Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Little Picture

I had a dentist appointment this morning.  I went in to get an imprint of my top row of teeth in order to fit me for a night guard.  So I sat down in the loungey chair, watched the girl fill a mold with this pink, minty-smelling paste, and then braced myself for impact... which in this case meant shoving the whole thing up under the roof of my mouth.  Gag!  It was a struggle to stay calm and not spit the thing right out.  It felt like it was pressing up against the back of my throat, but I guess at least it didn't taste as bad as, say, Yak Butter Tea (and believe me, I know).  I had to lean forward and breathe deeply through my nose.  The good news was that it worked the first time and I didn't have to go through the ordeal again.  Still... heebie-jeebies.

The whole reason I had to do this is that apparently I clinch my teeth at night.  Fortunately I don't actually grind them, but clinching is bad enough; ever so slowly I'm wearing them down.

According to the dentist this is all due to stress.  He sees a lot of similar problems: this is a high-stress region.  (And why wouldn't it be when it can take an hour to drive twenty miles on the highway?)  I don't typically think of myself as super-stressed, but... yeah, ok, maybe he's right.  My stress is causing dental bills.  Joy.

But all that got me to thinking: how many other little things are there in life that have tiny ripple effects?  Sometimes it's really easy to look at the big things and their consequences, but it's much harder to sift through all the little causes and effects.

Which (of course) brings me to writing (as most things do).  It's not so hard to put together a plot and sift through all the major pieces that make the story go one way or another.  Same thing with characters: it isn't too difficult to come up with the major backstory elements that explain why they have certain traits.

It's much harder to pull together lots of tiny details and see how they might make little ripples that cause smaller things to happen down the line.  I think it's those sorts of details, though, that really bring depth to a story.  And I'm sure there's lots of room for improvement in my own writing.

Take magic for example.  (It does seem to be my quintessential example.)  There are so many instances in books of magical people getting angry and causing huge eruptions of power.  Magic and emotion are often tied together.  What might happen, though, with the subtler emotions?  Take my teeth clinching from stress as a model.  What happens when a magical person gets stressed?  Might little tendrils of magic seep out at night, perhaps to affect the local weather or make all the food in a place rot overnight?  Magic can very easily affect lots of little things, not just big picture, overall plot things.  The books I tend to like the most are the ones that keep in mind the little details.  That's what I want to see more of.

Well, that's enough from me today.  Have a great Wednesday!

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