Thursday, November 26, 2009

No angst--promise...

Thanks for bearing with me. Sometimes I think I should be one of my own characters. No wonder everyone I write seems to have issues. Thank you Jax, for going out of your way to cheer me up and thank you Jeanna for being a peachy kind of person, even when you think you're a lemon. And you, Cowboy. Thanks for calling me so I can bang my head on the wall and whine, lol.

I tell people all the time to have a little patience because sooner or later bad stuff goes away. The days before Thanksgiving are particularly bad for me. January will be bad, but that's still a little ways off.

I'm almost finished with that blog post I'm doing for the FF&P. Little do they know they're getting Jodi's take on chaos theory. And for that, I blame Kimberly. A while back she asked me to explain vector theory in writing and I sat there for days, looking at the book I was currently reading, trying to figure out how to explain it.

People seem to think using big words makes them sound intelligent, one of the reasons I've always like Dunne. Big ideas, little words.

This book was nothing but big words, arranged like the writer had taken some kind of overly OCD version of college composition for tech-manuals. But as I was going through it, I realized parts of it sounded like another book I'd recently bought. Narrative and Discourse, by Seymour Chatman, which in turn was the basis for some really obscure screenwriting stuff I'd read. (I find a lot of research books by reading footnotes.)

Back in the seventies, Chatman did some totally amazing work on character and organic structure, although he didn't call it that. Being an ivory-tower type, he labeled it a variation on discourse analysis. Looking back on it from an outside perspective I only see traces of his work in the craft field, mostly in screenwriting.

Rhetoric seems to have two entirely separate sides. One is that normal college "make things difficult so people think they're learning", but it's really just recycled theories and rote learning, and the other is like craft analysis for the sheer joy of craft analysis, finding out "why" and "how".

After I realized vector theory was simply a rewrite of Chatman's kernel theory with a math angle, and not just a rewrite, but THREE HUNDRED pages of repetition, I spent some time at work (I have way too much time at work) thinking about how certain algebraic equations reflect the way plot is constructed, vectors and kernels and...came up with chaos theory. Probably the best way to describe the non-linear construction of kernels and satellites without actually de-constructing a story.

I guess what I'm trying to say is it's an overview of exactly how character-driven stories work, not from the inside, like in kernel theory, but like if you had it on a plate and were looking down at it. Craft for the joy of knowing.

4 comments:

jMo said...

I like both peaches and lemons, good in a pie.
Hope you had your fill without some type of weird food allergy.
Happy Thanksgiving, Jodi woman.
(My word ver almost spells angst--ingst)

jodi said...

I had to laugh, Jeanna. Told you I'm nothing but a big bag o'angst and a half. No hives yet. It's been a good Thanksgiving so far. :)

deanna said...

Your sheer joy in figuring out craft always shines through. You remind me of my history professor, the one year I took of college. He literally bounced around class sometimes, his love of his subject full in his veins. For me, that was electric and contagious.

"Variation on discourse analysis," woo. Your terminology actually says something.

jodi said...

lol, Deanna. I took that editing gig to get experience explaining stuff, and now I'm leaning toward academic lingo. It makes me nervous, I don't want to start using ten dollar words when a dime will do.

but, you know? When I was doing that first workshop, and when I think of chaos theory, it was like energy running through my brain and I could see all the neural stuff. Like--fire, almost. I think maybe I would have bounced around too. I still might if ever get to do an RWA lecture, I'll be "that" person. The bouncy one with energy and a whiteboard. :)