Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Approach

This week’s Human Observation Project is focusing on how the same thing, depending on how it’s presented, can warrant a different response. 

Have you ever been in a situation where someone comes up to you and starts off by saying, “You did this...”  Whoa, instantly you get defensive.  After all, they are essentially accusing you by the way they approached you, aren’t they?  Now, what if that same person had come up to you and said, “I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but I think…”  It’s a peaceful approach.  You would no doubt listen to more of what they had to say without the inclination to fight with them.  They’re not wanting to point blame; they’re simply bringing something to your attention.

How can we put “The Approach” to use in our writing?
By harnessing the power of dialogue, we can inflict emotion, and assign motive to our characters without the need to add a “tell” phrase.

For example:

“You’re the one who brought the subject up.”

Do you need to add a tag to this dialog, saying something like “she said, defensively”, or “she crossed her arms, closed to anymore discussion”?  Absolutely not, because it’s implied by the word choice that there’s conflict.  You don’t even need context to pick up on that.

What if in the same scene, the character said this instead:

“Why do we have always have to talk about this?  By the way, how’s your mother these days?”

Based on this we can tell the matter is a sensitive one to our character.  They want the subject changed, but unlike the first example, there’s no indication our character is angered by the conversation, they would just rather talk about anything else.  The subject matter strikes them emotionally on some level.

These are just two basic examples of how “The Approach” can be utilized in our writing.  What about you?  How have you used this aspect in your writing?  Or what is another example you can think of?