Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Devastating Rebuke

In Jane Austen's story, Emma, Mr. Knightly witnesses his love interest thoughtlessly insult the powerless spinster, Miss Bates, whereupon he rescues the spinster from her embarrassment and at the next opportunity he gives Emma a right proper scolding: He points out how unfeeling her remarks were, her obligations of kindness and lack of compassion. Badly done, Emma. Badly done.

In the Bollywood movie Yeh Dillagi, the beautiful Sapna who is pursued by the frivolous playboy Vikram. After a failed attempt to seduce her, he finds her at the train station.

And she unloads on him. In this movie, Sapna is a chauffeur's daughter and Vikram is a member of the rich family that employes Sapna's father. A great deal is made of the social stature of Sapna below Vikram. But in her diatribe she points out that he lacks the moral fiber and strength of character to be worthy of respect.

At one point she says she is showing him a mirror.

That's the best rebuke--one that lets the character see for herself or himself who she is.

Sapna tells Vikram that he must become a better man than he has been. Mr. Knightly tells Emma that she must be a true and not a fake friend.

When you look at your writing, consider the characters and their respective arcs. As you put each character through hell, you should expect the crucible of the story to test each character burning away the dross and refining their true natures.

A straightforward way to kindle the refiner's fire is with a rebuke where one character spells out exactly what must change in the other. In the case of Emma and Vikram, the rebuke evokes immediate change of heart.

But the scolding need not be immediate. In fact, you can use this to foreshadow character arc that you plan for later in your story.

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