Friday, February 1, 2013

The Clock is Ticking


                      Props as Prompts & Chekhov, Part 2

 If Act One has a gun on the mantel, it had better be fired by Act Three.
 Or some such.
~ ~ ~ 
    Anton Chekhov's comment is one of the tenets of the dramatic & literary arts. Google it & you'll get examples & interpretations from here to The Cherry Orchard. What he means is that a well-chosen, deliberately placed prop is one of the writer's best tools & is not to be wasted. 

    It serves as a sudden tap on the shoulder, a snap of the finger to the reader. It can foreshadow, develop characterization, build tension, deflect (or enhance) suspicion. It's your job as creative manipulator, to use them judiciously so a properly placed item-of-interest signals the reader without setting off sirens. (Using them as red herrings is another blog altogether.)

Think ~~
 Winnie the Pooh's elusive honey 
   Miss Havisham's wedding cake
   Scarlett O'Hara's draperies
  James Bond's Aston Martin

 In Part 1 I referred to Augusta Scattergood's use of Junk Poker in GLORY BE.  For Gusty's middle grade readers, that shoe box and the childhood treasures Glory & her sister Jesslyn collected & used for the game come to represent growing pains & the bittersweet angst in coming of age.

 I've just finished NO WAY TO KILL A LADY, Nancy Martin's latest cozy in her Blackbird Sisters mystery series. A neighbor trottings into a scene in her four-in-hand & exchanging  pleasantries with Nora Blackbird raises only a ping, but for good or for evil, we know we're going to see that carriage & its driver again. 

 As for my shenanigans as author~~

     In the opening chapter of THE CHICK PALACE, my protagonist Johanna, stewing about her role as materfamilias, winds the family mantel clock tended by three generations of women. There's a wing key and discussion of winding against the pressure of the tightening spring. 
So of course there's convoluted family issues & a daughter. 
Yes indeed, that clock gets wound in Act One 
& it's deliberately wound & ticking in Act Three.  

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