25 June 2010

Irreversible Change

Come with me to the weekend, about tenish days prior to now, to an exciting place of sparkle and opportunity...

Me: Squee! I am full of squeeful-gleefulness, for BEHOLD! The shiny graphics tablet is now mine!

Graphics Tablet: *shines*

Me: And look! It is conveniently a USB attachment! I can plug that into my laptop! *does so*

Graphics Tablet: *shines*

Computer: Installing your new device.

Me: Even MORE squeeful! It is self-installing! Who needs the installation CD? Pah!

Computer: Your new device is installed and ready to use.

Me: Ooooo, preeeetty. Look! I can has drawing! *opens photoshop and draws*

Graphics Tablet: *shines*

Me: Isn't this the most awesomest awesome ever?


Graphics Tablet Pen: *stops working*

Me: Huh. Well, I knew it was battery powered, but I did HOPE the battery would last longer than 15 minutes. Oh well. *packs up tablet*

Graphics Tablet in Box: *shines*

Me: Okay, computer, let's close that drawing...

Computer: *mouse does not reappear*

Me: *wriggling finger on trackpad* Hello? The pen is disconnected. Can I have my mouse functionality back now, please?

Computer: No. *blue-screen-of-deaths*

Me: Oh noes! Woe! Woe is me! *tries to reboot laptop*

Computer: *is dead*

Me: *reads graphics tablet manual*

Manual: Make sure you use the installation CD before connecting the tablet to avoid any problems.

Me: *facepalm*


Computer: *still dead*


Yes, alack, it is true. The laptop, she still sleeps. However, after many hours attempting to fix her the day after the above, I discovered the problem, and I think it's a relatively simple fix; just reinstall windows. Of course, I have no installation disc; I need to ring Microsoft and get one. I just... haven't been bothered yet. I have a work laptop, and my husband has a laptop. Apart from the mild irritation of not being able to access any files I didn't have in my dropbox (all my writing lives there), it's not too much of an issue.

Which brings me to my point today: irreversible change.

My story about the computer has conflict in it: I want the computer to work, and it doesn't. My needs conflict with its 'needs', and voila, conflict.

But is this story actually worth telling (other than to use as an illustration in this post, of course)? What makes a story worth telling?

Several things, but the one I'm talking about today has to do with the nature of your conflict. See, my story may have conflict, but does it really make you care about what happens? Are you all on the edges of your seats, dying to know if I can be bothered to make The Call and Save My Laptop? Are you? Are you?!


If you're normal, probably not. Why? Well, firstly, probably because I'm not exactly projecting a sense of urgency about the matter. You don't care because I don't seem to care. So why don't I care?

Basically, because I know it's fixable. It's a problem, it's conflict, it's there in the background, but I know it'll pretty much be a simple matter of an hours-on-hold phone call, an explanation, and ta da! Fixed. The change that caused the conflict - my computer dying - is reversible.

Now, of course, if it turns out in the end that a whole bunch of important files were damaged on the comp and I'll never ever get them back again, that might not be so reversible. And in that case, (and rest assured you'll hear about it) there would be a more urgent conflict. The change caused by the conflict was irreversible.

Okay, so it's probably not the most inspired example, but you get the point :D A character getting a bad haircut isn't compelling conflict; the hair will eventually grow out. (Although she could be teased and tormented by cruel people, inducing psychological damage that will scar her forever; that would be more compelling >:)) A character breaking a leg is probably a little more compelling, because even though the break may heal, reknit bone is never the same as unmarred bone; there was a lasting change.

It's certainly not the be-all and the end-all when it comes to conflict in your novels, but it's definitely something to keep in mind. How lasting are your changes? Will the character still be affected by them in a year's time, or will they have forgotten them, not notice them any more? Will your readers still remember? Or will they, too, forget?


Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

That's a great question about changes. I think I always choose changes that will last the character's whole lifetime. I suppose that's good. :)

I hope reinstalling windows fixes the problem. What a pain!

Wulf said...

I attended a writer's conference where an author talked about organic cities. It forever changed my thinking about setting and character.

Take a character, complete with motivations and limitations, stuff them into a harsh environment, and you have a story. Now, make that environment alive, withering and sick in places, flourishing and changing in others, and you have a great story.

P.S. (i.e. computer help you didn't ask for) You probably don't need to reinstall windows, just reboot it in safe mode and delete the tablet from Control Panel -> System -> Device Manager. Chat me if you want help.

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