Hiya, writers and friends.
So, last week we were talking about the necessity of engaging readers/audience, and that it’s really pretty biological with them! Some of that has to do with the audience identifying with the characters or situation, and we learned that liking or admiration or appreciation wasn’t enough.
Audiences want a sense of connection and they want it fast.
To wikipedia! ;D
I found some helpful articles/sections I’ll bring some stuff from. Fair disclosure, except for a few graduate level courses that life decreed would not go anywhere, I’m only an enthusiastic dilettante on all this. Better expertise is welcome in the comments. And, as more or less usual, if you like, just skim and then head for the challenge.
We’ve all read or heard about identification as a literary phenomenon. It ties into also identification as persuasion in rhetoric, likewise identification as a process in psychology, and what “means” to ■ Identify in social science terms.
Let’s start there because it looks good for learning who the audience for a particular piece of fiction might be, i.e., what feels connecty to whom and how come.
Identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality traits, appearance, and/or expressions that characterize a person or a group … The etymology of the term ... from the Latin noun identitas emphasizes an individual's mental image of themselves and their "sameness with others" [encompassing] aspects such as [occupation, religion, nation, ethnicity, gender, education, generation, politics, etc]. … Identities are strongly associated with self-concept, self-image (one's mental model of oneself), self-esteem, and [as paradoxical as it may seem] individuality.
With that in mind, unestablished writers seem to need to figure out the significant elements going on in their story, to draw a bead on what audience[s] is/are likely to like. And then try to learn more about them, in order to bring forward in the story more of what matters to them.
From one perspective, that’s caring about what matters to them so we deliver the goods. From another, it’s manipulation. Like all arts that seek to communicate (especially commercial arts, e.g., fashion, graphic design …), writing does require some manipulation. Hopefully, we’re careful in our ethics.
Which brings us to ■ Identification as persuasion in rhetoric ■ — persuading audience it’s to their benefit to connect to the story. Fundamental in advertising, political campaigns, endless areas of public-relations, including in war, in “rehabilitating” reputations of individuals and corporations, and on and on and on and on.
Burke classified three types of identification enactments:
- One may emphasize common ground with others to establish a rapport ("identification by sympathy")
- One may emphasize a common opposition to an idea or separate group; this identification by common foe may also enable people to avoid conflict within their own group. Rhetoric may frequently be framed as "us" and "them" to strengthen the identification bond ("identification by antithesis")
- One may inaccurately identify oneself with the qualities of an associated object or group. For example, one driving a powerful car may mistakenly think they are the source of the car's power; an ordinary person may feel "deceptively aggrandized by thoughts of his citizenship in a powerful nation" ("identification by false assumption")
Burke ... has been applied and expanded upon in Krista Ratcliffe's Rhetorical Listening framework. [She cites] [Diana] Fuss's theories [to include] non-identification in cross-cultural communication and feminist pedagogy [saying Westernworld logic including Burke focuses on] identification [which fails to] take into consideration [differences rather than commonalities alone; that as hard as it is to] simultaneously pay attention to both [still that’s] where non-identification exists. [To Ratcliffe, Diana Fuss expands upon Burke] to gear toward examining the differences in identification. <big>Fuss defines Identification as related to the issue of connection</big> between opposite entities, such as the interrelation between self and other, subject and object, and insiders and outsiders...
Ooof, okay, enough of that. Onward to ■ identification as a process in psychology ■ which is gonna feel really obvious at this point, if no less unnerving, probably.
Identification is a psychological process whereby the individual assimilates an aspect, property, or attribute of the other. The roots of the concept can be found in Freud's writings [oy]. ...”the core meaning of identification is simple – to be like or to become like another" … "First, identification is the original form of emotional tie with an object; secondly, in a regressive way it becomes a substitute … and thirdly, it may arise with any new perception of a common quality which is shared with some other person"...
And that bring us back to ■ Identification as a literary phenomenon ■
the automatic, subconscious psychological process in which … the audience [identifies] with a fictional character …
...Merav Roth identified [HA!] seven forms of identification which can occur whilst reading literature. Among these are; ■ internalised identification, where parts of a character are internalised to become parts of the reader, internalised identification with ‘good’ objects or characters is part of the pleasure of reading and can repair the individuals sense of internal goodness; ■ projective identification, where an individual projects an aspect of themselves onto an object, used to distance oneself from anxiety, readers can project traits onto a character in order to work through them; and ■ intrusive identification, whereby a character penetrates the psyche of the reader, momentarily suspending the reader within the narrative as an extreme form of empathy…
...Acclaimed filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock used specific camera and acting techniques in his films to incite audience identification with his characters in order to create suspense….
Most of the rest of that article is actually about criticism. One of its links goes to
“Archetypal literary criticism See also: Carl Jung, Jungian archetypes, and Joseph Campbell“
which reminds us that NO audience comes to us without having first been an audience of other entertainments. This means they’ve got some expectations, i.e., their ability/readiness to connect with our writing is considerably shaped by what satisfied/gratified them before, their sense of what they’re entitled to feel/experience, often right off the bat. True, some audiences are more exploratory and willing to patiently hang in for a while with writing that doesn’t immediately satisfy/gratify them, but that’s probably not most of the genre fiction audience. I think. What do you think?
I was going to add some stuff about the senses, because that’s where aalllll the above ties back into biology being so active in all this. But why don’t I just link us to DK posts on the "feels" in general, and let’s leave it at that for now.
<big>Challenge:</big> as brief or as lengthy as suits you —
Imagine a character stranded somewhere s/he/y’s nearly a total stranger to the place and society, sharing only the language there.
Show a little of the character figuring out how to connect with others there, because ya gotta, right? If you like give the character a purpose for being there, or a consequence that put the character there,
(Not sure why I put all these alligator images in... They just seemed to want to come along tonight.)