What is behind and inside Leanne's eyes?
| Lesson 3 (1)
1) Suffering. A character’s pain, whether emotional or physical, increases the reader’s emotional involvement. Note, however, that a character’s grief does not make the reader grieve any more than a character’s cut makes the reader bleed – it is the character’s reaction and feeling about their suffering that engage the reader. Intensity counts. Too little (a paper cut) won’t get you much bang for your buck. Too much (ghastly torture) and it becomes unbearable to the reader, so he distances himself. Frequency is also an issue. The first time a character gets hit on the head, we wince for her. The forth time, we think of the Three Stooges.
1. Leanne’s mother killed herself in front of her. Dear Mom poured kerosene over herself and lit the match.
2. School can be cruel. The others taunt her.
2) Sacrifice. Pain and suffering also increase emotional stakes if the character has a choice in the matter. Nora setting Pete’s broken arm has less impact on the reader than Pete deciding to set it himself, making painful choices will each movement. This also works on the villainous side of thing: Pete accidentally hits a child with his car vs. Pete does it on purpose. The reader may hate Pete for the latter, but the reader will care.
1. Leanne keeps to herself, avoiding others. She clings to her house, her bedroom.
2. Leanne abides by her father’s strict rules, feeling desperate because her boyfriend is urging her to do things she cannot. She is being forced to choose between her father and her boyfriend.
3) Jeopardy. This is the anticipation of pain… think of waiting to see the dentist. Put a character in a situation where great pain is upcoming, and you’ve got the reader’s attention.
1. The fire kills her boyfriend.
2. Her father begins to doubt her.
4) Symbols. You can increase a character’s importance by connecting the character to the world around her, so that what happens to her seems to have a greater reach. As King Lear reaches madness, a storm breaks out. Oedipus’s sins cause a famine, which does not end until he pays the price.
1. My symbols are usually dealing with fire and Leanne’s attitude to the world.
2. Her madness becomes a symbol of her consciousness. What do we believe about Leanne, which is the truth?