By Bruce L. Cook
Fiction tells a story. And that’s all. Wrong!
Some readers decry shifting impressions in video, slippery images in stream of consciousness, or meditation. Yet it can be shocking to understand that fiction has always affected multiple levels of consciousness.
An attentive reader cannot block subconscious reactions to meaningful fiction. While writing, the author is seldom concerned with the levels of consciousness affected in a story. Regardless, it is the author who creates them. There’s no need to make them obvious. They just happen. And they make the story more effective.
Later, during periods of reflection on a story, both readers and authors can think about levels of consciousness.
What levels are involved, and what question would the author ask in studying that level in the manuscript?
Literal. What’s happening? What action is going on?
Time. When did it happen. What came before? What’s next?
Impression. What abstract aspects apply to the action? Is it love? Suspense? Horror?
Connection. What is the story likely to connect with in the reader’s experience? What common human or cultural experiences might make the reader personally connect with the story?
Outcome. What does the reader want to happen in the story? Should the protagonist sweep n and save the day? Is the evil character so bad that the reader wants revenge?
With deference to Walt Disney’s “Old Yeller”, where he wrote about a boy and a dog, think about a man and dog story. Literally, the pair go for a walk beside a turbulent lake where they encounter an elderly woman with an arm in a cast who is wailing in a rowboat that’s tossing in the waves. They’re just in time because she is pointing down toward her husband in the water where he is thrashing uncontrollably. Suspense is in the air because the man is likely to drown and the woman needs him to row the boat. Readers connect to the action because they have helped elderly people in the past, perhaps even a parent. So the desire to continue reading becomes urgent and the reader anticipates an outcome in which the walking man will rescue the drowning man with the help of his dog.
This above list is not exhaustive, but it should help view the story from a variety of perspectives.
If nothing else, it will help the author strengthen the story and make it more meaningful for the readers.
Remember. Readers matter!
- Bruce L. Cook