5.23.2006

The Golden Character

So, I was thinking about Frazer's The Golden Bough last night. No, I don't know why, exactly -- I think perhaps it has something to do with my recent reinterest in the writing community. It's odd to see how perspectives change, especially among younger writers and readers. I think a lot of the sense of history has faded from the genre scene... or maybe it was never really there because it's not important? More on that later, I think.

Anyway, I've been having a lot of fun plotting my latest, and it's coming together very nicely, in a way I haven't really seen on earlier projects. Lots of layers, not by design or by intention, but rather... I feel as if I am chipping these elements out of the stone, slowly sculping something of meaning. Which is weird for me, because I don't particularly like meaning. But I love patterns, and I love it when two things that aren't related suddenly, obviously, absolutely are, in a new and unexpected way.

But, anyway, back to the subject at hand. The specific part of the book I'm referring to is the section on magic (since I can't remember much more than that, it's been a decade and a half) -- the principles a primitive magician might use to work his magic. And it occurred to me that these principles might be modified to work for writing, and character development in particular.

There are two branches of Sympathetic Magic. I had to look this up; I had remembered three branches, for some reason... I'm still convinced there are, even though I have no proof. Or inkling what the third branch would be. Or even an idea of why I think this.

The Law of Similarity is defined in the context of sympathetic magic as 'an effect can be produced by imitating it'. You have a character, a strong, intelligent type, and you want to reinforce this. So you create another character who is also strong and intelligent, but less so, and show the first character correcting the second.

The Law of Contact is that, once an object has been in contact with a person, anything done to that object affects the person. This principle is used to great effect in many novels for plot; it's essentially the domino effect. A character abuses his child, and the child grows up to abuse his own children. The abused children take poor care of their grandfather, shuffling him off to a nursing home. For character development, it's so simple it almost doesn't need saying; the things that touched your character in the past still drive him.

Eh, forgive this ramble, I'm indulging in idle keyboard pounding as I wait for the Dr. Pepper to kick in. These late nights are killing me.

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