Polarity Shifts


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Thread: Polarity Shifts

  1. #1

    Polarity Shifts

    This has been written about in many places, but here's the first one I snatched from google http://jenniferellis.ca/blog/2016/3/...csk3arrv6kao62

    This is one of the few pieces of 'advice' I actually think holds up. Specifically that a good scene (as in, one that the reader both enjoys and that moves the story) consists of some form of polar shift. The most obvious example of this is a scene that starts in joy and innocence (an idyllic beach scene) must then end with a severe shift toward the antithesis of that (the water clouded with blood and a dead body) in whatever way helps move the story.

    It doesn't have to be this physical or this striking or this unpleasant of course but the idea is to show some form of relevant transformation within the scene (and, by extension, within the entire story...) to constantly allow the reader to feel as though they are going somewhere. The idea is that the character(s) and the situation should never be the same at the end of the scene as they were at the start. An orphan who begins a scene lonely should find, if not a friend, then some measure of progression away from their original state - perhaps something as simple as reverting into a dream state in which they fondly remember their parents as they fall asleep. That change from hopeless loneliness to bittersweet nostalgia would be a polar shift in psyche that would, if executed properly, be enough...

    I recently looked at one of my rejected novels with this in mind. I had not written this story with the polarity shifts theory in mind but I was interested to find (1) That I had, through either luck or intuition, implemented a version of polarity into many of my scenes but (2) That I had not done so in all of them. When I actually looked at the scenes where there was no shift I found that those scenes probably did fall flat. I still liked them, they were still part of the story, but they did not move - they were essentially extended conversations and info dumps - and cutting them is what I should have done.

    Any thoughts on this stuff?
    Last edited by luckyscars; May 8th, 2019 at 07:43 AM.
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

  2. #2
    I always consciously check for those things. I also make sure that mini-scenes, like kiss sequences and the like, all have a clearly visible change that happens in them.

  3. #3
    It's good advice. I write one pinnacle mood shift in each scene. To be honest, they add up to micro themes that help transition into the wider macro-level plot. All cohesive ties that help build mystery and suspense etc.
    "You don't wanna ride the bus like this,"

    Mike Posner.



  4. #4
    Yeah, I agree. It took me a while in my own writing to develop a feel for this idea, but now I've got my head around it, it's a good guideline to follow. The way it manifests for me is to bark "yes, but what is happening?" at my screen

    Another one I try and bear in mind is "what's stopping them?" What problems either prompt or prevent this polarity shift?


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    The first cut don't hurt at all
    The second only makes you wonder
    The third will have you on your knee
    s
    - Propaganda, "Duel"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous








  5. #5
    Hmmmm.... Balance-wobble. I try to curb my enthusiasm for playing mind games with my poor reader.
    Of course, there is a problem with rapid, short scenes that push things along.
    I have finally solved my 'talking head' addiction. Action darling, try to keep any exposition to brief periods during shoot-outs.

  6. #6
    Hmmm. Interesting food for thought. I imagine that this would help enforce structure within the book, keeping the plot points turning along and making the writer realize what sort of mood and temperament is going to be within their work. It seems to me that this would keep the book at a certain level of depth and make sure that the "feel" of the story would not become warped or stagnant.

    Definitely an interesting piece and discussion. Cool!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    This has been written about in many places, but here's the first one I snatched from google http://jenniferellis.ca/blog/2016/3/...csk3arrv6kao62

    This is one of the few pieces of 'advice' I actually think holds up. Specifically that a good scene (as in, one that the reader both enjoys and that moves the story) consists of some form of polar shift. The most obvious example of this is a scene that starts in joy and innocence (an idyllic beach scene) must then end with a severe shift toward the antithesis of that (the water clouded with blood and a dead body) in whatever way helps move the story.

    It doesn't have to be this physical or this striking or this unpleasant of course but the idea is to show some form of relevant transformation within the scene (and, by extension, within the entire story...) to constantly allow the reader to feel as though they are going somewhere. The idea is that the character(s) and the situation should never be the same at the end of the scene as they were at the start. An orphan who begins a scene lonely should find, if not a friend, then some measure of progression away from their original state - perhaps something as simple as reverting into a dream state in which they fondly remember their parents as they fall asleep. That change from hopeless loneliness to bittersweet nostalgia would be a polar shift in psyche that would, if executed properly, be enough...

    I recently looked at one of my rejected novels with this in mind. I had not written this story with the polarity shifts theory in mind but I was interested to find (1) That I had, through either luck or intuition, implemented a version of polarity into many of my scenes but (2) That I had not done so in all of them. When I actually looked at the scenes where there was no shift I found that those scenes probably did fall flat. I still liked them, they were still part of the story, but they did not move - they were essentially extended conversations and info dumps - and cutting them is what I should have done.

    Any thoughts on this stuff?
    It's just arc. Each scene is pushing an arc forward, or quite often multiple arcs.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Newman View Post
    It's just arc. Each scene is pushing an arc forward, or quite often multiple arcs.
    I see it as different, though by no means unrelated.

    When we talk about polarity shifts the idea is to focus on what happens inside a scene and how to determine if it is actually effective. Often we are way too close to our work to make that judgment objectively, so using a standard like 'does this scene involve a seismic shift in the character as it pertains to his/her place in the story?' is a good way to weed out filler IMO.
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I see it as different, though by no means unrelated.

    When we talk about polarity shifts the idea is to focus on what happens inside a scene and how to determine if it is actually effective. Often we are way too close to our work to make that judgment objectively, so using a standard like 'does this scene involve a seismic shift in the character as it pertains to his/her place in the story?' is a good way to weed out filler IMO.
    Something that tripped me up a while back was trying to make every shift in each scene excessively seismic. On re-reading I got drama overload. So I've started taking note of these sorts of scenes in the books I'm reading and some of the shifts and problems and challenges that a character faces in a given scene are quite small; for example, they might be looking for something. What they're looking for might be of cosmic importance but at that moment all they are literally doing is poking about in some cupboards for a thingamybob and the big issue is "it wasn't where I left it!" and the resolution is "I'll have to confess I lost it". Just enough drama to make the knees tense. You can see in the scheme of things this could be a big problem later, or in the context of some knowledge the reader has, but at that moment for that character, then taken in isolation the events can be quite little, I discovered.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    The first cut don't hurt at all
    The second only makes you wonder
    The third will have you on your knee
    s
    - Propaganda, "Duel"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous








  10. #10
    Good points on the plot points and what is stopping them. The plot point is what makes the story instead of an idea. Let's say the example the train stopped suddendly. Nothing happened for it to be a plot point so we can add, there was an important deadline. I wanted to clear up this idea since it confuses many people. So this could also be read as what is stopping them? Then if that happens maybe we could ask what do they want? Then what is at stake? For each situation or plot point there is something at stake.

    Adding this opinion:
    There's another perspective on this as well. Let's say for instance there's a golden watch that was lost. It was found again. I read somewhere in order for there to be plot something good happens and something bad happens ( guide to narrative craft by Janet burroway). Therefore we can add to this polarity an example. It belonged to a gangster and then we can add something good happened with something bad happening. That's theory from a college textbook and this is one of the few points I liked a lot. I read this once.

    From a different book on playwriting. In order for something good to happen something bad must happen that makes it possible and vice versa. In order for something bad to happen something good must happen. It's a easier way to plot. Tragedy is the bad aspect of what happens to the character that arouses pity or fear in this case. It is also conflict and disconnection and reconnection according to critics and the other book I mentioned.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; May 10th, 2019 at 11:31 PM. Reason: Wanted to add another opinion.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

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