Leaf

Leaf

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Breaking Patterns

Cornfield - 2005
There's something beautiful and almost hypnotizing about patterns. It's not difficult to follow a pattern once you've adapted to it. You confine yourself in it, you hide into it; it becomes your haven because that is where you don't need to exercise your mental faculties: you just have to let it happen, and it will happen.
But doesn't it get damn boring after a while?

It does? Well, if it does get dull to you, then how about to your audience, or readers?

Changing pattern is important both in acting and writing, unless you're aiming at literally putting people to sleep!
When on stage, I try not to be always preoccupied with the same behavior for the whole duration of my scene. Even a twitch, when repeated over and over again, becomes a pattern and loses its meaning. A pattern is only important, to me, when I can use it to take people by surprise.
Breaking an order means doing exactly the opposite of what that order requires to exist; if it's based on constant motion, then I stop. If it's based on stillness, then I suddenly move. If my character has to stammer, there's at least a line or two I will say with a perfect control over my speaking skills; and if he's, by default, a slow-speaker, I'll lose control and speak a line or two like New York's Monday morning. If he's blind, he'll see the light for a split second.

It's not realistic? It's not what happens in real life? Who gives a - hum - I'm not too concerned about it. I would never want my character to be stuck in normal real-life situations. All I care about when I work on a character is making him believable. I don't want him to be rationally real, but emotionally real.
An inner contradiction, for example, is a way for your character to break patterns, although it requires lots of hard work that is both emotional and physical.
But hey, no pain no gain.

What's the best way to have your fictional characters - or even yourself -  break patterns?

.

16 comments:

  1. For the first time, I'm seeing the link between acting and writing. I know, smack me in the head! LOL. They way you really need to step outside yourself and emotionally connect... and the necessity of seeing the little details... it's those small things, like breaking a pattern--and like you said, a lot of hard work--that steps it up to the next level. Great post, Jay!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great - you'e absolutely right, Jay. It's also how I write a joke or a comedy script: set up a pattern, then break it. It's a great way to get laughs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a tricky one and puts me in mind of a related problem: the fact, apparently, that the mind has already decided on a given action before you 'consciously' decide upon it. A nano-second separation perhaps but one that gives me a headache trying to work it out. Can you consciously subvert the process - sabotage the unconscious directive?

    ReplyDelete
  4. For me I find that my patterns are what feels comfortable. So I stick with them despite the times that I don't want to. I am keenly aware of them but it seems to be part of what holds me together during times of high anxiety. Great post :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good for you (and well said). Patterns—a.k.a. ruts—are always something I need to be blasted out of by cataclysms from outside.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Of course Morgan! The link between writing and acting! It's the egg of Columbus!
    Thanks for your comment!

    Tony,
    Exactly, patterns are made to be broken. As you snap them broken, laughs or cries are guaranteed!

    Mike,
    Of course you can!
    When you go to work, just think, "Ok, today I'll go the other way". It's as simple as that.

    Cathy,
    I feel very comfortable in my patterns too. Unfortunately my patterns are all confined within my homely walls. If I don't break them sometimes, I'll never get anything out of life!!

    Christie,
    Let's blow those bloody patterns away! Let's make splinters of them! Let's nuke them, kick them, ditch them, dump them, hit them, strike them, smite them!!!!!
    Atta girl!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The breaking of a pattern is usually the impetus for the plot in fiction and in mythic stories. Joseph Campbell says it is "the call to adventure". In other words, a work of fiction without a break in the pattern would be very boring indeed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree, Raquel! Keep the pattern for the audience and the readers to get used to it, and then break it! Once people are disoriented, it is easier to reach to their emotions!

      Delete
  8. A really good read. Thanks! My post today has a similar tone so it kinda feels like you took a peak into my diary, but I'll allow it :-)

    Breaking patterns for my fictional characters is where the work begins for me. The first thing I do is visualize the immediate character comes to mind after reading the dialogue then I go the other way. And my work is validating my reasoning for doing so. Making this new person real and tangible is where I spend my time. And usually it turns out that this new person his much closer to home than the "safe choice" I'd earlier made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And breaking a pattern doesn't make it unreal at all! We all at times do something that stands against our values, our ideologies, our ideals...
      You're right, Jasmynne, never play safe!

      Delete
  9. Hmmm I think I break patterns all the time since I get bored easily. I hate routines and everything that restrains me. However, in literature some characters can have patters. For instance, a serial killer could have a pattern that leads him/her to his/her demise. Sometimes it's necessary for a character to have a patter (without overdoing it, of course. You don't want your character to be flat or one-dimentional). I like the pic you posted. I wonder if that farmer was creative or just drunk (LOL!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Claudia,
      You're right, patterns are important too! Breaking pattern shouldn't become a rule of thumb, or it'll turn into a pattern too. In this case, not breaking a pattern sometimes amounts to breaking a pattern, right? If I were a killer, I would never be a serial killer, although I understand the psychological dynamics that pushes one to leave their "signature" on the crime scene.
      Given the place I come from, the farmer was probably drunk!!
      Thank you for stopping by!
      I have a hunch there's activity on your blog, so I'll be visiting soon!

      Delete
  10. I am a creature of habit so it is difficult for me to break patterns but you are so right in saying that it becomes boring. Having just returned from vacation where my pattern was completely destroyed, I feel renewed and restored.
    This is also an insightful comparison to acting as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Heather,
      Just as a rule is made to be broken, than a pattern is made to be twisted. And you get a twist in the plot, or in the characters personality.

      Delete
  11. I've always loved the unpredictable, so I suppose that's something I naturally mine for when writing ... which is perhaps why I'm more a pantser than a planner. Unpredictability needs a certain about of spontaneity. Although, it must always make logical sense ... Unlike real life which never has to make sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary,
      All that love surprises love the unpredictable.
      I think the unpredictable can be achieved both by winging it and by planning it. I think the secret when you plan is to plan farther and farther, taking care of every single detail. I like to think of this as a way to control the unpredictable; being the only one able to predict it.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete