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Bob Nailor

Writing & Politics:
Parallel Worlds of Perception

The dimensions of writing and politics are filled with illusions based on our, the voters, perceptions. We seek our readers' votes when we ask them to purchase our work whether it is a small article or major opus. In the same manner the politician seeks to win our votes at the poll by molding our opinions of both himself and his platform, we must remain friendly, treat our public with respect, and never insult their intelligence.

Although it is true, like the politician, we tend to manipulate our worlds to our liking. But unlike the greedy politician, a good writer gives his reader what he seeks, truths that will leave him stronger for his journey. Nevertheless, perception is much more than a marketing ploy or a clever sales campaign. Our process of manipulating should begin long before the book reaches the printer or the bookstores' shelves.

While writing, a skilled writer uses metaphors, similes, and hyperbole to aid the reader to visualize a setting and make the scene come alive. We labor night and day to pluck the choicest action verbs and the best descriptive nouns to paint a wind-tossed palate of color, taste, smell, sound and texture on the backdrop of our reader's experiences. These are all elements of perception.

While we must remain vigilant against preaching, neither can we afford to lock the doors to our souls and morals to keep our audience at an arm's length from our feelings. Emotion is the elixir our reader's thirst for most; the ability to climb inside the point-of-view character and feel his adrenalin induced heart pumping. That is why they buy our books, or ravenously consume our short stories. Those doors, no matter how much we might wish to keep them bolted, must remain open for those who'd seek the deepest meanings behind our stories. That inquiring reader must be free to perceive our innermost feelings, while drawing on emotions of his own.

Politicians graciously sidestep issues rather than face obstacles. Although you may choose to misdirect the reader's attention away from key elements vital to your plot, never lie or deceive him. If you do, he will feel betrayed by your mistrust. For instance, if the protagonist kills the rapist in her kitchen with a meat cleaver, it would be ideal, somewhere in chapter one, to show her chopping vegetables with a kitchen knife which was hanging beside the cleaver. By the conclusion the reader may have forgotten the nasty weapon dangling from the brass hook over the island of cabinets where the rapist corners the housewife. Nevertheless, the reader will feel inwardly satisfied he was given all the facts. The reader should know all the relevant details the POV character learns as he uncovers them.

Your fan must remain free to witness and temporarily live within your created world through your character's eyes; perception is the key. To do this, a writer must understand how humans view their environment. When you enter an airport, do you notice details like the countless businessmen wearing suits and toting briefcases? Do you notice the hundreds of vacationing families? If you do, it is more as swarms of noisy crickets rather than as individuals. It is far more likely the bearded vagrant dressed in rags and carrying a cardboard box strung and held together with red ribbon would grab your attention. Upon entering the mob boss's office, is it more likely your hero would notice the neatly arranged oak desk or the laser scar over his scowling bodyguard's remaining gunmetal-gray eye? What we notice most is the unusual, the out of place, so your character must view his surroundings in this realistic light.

No matter how much you might despise the political axiom, remember: in the world of writing, like in politics, truth is perception.

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