Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Flexible Facts

Catchy title, right? I do what I can.

Many people say the media gave us our current President.

It’s true.

In fact, the media will probably give us our next President, whether it is the same person, or another; it will likely be someone the media (read major news channels) decides upon, and supports.

The same thing can, and should, be applied in writing. Remember, you are the writer, and your job is to influence the reader in a way that helps them understand your characters. Good, bad or ugly, you want the reader to see that in a character.

All that stuff you hear writers say like “I let my characters write the story” – that’s bullshit.

Writers create characters for the story. Or, the characters that writers create, guide the story.

If a character doesn’t work in a particular story, or grows in another direction, the story becomes different – a new story. If one insists on keeping the same story, then the characters must change.

Here’s an example, almost a how-to from different news sources, on how a story or character is influenced by perspective.

Way back in October 2011, an incident happened in a Greenwich Village, New York McDonald’s. Two customers and a cashier were involved in an altercation, which ended in hospitalization and arrest.

Let me just say this right up front: Rayon McIntosh, you’re my new hero!

But, some folks didn’t (and still don’t) see it that way.

Some of the first reports of this incident came from NBC New York. Here’s the link:

NBC New York: McDonald's Beating Caught on Tape

This first report, along with a video, would have you believe this lowly McDonald’s employee (and also made clear-a convicted felon) became enraged when two women ordered food and attempted to pay with a $50 dollar bill. He didn’t believe the bill was real, and somehow (through some creative video editing, cut to graphically violent scene) he just went berserk, and beat the crap out of these women with a metal rod. The video (put on by local New York NBC News station) even shows an interview with the father of one of the women, talking about the massive injuries his daughter sustained at the hand of this hooligan.

The owner of the store, Carmen Paulino, immediately released a statement expressing how deeply sorry she was for the incident, and that Rayon McIntosh was immediately fired.

It wasn’t until later, when a more complete video went viral on youtube, link shown here:

McDonald's Cashier Beats Customers (Funny, this video has been deemed "age restrictive" by youtube, maybe because of the brutal nature of the beatings. You may have to sign in or create an account to view this video)

The entire video gave a more complete story. It was only after it was shown (on the video) that the women first yelled a barrage of profanity at the cashier, before slapping him in the face. When he retreated, one of the women came over the counter, while the other went around the side to close off any chance he might have of escape

That’s when he grabbed a tool used to clean the grill (oddly enough, nearby) and beat the brain pudding out of his assailants.

Some now consider him a hero. Others are still too numb to the facts to understand.

On a side note (having nothing to do with anything) I think it’s important to note that all of his fellow employees basically stood around and watched as these two unruly customers came across the counter, hell-bent on killing the poor cashier. It was only after he found a weapon and was effectively defending himself, that his fellow workers attempted to stop the insanity.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if he did not defend himself. Would his “friends” have continued to stand around with their worthless thumbs up their asses while these two customers beat the living dog snot out of the employee? Oh, and one other thing, it was later discovered that this employee was simply following McDonald’s policy of checking the large bill for authenticity. I cannot find any news showing a retraction of the store owner’s previous statements.

He was immediately charged with aggravated assault, and criminal possession of a weapon, and thrown in jail with a $40,000.00 bail. Now, even after the facts of the case, the two women have yet to be charged with anything beyond menacing and criminal mischief.

Oh, the charge of attempted burglary was recently added. Maybe that $50 dollar bill was fake after all. No wonder they got so upset when he checked it.

Okay, maybe I got a little off-track there. The point to all of this is that, as a writer, you can, and should create and manipulate your characters to fit the part you want them to play. If they grow into something else, don’t try to push them into your preconceived spot like a square peg in a round hole, just use a different character.