subconscious motivations, and deep-seated psychological foundations?

Like I stated above, a delicate balance is required, especially in a work of fiction. The chapter I've written breaks into several sections, each a short snapshot of the developing conflict. In those sections, I employ real time dialog for key conversation but use exposition to get through the longer, repetitious restating of facts and feelings. I give subtle or ironic time cues, of course, so we know it isn't all happening in a single night. And do not forget to add gestures (waving arms, threatening hands), movement (pacing, storming), facial expressions (barred teeth, sniveling tears), and good ol' metaphors (a light rain falling outside = tears rolling down cheeks).

One argument, evolving over six weeks, one chapter only. That's my goal. Done. (I think.) The situation is resolved only to the point where the two characters appear to be breaking up, one to go ahead with the plan, the other refusing to wait. I have a love-hate relationship with argument.

Now, have I successfully avoided all spoilers?

You can read a section just before the argument chapter here.

(C) Copyright 2010-2012 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

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