Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Opposite Inside You

The way to get at a difficult thing is to take on it’s opposite.  

Czech filmmaker Yaroslava Vosmikova (or Barbara as her friends in L.A. call her) gave me this advice when I started to write The Red Coat and found that it had pitched me from broad daylight down into the Aladdin caves of my psyche.  Rather than help me get clear on who I was and what I wanted, writing the book seemed to propel me further and further into darkness and doubt.  

“Go against what you are aiming for to get at it,” Barbara told me.  “Work in streams of consciousness. Throw out agitating, seemingly unrelated images to get at the deeper meaning,” and she gave as an example the bible quoting hitman from Pulp Fiction.

The Samuel L. Jackson character in that film who delivers a righteous sermon from Ezekiel even as he takes the life of another human being burned an image of irreconcilable opposites into our hearts and minds in the same way that 40 years earlier Robert Mitchum’s sinister preacher in Night of the Hunter would tattoo the words “Love” on his one hand and “Hate” on the other. 

Pitting two characters of comparable strength opposite each other creates a powerful drama, but placing those same opposites together inside a single character describes what it means to be human.  Nobody is all good or all bad, and it is the essence of consciousness to be able to look down into the deep wells inside yourself and see the dangerous Jinn as well as the jewels that abide there.

Interestingly, I think women tend to more readily identify with their negative character traits than acknowledge the positive ones, which remain weak or latent inside them. 

The main character of my book, Marla Piper, would be the one to show me how to exercise my latent but formidable powers, the “opposites” inside me that I dared not let loose.  Like the sister that saves Inanna from certain death in the underworld – her perfect complement – Marla would be my surrogate, the deputy that I would appoint to solve my daunting personal problems. Where I was shy and cautious, she would be bold. Where I was numb she would awaken to pain and to life, and where I was paralyzed in fear she would take action.  

My literary persona would help me become the whole, graceful and self-loving person that I needed. 

For my picture, I chose Joan of Arc, because at one time she was my antithesis.  Where I felt hopeless and was easily deterred, Joan believed in and followed her visions with all of her heart, regardless of the outcome.  Although I’ve gotten more sure, I know I still need to develop faith in myself and my ideas if I am going to succeed.  p.s. did you notice that Joan wears a suit of armor and carries a sword?

So tell me, what is the opposite inside you that has got to come out?


Cynthia Wylie said...

"... faith in myself and faith in my ideas." Well put. For me I would say "charging what my product" is worth as an extension to that. Again, it comes down to self worth doesn't it? I think you're right - more of a woman's issue. But I'm happy to be enlightened about a man's point of view through posted comments. But after a couple millennia of being put down it's no wonder we have self worth issues. It's in our DNA. So I would say then that the opposite of me in that regard is someone who feels my product is worthy to buy, and people will pay for my product what it is worth.

The Red Coat Writer said...

Thanks, Cynthia! What person epitomizes "charging what my product is worth" to you? I found it helpful to come up with a real person to hold up as an example for myself, but in your case you might also think of a company.