The Potentialities of Distance

Part I – Critique of Pure Judegement

What is critical distance and what is its function?  Critical distance is a mental and emotional aspect that gives one just enough distance so that an object can be seen truly.  This state can only be attained through the placement of limits on emotion and mental activity—analysis.  If both can be reduced to the bare minimum, then the proper detachment from an object allows it to come into focus.  Objects, moments, and events can be viewed in their uncorrupted state when critical distance is attained. Uncorrupted because the meaning has not been defined for it, but it has been allowed freedom to exist in all of its aspects.

Some emotion must remain otherwise all things become spartan, stripped of that aspect called life.  Likewise, the mind that examines and questions must float in awareness but not be engaged.  Some awareness must remain, else it will be invisible.  Should the mind be engaged, then the predetermined meanings of the object lash-out and trap it, leaving it to history and cyclical thought.  In other words, it can only think those thoughts that have already been thought.

But, should the interlocutor be able to use both mind and emotion properly, then a critical distance can be attained.  It is a distance that resides in a universe where the object exists in an uncorrupted state of infinite potentialities.  The proper focus of both act as the gateway to this universe.

Should this be accomplished, then the object, event, or moment can be seen in its true unaltered state.  The possible and probable stand exposed to the viewer.  Now, the infinite potentialities emerge.

Part II – Interface

How does this relate to interface?  Earlier, I discussed the moment of the interface.  This is the event that allows the author to merge with the reader to create a connection that cannot be achieved without it.  Let us turn to critical distance once again.

Critical distance, when created during an interface moment, brings the reader both mentally and emotionally to a state where a merging between the author and the reader occurs.  Remember, the reader has been motivated to attend the book signing moment because of the emotions stirred in the reader by the stories and tales the author told.  The reader attends, in an emotional state, the book signing event.  How then do we create the critical distance required for the interface to work?  As stated previously, the scene needs to be set.  The proper arrangement of books requires that the older works be more prominent.  Although the reader will remember with joy the older books, they will have a dampening effect upon the reader.  It will be a fondness encountered first.  As a memory, the dust has settled.  The edge of emotion has been blunted.  This will lessen the reader’s heightened emotional state.

Proper placement of the new novel requires it to be staged so it is encountered after the author.  I would say at the far end of the table.  I know that most authors place their new book front and center.  They are proud.  I would be too.  They do not understand that the focus of the reader needs to be shifted away from the novel and onto them.  So, we need to lessen the impact of seeing the latest novel by having it encountered last.  This will give the author a chance to increase the effect of interfacing with the reader.

Table placement needs to be discussed.  This concept is difficult to discuss as every location is structured differently.  We have even seen the chain bookstores have different layouts.  If the author is given a choice, the location of the table needs to allow the readers to come upon the author in such a way that it makes the author appear larger than life.  A long wall down which the readers file to the end where the table sits provides a good example of this heightening intensification of the encounter.  Stanchions and ropes act as further separators.  How big should the table be.  This is difficult to discuss.  In general, it needs to be large enough to contain the books, the author, and any signage.  A grouping of items is a good start.  Older novels with at least five inches of separation between the old novels and the author is required.  Then, the signage should be placed to the left of the author.  However, the signage should not be only about the new novel.  Any signage should mainly be about the author and the novels present on the signs should only act as support for bring the author into prominence.  Should there be a covering on the table?  Again, this is situational.  What color should the covering be?  There is no hard fast rule, but the color of the covering needs to compliment the complexion of the author.

Why all of this effort to make the book signing event about the author when we are attempting to create critical distance?  “This is an excellent question–Kevin,” said myself.  “Thank you.  I’m glad you noticed,” Kevin said. We need to make the author the focal point so that we can move away from him i.e. create critical distance.  When the author is too powerful or too prominent, several problems can occur.  The reader can become disenchanted with the author.  The reader can focus on the author and not his works.  When the author becomes more important than his works, the readers tend to fall into fandom.  Now, this is okay to a certain extent as long as the author does not become sidetracked by this fandom.  Altering the focus onto the author allows critical distance to be created.  Why?  The readers are presumably at the event because they love the novel.  They want more from it.  Blogs, magazine articles, and news letters from the author can only go so far.  What the reader wants is a connection.

If we shift the focus onto the author, then this connection can occur.  It needs to be modified so that the readers will still purchase future novels.  At the event, if we have done our job properly, the author has become the focus.  This has lessened the emotion of the reader.  Now we need to lessen the emotion of the reader who is focused on the author.  How do we do this?

To lessen the reader’s emotion on an author we need to generate a cooling down.  This is accomplished by having the author say no more than a few phrases to the reader.  This assumes a line.  The discussions should be about the writing of the book and not the actual story or characters.  This creates the critical distance.  Now, the interface can function properly.

If there is no line or this is a new author with no fans, we need to have the event structured differently.  In this instance, critical distance should not be created.  Any focus upon the author is needful.

Why worry about critical distance?  If critical distance can be created between the author and the reader while the reader’s focus is on the author, then a magical thing happens.  The reader adheres to the author because of the way he writes and not because of this or that novel.  Ultimately, the reader needs to be led to see that the author’s word craft, how his characters come to life, the structures and rhythms of his tales are what make the reader want to read this author.  After all, the fans may not like an author’s latest series.  Heck they may never read it.  Rest assured, if the author’s style is what moves the fans, they will be his readers for a lifetime.

Part III – The Novel

How can critical distance be attained between the author and the novel?  More importantly, what can it do for the author?  Let us begin with a discussion about what it does for the author.  If the author can gain critical distance, then the potentialities inherent in the structure of the chapter, the scene, or even the character become many.  The author sets out to craft a character.  Background is created along with description.  The author begins to see this character.  He is becoming mentally close to the character.  This is good for generating the character, but should this become set in stone?  The answer lies in the dynamic potentialities available to the author if the character does not become fixed until the story is finished.  Won’t the character be all over the place if it is not the same from start to finish?  Emphatically, I answer, yes.  This is the point.  If the author sees the character from this critical distance, then the as yet undiscovered aspects of the character can emerge.  This holds true for all aspects of the novel.   When nothing is fixed until the end, then the author likely will generate multiple aspects of a scene, setting, plot, character, etc.

The house was run a crumbling white two story structure.  No one had lived in it for years.  Chapter two.  The house was in need of repair.  No one had lived in it for years.  Recently, an traveling art community had moved into it.  Chapter seven.  The garish three story house was the residence of the local art community.  They had, over the years, fixed up the house and painted it with a vibrancy to match the life within.

Had the description of the house emotionally held the author, i.e. the author had emotionally been too close to this description, then the house could not evolved.  Had the author been to mentally close to the house, e.g. the intriguing effect of entropy motivated the author to retain the crumbling nature of the house, then it could not have evolved.  This holds true for too much distance.

The town was a northern town in the rustbelt.  It had died the slow death like the rest.  Here we note that the author is detached from the town.  The town is depicted through preset imagery and symbols.  Does the author even care about this town?  Can he?  The answer is no.  The town will always be like this in his story.  The author is too far or too detached from the town.  It will always remain the same in this story.

Let us now discuss attainment of this distance.  After a while, it should happen automatically.  Initially, the author will have to work on letting go of everything.  It could be thought of as analogous to free-writing or in music terms, riffing.  To begin building this skill, the author could have several sentences back to back describing something.

The crumbling house was two stories and new with three stories.  The one story house needed some repair but its green paint was mostly intact.  The roof had recently fallen in which was why only the bottom two stories could be used.  The house had a front porch. The house only had a back porch.  The second story window led to a roof top gazebo.

This dynamic alteration of the house brings out aspects of the plot that could not be explored had it remained fixed.

The best tactic to take is to write without thinking.  Don’t get emotional about that perfect shade of blue.  All things should be liked, even enjoyed, but never loved until the novel is finished.  If the author can do this, then the potentials shine.  They may even lead to multiple novels based on a single item in the story.  When the author shares the telling with the tale all things become possible.

About Kevin Pajak

Of the many, many things I have done, nothing compares to the excitement I feel when writing and playing with both language and theory. Although challenging at times, wordplay brings a special flavor to the universe and allows all of us to see in unique and magic ways. Playing with language--that beast that can never be tamed--gives me an unfettered, ever new vision of the world around. I want to share this love of the written word through the stories I write and the language I craft.
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