Saturday, April 10, 2010

Characterisation, the Process

I was again trying to pin down my ideas for the Monster-Moored series, “once and for all”. How often have I already thought those words? I re-realised, once again, that my stories always start with a character. Tardi Mack, in this case.

And so, to be able to hang a plot onto his life, I need a character arc for the whole 500 years. That number is merely a reminder from me to myself that to fit in all the territory I want to cover, the saga needs to be longer than just a couple of generations. That’s the plan, as Summer says to Mal at the end of Serenity. Though I’m still learning the trick of spinning a long life thread.

For the Tardi/alien mental relationship in Part I (Monster-Moored) I went back to William Sargant’s little book Battle for the Mind.

Though first published back in 1957, and one would therefore suspect its conclusions completely out of date, I like it for its comprehensive description of Pavlov’s experiments with dogs and Sargant’s own extrapolations of the physiological results in humans. Sargant was a neurophysiologist during WWII, working in England with returned POWs and traumatized soldiers. So, for the damage to Tardi as he attempts to keep his sanity against the alien encroachment on Tardi’s mind, I’m extrapolating from Sargant.

Having got Tardi to his knees at the beginning of Part II (Monster and Mongrel), I needed him healed to be able to overcome his adversary. The Power of the Mind to Heal, published in 1994, is another one of my Opportunity Shop finds.

I learned about the workings of a rite-of-passage from The Power of the Mind. The first stage is the separation from one’s state of being; followed by the luminal period during which one dwells between two worlds. Final is the re incorporation into a new role. A perfect description of the process Tardi needs to go through in order to become the person able to liaise with the alien’s support system, also called “the huddle”, an all female group of life forms the alien has picked up around the galaxy.

Then there’s Chapter 13 in The Power of the Mind, Letting Go of Fear, which will help me begin to think through Part III (Mongrel and Medic) when Tardi has to learn, if not to love the alien, to at least appreciate its works. On page 112, Sogyal Rinpoche, Tibetan monk, says, “Meditation is being spacious.” A spacious mind is definitely what Tardi will need to accommodate the alien and its support system if he is to accept that the alien cannot be cleaned up.

The final part of the series (IV) is the meld of Tardi with the alien and the huddle, (Monster-Melded). It’s huge, and I haven’t found the appropriate reading matter yet to start me off thinking about psychological implications for Tardi. There’s a rite-of-passage to be sure, but such a one-off, that I’m searching for something special to jolt me into it. Suggestions are welcome.

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