Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Relatively Speaking

An old adage says “Everything is relative.”

Everyone stumbles across this one truth at some point in their lives. That is, if they’re paying attention.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll remember that to walk into a house heated to 65 degrees from an outside temperature of 32 or less feels like you’re walking into a hot house. Give yourself a couple of hours and the inside temps won’t seem so warm.

Place that same scene in the dog days of summer with outside temps of 100 degrees and walk into that same house set at 65 degrees. Suddenly one has walked into a meat locker.

Someone has undoubtedly thought of the analogy of “How do you boil a live frog?”

The power of relativity has come to bear on our lives so often that we seldom pay attention to it. We make our statements about conditions around us and move on to another distraction. It’s not something that seems terribly pertinent.

Why am I talking about such a petty little observation? Isn’t it the petty little observations to which writers must pay attention?

Whether a writer is dealing in fiction or non-fiction, it’s the details that will either set you free or bury you. If you’re working in non-fiction and you present one of those little observations of relativity incorrectly, credibility will be tainted. Precision of detail is critical in non-fiction. The writer cannot afford to allow relativity to color those details too much. Even memoir has its limits concerning relativity.

If the writer works in fiction, the relativity displayed by character and situation makes or breaks the reality of the story presented. If you have a character who hates feeling cold, who lives in the desert for that reason, for instance, her air conditioning unit won’t be set at 65 degrees in the summer. The character would never stand for a temperature setting that low. Yet, such a situation can be successfully used to further define the character’s individual needs, tastes, backstory, etc.

Some people call this perspective since relativity is reserved for a physics theorem. Regardless, writers deal with the continual relativity/perspective factor every day. Many times we do it unconsciously. Somewhere, on an intuitive level, we understand how critical it is that we appear authentic and accurate.

The genre dictates how we use this factor, as well. Children’s writers must write as adults. Their presentation of material or story, on the other hand, must be from the perspective of the readers’ age for fiction and use appropriate language level, etc. In non-fiction children’s age-appropriate language also holds hands with concept understanding and developmental stages. Targeting the proper age market for one’s work is crucial to success in that genre.

The same holds true for marketing any piece of writing to any audience. Relativity/perspective demands proper marketing for success. The writer of technical journals, for instance, targets only those who need that particular information, written at specific levels of expertise.

As you can see, everything is relative. From the content to the marketing the writer juggles accuracy with approximation every time she sits down at her computer, regardless of what she’s writing.

Maybe that’s a large part of why this industry is so fascinating and frustrating at one and the same time. If anyone has another take on this subject, let me know.  I’m always up for discussion.

Until later,


1 comment:

  1. Psst... Come visit the retreat sometime soon. There's a thread waiting for you, and some treats--if Shauna and Hardt haven't eaten them all...