Sunday, March 13, 2011

Drawing the Spectacle

Conflict, carnivals, spectacles...

At the core of any narrative is the conflict whether that is conflict between characters, external factors or even within a solitary character. The conflicts are the attractions for an audience, they're the rides that either draw or turn away participants.

Like a carnival, the core attractions will have a cohesive tone to attract the primary audience and convince them to participate. The core attraction in the narrative is often one of primary narrative themes; good versus evil, man versus nature etc. The premise conflict is the primary spectacle to draw the attention of an audience.

The creator of the work is no different than the ring master or the carnival manager. Every attraction has it's purpose, if it under-performs than it shall be cut. To the writer these are the revisions.

Once the audience can identify the major attractions they begin to explore the carnival. Not every attraction will suit every participant but every attraction should be able to obtain its' own crowd. These smaller attractions are designed to hold the attention of attendees until the they can experience the major spectacles. These attractions are often conceptualized character conflicts that examine both external and internal contention. Relationships, feuding friends moral dilemmas all orchestrated to maintain the attention of the masses.

As the attractions are selected and assembled the arrangement becomes key. If there are too many attractions the participants will grow tired before experiencing the full extent of the project. If there are too few attractions they will lose interest quickly. Spacing the attractions out at regular intervals will keep the interest of participants and maintain the tone.

When the architect begins crafting their piece, they must ask is this a sufficient spectacle to draw the crowd? Are the attractions enough to entertain? Is the main attraction a ride that others want to take?


Michele Shaw said...

I love thinking of myself as ringmaster or even conductor. We have so many decisions to make, and then we must also become the carnival barker..."Come one,come all. Read my book!" Then we hope our attraction delivers. Great post:)

PW.Creighton said...

Thanks for the quick stop over Michele. Writers are just like any other performer starting out, we just happen to be responsible for our own carnival including building the attractions too.

Solvang Sherrie said...

What an interesting comparison. I hate the circus, but I like the idea that the attractions have to be good or they get cut. I'm rewriting a story right now and realizing just how much I need to cut to make it stronger. Amazing how much I've learned since I wrote this story three years ago!

PW.Creighton said...

Sherrie, thanks for stopping by. I think conflicts can be a real spectacle and that can help determine the appeal of a narrative. If each conflict is like a ride then we have to figure out which people want to ride or avoid. As we mature as writers we find fault with previous work and can invariably make it that much stronger.

Cheryl Reif said...

Interesting--this could compare scenes to the various carnival "attractions" as well: each needs to engage, create an emotional experience, and further one or more of the story conflicts in some way. I like what you say about arrangement being key, because I often find myself rearranging plot elements in order to make the most of how the different conflicts unfold.

Natalie C. Markey said...

Great comparison. As a writer it is always fun to compare our craft to something else. Conflict is so vital to make a stories compelling just as great rides are a must in a carnival.

Amber said...

I really like this comparison. It helps me to delve further into the reason behind each scene, action, and character motivation.
Being a visual person, analogies like this are easier for me to apply to my work.
I have to admit, I'd be running straight to the side show! LOL

PW.Creighton said...

Cheryl, thanks for swinging over. Yeah that's what I thought. The midway always guides you to the largest attractions so it's best to line it with supporting attractions if you want to get the most out of it.

Natalie, great to have you back. Yes, exactly. If we take our minds out of the literary mindset and see our narratives in different perspectives it can help develop the details we just wouldn't see otherwise.

Amber, great to have you over here. You just gave me a bit of an ego boost. Heh. I think it really takes a different perspective to see all of the details in writing. Thanks for the comment and keep your flash fiction rolling.

Jill Kemerer said...

I've never thought of myself as a circus ring-leader before, but I like it! Great analogy. And I like how you compared the attractions with subplots or smaller issues in the book.

Have a great weekend!

K.M. Weiland said...

Great comparison! I love the circus (especially in its olden goldie heyday): the color, the spectacle, the romance - but most of all the conflict. I'm fascinated by the dramas that must go on behind the scenes. And isn't that what good fiction is all about? If we can produce a story even an nth and colorful and conflicted as the world of the circus, we're in good shape.

PW.Creighton said...

Jill, thanks for the comment. We're all masters of our own circus both in our own lives and our writing. Sometimes it's the smaller attractions that truly make it worth the cost of admission.

KM, thanks for stopping by. Absolutely, all of the smaller attractions can really spice up a world. Without all of the other attractions the midway would be nothing but a path to the main event, stark and lonely.

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