Thursday, September 10, 2009


Although it's not presented as a fictional story, I'm going to mention that I've been re-reading Susan Faludi's Backlash lately. I was on a high school memorabilia kick and decided to snap myself out of it by raiding my college bookshelf. As I'm silently cheering to myself as Faludi dismantles certain "trends" and misuse of statistics, I realize that this is a interesting delineation of opposing needs and the misunderstandings that can arise from them--something that I can use when designing manipulative characters and institutions in my own writing and something I should be carefully observing in the stories that I read.

For example, let's consider magazine ad revenue. Magazine stories that portray trends that support their own advertisers are supporting their bottom line. However, the average reader glancing through probably doesn't analyze (except for the really glaring examples) each story for the relevance to keeping advertisers happy versus accurate reporting and in some cases ('in' colors for paining this fall?) it probably doesn't matter as much. What matters is the accepted basis for these trends, such as "a few people think," or "it seems that in the future." Needless to say, these are gentle but accurate ways to say "we just made this up" or "the guy making mohair booties in Poughkeepsie would like it if..."

The pressure of the idea that "everyone is doing it" or "forward-thinking people are doing it" is internalized, becomes a motivation that seems to arise internally but was carefully and subtly (or not so subtly if you're more sceptically inclined that I am--working on it, not there yet) planted. This seems like a good lesson for looking for the more delicate pressure points of characters and for ways to manipulate characters in my own writing. I'm sure forward-thinking writers are doing this already. ;)

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