Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Empathy vs. Sympathy vs. Apathy

“So far, I am having real trouble making up names for my characters. Ok I am actually also having trouble giving the characters characteristics too. Then it’s thinking of what will happen to them… like do I make it plot driven or character driven? Everything has to have an arc, doesn’t it?”

Steve was pondering starting his creative written exercises again, but he didn’t know where to start. Tony breathed out his bong hit and passed it back to Steve. But before he started his next toke Steve continued with his frustration:
“Like does everything have to be significant? I know my dialogue is gonna sound phony as hell, and when I use the word phony, I’m always tempted to throw a couple of goddamns in there… and I haven’t even read ‘catcher’ in years.” He was about to light up but instead continued his thought rant.

“Like do I try to give them names that mean something or just make them into strong characters, so that that carries the meanings I want to express? But if I keep up all this overthinking, I will never start writing anything, that’s all I know for sure right now.”

They were sitting on the couch again, talking about what they could be doing; instead of actually doing it, as debate and conjecture seemed far easier than actually doing stuff. It was just after sunset and they had finished work for the day. As Steve finally had his next toke, Tony broke the conversational silence. “I always wanted to name a character ‘Dean Moriarty’, but would that be pretentious?” He blurted out.

Steve almost choked in a mild fit of laughter. Then sniped back...
“Pretentious? Why don’t you just write a list of the books you’ve read instead, or name your work: ‘Please Associate Me with Kerouac, ‘cos he was Famous.’  You have only read ‘On The Road” anyway.”
Tony was only ever so slightly embarrassed at Steve’s derision.  And chimed back “Have you ever tried to read his other stuff? I just don’t have a big enough pharmaceutical collection to find the significance of a drunken Buddhist.”
                “Harsh call bro” Retorted Steve.
                “No I don’t mean the man no disrespect or anything like that. I mean, I guess you need to have a harsh life or some pretty heavy shit go down on you, before you can really write what you feel. And same goes for understanding it, like you can sympathise all you like, but you’ll never really empathise with the truth of it all.” Tony's' thoughts seemed to trail off into the distance as he realised the significance of his own statement. Steve took over the conversation, back on his own train of thinking. “It seems like it would be way easier to write a song or a comic, than write a whole book. I mean you can just sketch the outlines and let people pile whatever meaning they want into your holes of ambiguity. But with a novel you have to give the reader almost everything. Usually a backstory, strong character types that English teachers can analyse in 50 years’ time and a plot that perfectly unfolds slowly throughout the chapters and then draws you right in at the end. It’s just too much to think about, and I don’t even know what I want my characters to say or do. I don’t even know what message I want to give my audience, if any.”

Tony tried to tame this burden of significance that Steve was creating. “Maybe you could just start with a short story with two characters, having a bit of a chat?’”
                “Well I could do that, but who the fuck would want to read that kind of bollocks Tony?”
                “Just stick it up on the internet somewhere, there’s so many bored people out there looking for distractions from their own dramas, they will read anything. Well you know what I mean.”
                “Cheers man, that is like ultra-comforting indeed. I can imagine the critical comments that would generate. I mean have you noticed how much everyone seems to argue on the net? It’s like everyone just enjoys having a big whinge and a tearing other people’s ideas down these days. Or just blatantly insulting people for perceived homosexuality or that whole 'go-back-to-where-you-come-from' crap.”
                “I told you not to read the comments on YouTube dickhead.  Haters always gonna hate dude. Can't stop that, like war and glaciers. Death and taxes... But anyway, forget the criticism, I mean everyone has to start from somewhere, even if your first few attempts are absolute bullshit. ”
                “I repeat ultra –comforting man, have you thought of being a guidance counsellor or something? The general enthusiasm generating machine you are!”
                “I already work in a call centre; everyone unloads their emotional shit all over you, even if they have called the wrong phone number.”  
They both started laughing and looked outside as a plane flew off into the distance. “But in all seriousness how awesome would it be to create characters, people actually cared about?”
“I’m sure they will have shitty names though.  Or just sound like it's me having a conversation with myself in my head though, so what’s the point in reading or even writing that? I will just try for total deconstruction anyway. Pulling all the atoms apart, without ever fixing a molecule. Words slicing through the pretence but really just in a practice way, anyway. With no greater meaning keeping it together, just a grab-bag cluster of extinct references of stuff from the previous century and occasionally this one. Boring!”
“Dude, who are you?”
“Founding member of over-thinkers anonymous.”
“Nuff said…” They smiled at the dusk and thought of the hills and beyond, in the least cheesiest way possible, but no plot twists ensued for fear of clichéd overuse and it definitely wasn't all a dream.   

No comments: