Sunday, April 11, 2010

Words Come Alive

The Ole Bait and Switch

How could the famous bait and switch help you write fiction? That’s the principle behind building suspense for the conflict. Conflict drives everything. We need character development and plot lines, but without the real conflict, the story is a yawn. When writing, bait with hope of overcoming the obstacle, but take away the momentary success by switching the protagonist’s immediate goals.

To fully use the bait and switch, we have to see how it fits into the entire scheme of conflict. Conflict hits throughout the work. It strikes as any obstacle to the desires of the protagonist. That means we can have the hero face a conflict against others, nature or even against his or her self.

But we also have to build mini conflicts thought the story that are linked to the big obstacle. For example, the big obstacle is the barrier of politics that separates two lovers — she’s a liberal, he’s a conservative. We need the protagonist to find a way to keep the love going despite the barrier. So we segment the plot with several scenes based on mini conflicts. Like his conservatism backs the real estate interest that threatens his lover’s legal work. Or, he has to break into her soup kitchen client’s office to get papers to show her he’s right. Or he has to break down his real estate agent’s denial that the soup kitchen’s director is blackmailing the agent.

That’s where the bait and switch comes in. We have just divided the main conflict into mini ones that carry us through the story. At the climax of each mini event, we stage a bait and switch. That means we provide the reader with a hope of the protagonist reaching his goal, but only in part. We also switch the obstacle so the hero has to face another version of the conflict — bait and switch.

Let’s put this in play. In the first segment, the desire of the protagonist is to break into the office, then find papers. That means the focus in this segment has to impede his efforts in both areas. But he gradually succeeds in finding the files in a cabinet. Hope is fulfilled. But the papers reveal he was wrong in his support of the real estate agent. We have a switch. He now has a new hope or bait because those papers reveal he might be right about his agent friend in a different way — the agent was being blackmailed by the kitchen’s director. Then we are carried to the next segment.

The model goes like this: Break the major conflict into segments. Each segment needs the protagonist to achieve some glimmer of hope or success in reaching the final goal. But he is thwarted in a big way. Some new hope is given that propels him into the following scene. Bait and switch. That delay in total gratification is like the famous gun, sitting on the table, that Hitchcock said drove suspense. Suspense comes from worrying who will use the weapon. Conflict comes from the bait and switch that leads to that suspense.

- Tom Pope

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Worlds Meet

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

After a long drawn out battle to pass health care reform, the battle has been won, but at what cost? Already fourteen states have threatened to sue the U.S. Government claiming that they don’t have the funds to pay for additional healthcare costs as mandated by President Obama’s plan within their states. Rhetoric on both the Democratic and Republican sides has reached a fever pitch so much so that shots have been fired into House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s window and a suspicious package was delivered to Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner. I dare to ask who’s to blame for the increased hostilities and the divisiveness that we’ve been seeing over the past couple of months.

Oh, where to begin. First off, the Republicans have been doing their best to spread fear and dissension whenever they’ve chosen to speak. Whether it’s Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Steele or Mitch McConnell, these speakers have inundated the American public with the same mantras over and over. Health care reform means more government control and government control is bad. Health care reform will mean higher taxes for everyone. Health care reform will drain funds from Medicare. Health care reform is just another example of Democrats spending and spending (hmmm, anyone remember the Afghanistan and Iraq wars under the Bush administration which plunged the nation into the largest budget deficit in history?). Sadly, the Republicans have done little to expound upon these statements. These are the facts, so just deal with them, OK? That’s all you need to know, say the Republicans.

This has lead to the formation of the infamous Tea Party and similar groups. Now, I’m all for having other groups expressing their opinions, and I think the country needs more than just a Democratic and Republican voice. Unfortunately, while the Tea Party claims that they embrace both Democratic and Republican voices, it seems that they’re a group that has taken the Republican fear mongering ball and run with it. I have yet to hear them bring anything constructive to the table outside of attacking the current administration, or anything else they don’t like. In fact, many Tea Party rallies seem more like Klan or Brown Shirt meetings than anything else.

I also blame President Obama and his cabinet. Much of the venom that is currently being spewed could have been avoided if the President took more time out of his schedule to educate the American public and detractors of the plan. There were too few town hall meetings that were set up and none of them were televised to the entire nation. The President could have quelled the ire of many by presenting the benefits of his health care plan and rebutting his dissenters on prime time television and on social networking sites. It seems that President Obama was more concerned with getting health care legislation passed rather than educating the American public.

But there’s an even more insidious problem going on here and that problem involves the all-mighty dollar, lobbyists and the control that many corporations exert upon the political machine. Many Senators and House members have a vested interest in the numerous corporations that work with and are connected to the U.S. government. These corporations could be health care related, military contractors, engineering firms, you name it. If something happens to rock these corporation’s boats, like say health care reform, and changes the way they operate or make money, or if a particular Senator sees that his or her investments in said corporation might be jeopardized, then those same Senators will kick, claw and scratch to make sure their investments and lobbyists are happy.

In the end, it’s the average American that suffers, caught in a battle between two rich, spoiled adversaries. Both adversaries claim that they are fighting the good fight, but I dare to ask, are they really? Both sides need to stop catering to themselves, to special interest groups and to the big bad corporations out there. Honestly, what’s a couple of million or billion in the grand scheme of things? Until that time comes (if it ever does), we’ll continue to be treated to more games of “he said, she said”.

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