Gaining Objectivity While Writing a Story
Stepping outside of yourself to appreciate what you have written
The easiest thing for writers to do is to jump inside their characters' heads and illustrate how the story's world looks from the inside. The hardest thing is to separate themselves from that experience and look back to see what it all means.
To fully appreciate the meaning and purpose of a story, the writer needs to develop the ability to look at their work with greater objectivity.
I'm reading the Understanding the Purpose of Backstory article and it brought up a couple of things that have been bothering me for a while. So, in the first paragraph, you say that writers will do anything to avoid writing "true conflict", and then skip down a bit and you say that a MC is not a real person, but a perspective. As if, writers don't recognize that fiction be fiction. It seems counterproductive to dis how humans workout those perspectives through personification.
The biggest problem facing writers is their inability to step outside and look at what they are writing with greater objectivity. When I say they avoid writing "true conflict," I don't mean to suggest that they are incapable, and I mean merely to point out that what they think is conflict is insufficient as it is subjective (and therefore prone to bias).
It might feel like conflict from where you are sitting, but once someone else looks at it, they can tell straight away that something is missing.
That something missing is an objective appreciation of conflict.
In my classes, I describe the difference between experiencing a meal and the process of putting it together. Many writers are very good at writing engaging stories--it's just that most of them don't understand the ingredients that went in to make it.
This reality would be a case of those who can, can't teach.
In working out their story authors, hell people, don't want to go stand on conflict and inequities of perspective. Seriously, who wants to admit they are or could be triggered because of XYANDZ. It's awkward and doesn't feel creative at all to say, "well, I think this or that is a valid perspective." It feels VERY, VERY presumptive, almost to the point of indecency in today's crazy political and social climates. Whereas, personifying the perspective outside of oneself lends a little breathing room.
Writer's block and the inability to finish a story are always the result of the Author not knowing what they want to say. Learning how to frame an inequity is a powerful way to get a writer to understand the purpose of their story.
True, they will eventually need to personify such a perspective. But writers won't do it effectively until they can step back and define it objectively.
What exactly is the point of saying that something is a perspective and not a real person, (which in this context most people have no idea what a MC/IC THROUGHLINE PERSPECTIVE is anyway)?
After decades of working with the Dramatica theory and five+ years consulting professionally, I found the biggest stumbling block for writers is the idea that story structure exists for characters. They believe their characters are real people and that the purpose of story structure is to help the subjects of their story grow through an emotional and meaningful journey. This approach would be the subjective path to story structure.
The objective approach, the one present in the Dramatica theory of story and throughout Subtxt and Narrative First, is the idea that a complete story is an analogy to a single human mind working to resolve an inequity. Structure is not about the characters; structure is about the story.
Neither approach is better than the other, as each arrives with a unique set of pros and cons. The subjective process makes things more engaging and personal; the objective helps you appreciate what is working and what isn't. The subjective can only take you as far as your characters can go, while the objective can leave you in analysis paralysis. You need both, but you can't do one from the point of view of the other.
As it stands now, an insane amount of conversation and exploration already exists for the subjective point-of-view. The objective is woefully underrepresented, which is where Subtxt and Narrative First steps in.
Hundreds of very good authors never think of anything BUT character (personification of perspective) as they create their stories, some of them brilliantly. So why is it useful to throw out the way people are comfortable thinking about story?
You can continue to support an artist's blind spots, or you can help them see those hidden problematic areas they didn't even know existed within them.
You and John [Dusenberry] have been working so hard--at de-personalizing conflict to make it "universal" but a strength of Dramatica's is to look at 32K nuanced sitchimacations [sic], which, as a side note, if you feel strongly about something, it's never not personal. I honestly think it would be more useful to use the paradigm that people are used to and can relate to, rather than making Dramatica even more esoteric than it already is.
To bend the objective to the subjective would be to lessen the utility of such a unique perspective. Dramatica theory is purposefully "esoteric" as a means to jostle the writer out of their preconceptions.
If you and John are the linear side of things, consider me your holistic wake-up call trying to bring things back into balance. A perspective MUST be attached to someone. They don't just float around in the ether, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting creatives.
The sooner you can start detaching the point-of-view of a character from the character, the sooner you can begin to see if the structure of your story holds up under greater scrutiny. Subjectivity is essential when it comes to drumming up empathy with the Audience, but it's poison when it comes to appreciating the meaning of a story.
We know that it's the Author, but why do we have to rub it in their face, especially if the topic/theme is difficult, weighty, objectionable, or painful?
At Narrative First, we presume the Author means to communicate something important to them. If they don't buy into the analogy of the single human mind (Storymind) and they want to describe an experience that means nothing more than the experience itself--then they are more than welcome to do so on their own.
When they want to gain some objectivity and understand why their stories fail to connect fully or fail even to finish them, we will continue to push them to that uncomfortable place where they will have no other alternative than to grow a writer.