Monday, 3 October 2011

My Mirror's Eyeballs

Sometimes I realize that I never fully outgrew a fear of the dark, in the way I assume every clanking pipe is the serial killer standing over my bed breathing awkwardly behind his mask. Also in the way I sometimes turn on the light in the wee hours just to make sure something isn't hiding

a.) in the toilet
b.) behind the shower curtain
c.) behind the door

This post is going to give me a whole new set of phobias! I already have issues with mirrors, whether it's bad luck to be caught between two of them, or whether the mirror people are waiting for you to let your guard down so they can steal your body. Now, I can wonder whether the mirror secretly has eyeballs that blink wetly when I'm not looking.

Taking the title less literally, I mean to say that sometimes when I'm stuck on a character's point of view, backstory, or just the way I have presented her in my work so far, I find it helpful to look at her through another character's eyes. What does this mean for my work?

It just means listening to another person doing the talking. All I need is a new voice, a new backstory, a new facet of the cast and an entirely new way of viewing the world I have created. Easy!

For those of you sinners who read fanfiction (to which I have already lost three hours of my life while trying to write something meaningful today) you will understand the inherent power and fascination in taking a momentary throwaway sentence and spinning it into a thousand words of torrid romance, aching lost chance, or horrifying murder. Throughout the wandering bridge of the fanfiction piece in the greater song of the canon work to which it belongs, you see the main characters moving freely, tangentially, or removed entirely from the world which molds itself around them in the original piece.

[A vocabulary note: Bridge - that minor chord part of the song that connects the last verse with the chorus. Canon - the part of the body of work that the original author and (usually) intellectual property owner has created (aka Word of God).]

For those of you blessed few who don't read fanfiction, you can take a single sentence in your work - best if it's a line you didn't expect to write - and expound at length. I have two characters who interact at some point with my main character and I had created them to have a conversation about love. My short story is about love, and cloning, and murder, and terrible tragedy that befalls those bound to the slim mercy of they who refuse to exercise the responsibility that has ensnared them. Anyway, the main character doesn't know what love is, doesn't know how to love, and doesn't realize she isn't in love. She just thinks she is. The two characters she talks to are in love. Madly, deeply, at great length and for the longest time they live for each other. They are truly happiest when thinking of that someone else other than themselves.

Once I realized that, I saw that they would view my character in a certain light. They are old, she is young. They have been happily together for ages, she comes from a home where cold silence is as familiar as screaming violence in only the way two people who are miserably tied together can manage.

Suddenly, my quite earnest police officer who just wants to be loved is a cold, narcissistic, young woman who can't understand why the things she deserves aren't magically appearing before her.

Without that extra set of eyes, I would have a story of someone who never let go of the kind of love that guides your gel pen into circling his initials with glittery hearts and who views another moving on with his life as a personal slight. She would still come off as a brat, but now she is a brat with a reason. Just look at her home life - which I hadn't considered because I saw her world through her eyes. She didn't see how miserable her parents were, only that she wasn't trying hard enough, wasn't good enough, had to do better and was always falling behind.

Thank you, mirror eyeballs, for giving my who a why of her very own.

Who are your mirror eyeballs in your latest work? Anyone I know?

Introduce them.

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