Uncertainty and Realization

(NOTE: This morning I was waved off from work because of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers in Watertown. The city is locked down and public transport is stopped. The streets stand empty and the people wait for resolution. We hold our breath.)

It's a two-fer in Dimestore Philosophy Land today!

  1. Uncertainty is worse than catastrophe.
  2. Stress is the struggle to resist reality.

Humans have an odd capacity for worry. Imagination spins current circumstances into unbearable future hobgoblins. We all know they're just vapor, yet we continue to worry and trick ourselves into thinking that the worst will come to pass. We hold on to all possibilities in the name of preparation, consuming our attention from the inside and limiting our lives as we spend more and more energy on spinning possible futures. Even worst case scenarios find ways to become even worse in the fertile playground of our creative brains.

This place of uncertainty within each of us lets the media flourish, spinning their gossamer threads of possibility through the impenetrable wall of the actual future. They look desperately for anyone to support their reported version of reality and their speculation on how the situation du jour will turn out.

Do you dare walk through the gate?
Do you worry about what's
on the other side first?
And when the wave function collapses and the future is made flesh, a part of us feels let down that most of our prep work has been discarded, even as relief or grief washes over us.

The money shot for horror isn't when the monster is revealed, it's when people start figuring out what's going on. Shivers of possibility climb our spines far more effectively than the latest special effects. Transition points in a story contain the most powerful scenes of realization. Transition points don't mean the world changes, they mean the characters have changed their relationship with the world. The trickiest part for an actor isn't reacting to a new circumstance, it's communicating the character's understanding that circumstances have changed and showing the audience the internal struggle to accept or resist this new reality.

What can we learn here? Don't be too explicit when GMing. Leave space for the players to worry. Let them realize what's happening and climb out of the hole their previous ignorance has dug. Let them stew and shiver, and never be afraid to let their apprehension help you tell the next part of their characters' story.

No comments:

Post a Comment