Saturday, July 17, 2010

Words Come Alive

Novels Require Translators

Readers might be swept away following the exploits of a former slave who started a Gandhi-like resistance in the 1850s. They might be amazed at how the former slave threatened the plantation owners’ militia. But the readers would become glassy-eyed if they had to follow the organizational chart of three economic groups that vied for power. Those readers could feel lost with the political infighting among Southern and Northern senators. So we dare to ask how the author becomes a translator to more effectively bring the reader into a complex story. Readers become engaged with people. In many ways the writer translates the forces in his story into gripping concerns that affect individual characters.

Translation means more than explaining words from one language to another. The term could mean explaining how specific people are affected by concepts.

Writing stories cries out for a blending of the characters with the concepts. But the focus has to lie with the characters.

Writers need outlines to prep for a novel, and those outlines are guided in part by the concepts in play, whether the story is an SF, historical romance, comedy or mystery. Themes such as the misuse of power, trusting the masses, the fear of technology or the loss of ethics, allow writers to develop variables around which characters can move.

But when the scene development arises, the writer has to translate the material into a personal zone. The outline frames the basics of the movement in the scene. For example, the writer might have listed that the protagonist needs to find an ally in the midst of a peace conference. The outline further could list that the conflict arises when the protagonist faces the disruption of the conference.

The author has to delve into the personalities of the characters to translate the material. That means explaining the connection between the protagonist and the drive for the peace conference. Why was he caught up in the peace effort? If the conference is disrupted, then who is the agent and what connection does the agent have with the protagonist?

Another level of translation has to occur. Once the writer has answers to those questions, he has to explain those answers in a certain way. He could simply tell the reader in some prose. Yet that usually comes across as slow and too distant from the action. The author could show the reader by having his characters act out or verbalize the answers to those needed questions.

Imagine the scene taking place in the following manner. The protagonist enters a conference room of the UN to find his contact on the floor, dying. The man whispers as he dies that he failed the protagonist’s goal. Medical supplies will not be brought to a key village, and a lasting peace will not be found. He regrets failing, and knows his death will stop the conference. As the protagonist rises, he discovers his lover, standing in the corner with a gun. She stopped his plans to help the village because she needed the supplies to be developed so they could have a larger quantity. She offers him the chance to use his skills at distributing medicine to a greater degree because the peace conference would have held up development of the medications.

When writing a novel, the author might have wanted to show how ethics and peace could be entwined, but the application of the theme has to be translated into personal terms. Take the concept in the outline. Find the key force that moves the central idea of the concept. Then find a way to show the protagonist dealing with those forces and ideas based on his personality traits. Dare we think like the translator who explains the words from another language? We aim to show the full picture, but we need to bring the concept into the story by showing how a character deals with those concepts.

- Tom Pope

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Follow The Bouncing Brawl

The Next World Sporting Event

As the 2010 World Cup nears its conclusion and many avid soccer fans start to go into World Cup withdrawal, I dare to ask how many of these same fans will be gearing up for the next “world” sporting event - the World Baseball Classic in
2013. The answer is probably not too many. Even though the World Baseball Classic is in its infancy compared to the World Cup, the WBC planning committee should feel good about the strides made in generating both American and non-American fan interest to the tournament.

Whether it was fans of Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Korea or the Netherlands, or whether they were native born or naturalized, fans came out in droves to support their team. Their fervor was electric and you could feel the passion they had not only for their team, but also for the sport itself. Unfortunately, outside of the 6-5 do-or-die comeback win that advanced the United States into the semifinals of 2009’s tournament, the passion from the American fans for their team and the tournament was lacking. I don’t think it’s because the average American fan is any less patriotic than a fan from a team like the Dominican Republic or Cuba for example, or is any less ardent about the game. I think the difference has to do with our priorities as sports fans.

Scheduling. I understand the need exists to hold the tournament either before or after the Major League Baseball season, but if I were part of the tournament committee, I would vote to play the WBC after the final game of the World Series. Sure, there may be players tired and a bit beat up, but these same players would be battle tested and in a weird way, less prone to injury because they would have been playing baseball consistently for a full six to seven months. And in the event of an injury, players would have the entire off-season to heal up.

Too Many Sports, Too Little Time. Unlike many of the Latin American, European and Asian countries competing in the WBC and the World Cup, the average American sports fan’s time is spent watching a variety of different major sporting events. There are college basketball conference tournaments going on, the NHL and NBA seasons winding down and playoffs looming, MLB spring training starting up as well as a plethora of golf tournaments all going on at the same time. For the fans from most of the other competing countries, there is one sport that they follow and play religiously right now, and that’s soccer.

Protecting The Investment. During the last WBC, there was a spate of injuries not only to the United States roster but to other MLB baseball players playing in the WBC for other countries. Fans and MLB clubs alike are growing especially antsy. Fans want to make sure their favorite player on their team of choice will be ready for the start of the MLB season. Clubs that have invested lots of money in a David Ortiz or a David Wright for example, also want to be certain that their investments are ready to go and are ready to generate lots of money for their respective organizations.

As a baseball and all-around sports fan, I hope that the WBC continues to grow and thrive and ultimately becomes as big as the World Cup. When you look at teams like those from the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, you would be amazed to see how many players on these teams are playing in the Major Leagues. The WBC has shown how rapidly baseball is becoming a “global” sport. In the end, as long as the best players from each country are allowed to play and showcase their talent to the rest of the world (and with a little bit of marketing help), fans both from the United States and from other countries will slowly, but surely make their way to the ballpark. A USA win in the next tournament couldn’t hurt either.

- Hamilton Maher

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