Sunday, July 22, 2012

on perspective and cockroaches

Last night, I sat under an old gazebo and watched cockroaches do it.

I know, I know-- it's totally gross.

But it was also... kind of fascinating. They had gathered around a scuffed place on the wood, crawling up and around each other. About six of them. Like they were planning something. World domination, perhaps? And then two of them had a conversation with their antennae. And then they did it, right there.

If this scene had occurred in my house, I would have been disgusted. Much smashing and screeching and the oozing of cream-filled carapaces would have occurred. But because it happened outside, in the dark, in an old gazebo, surrounded by drizzle, after a margarita and at least ten feet away from me, it was educational. And fascinating.

I think it's a good reminder for writers that perspective can change a scene entirely.

The action? Something so simple. Two roaches mating. Unfortunately, it happens millions of times a day, all over the world.

But the scene is different from their perspective. From the creepy eyes of their pals. From me, an animal trivia buff. From my friend, who was far more disgusted than I was, possibly because she was still eating her cupcake. And the scene would have been far different, had it taken place in my kitchen, in my bathroom, in Buckingham Palace, on the floor of a McDonalds, or in the confines of a zoo terrarium. It would have been really different if they had been irradiated, ten-foot-tall mutant roaches.

Now forget the roaches and think about two people having a discussion and all the little things that could change the scene completely. How cold or hot is it, and is the cold or hot affecting the people involved? Is it a busy street with onlookers, or a quiet scene in the living room, or a stolen scene in a closed cemetery? Is it two guys, two girls, a guy and a girl? Do they have a history together? Is one scared or angry? Did one of the characters suffer a tragedy or a victory today? And are you writing first person or third or omniscient third? And, most importantly, how would they react if there was suddenly an enclave of roaches hellbent on making baby roaches just a few feet away?

Because here's another universal truth: it's impossible to watch cockroaches doin' it and not talk about cockroaches doin' it.

You learn something new every day... it's just not usually that gross.



Lexi H said...

I think the margarita helped. Great line at the end =)

Anonymous said...

I love cockroach porn. It's just so visceral, you know?

delilah s. dawson said...

Six legs = so much possibility.