Reversals

In Poetics, Aristotle said — yes, I’m smart like that, quoting Aristotle — we move from ignorance to knowledge, from enmity to friendship, from neutrality to commitment.

Lynne Barrett taught this juicy class on plot at the International Women’s Writing Guild this week at Yale.

In stories, she said, everyone has to have a piece of the puzzle. No one character can hold the whole story.

Lynne gave us the timeline from the movie, Casablanca (which I’ve never seen) in which Bogart’s character moves from nonchalance to commitment.

The flashbacks in the story move the story forward. People don’t just ruminate on their past for no reason. The lover’s past (in Paris!) sparks an understanding that propels them to take action.

In all narratives, a reversal is necessary. Cinderella goes from low status to high status. I always taught this in my drama classes, that this is what makes for comedy — a high-status character becomes low-status — or visa versa.

This is why Lynne said the story of Spitzer is a better plot than the story of Schwarzenegger. He fell from the top, not when he’d left office.

But the reversal is not just “who’s up and who’s down.” A secret become public. A single person becomes married.

This class nudged me to reconsider the lame plot in my young adult novel from last year’s NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month).

When I mentioned to Lynne, I had a novel, written in one month, she said, “Yes, Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote the book. No Plot, No Problem. No plot? Big problem!”

Incidentally, Barrett taught with my friend Dan Wakefield at Florida International University.

Schwarzenegger, Strauss-Kahn, and Working Women

Every day I thank God that I am not a maid or a housekeeper. People take advantage.

First, the news about Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the hotel worker — and now, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the housekeeper. WTF!!! Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely (from Machiavelli) — even into our homes and hotel rooms.

I worked at the front desk of the Vista Hotel in the World Trade Center all through college. It was no secret. My room service and housekeeping friends told me that business men made inappropriate, illegal requests just about every single day. My friends would knock on the doors to clean the bathrooms or deliver the food with a certain dread, not knowing what lay on the other side of the door.

I am so pissed — Who do men like Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger think they are! The women who work in service jobs are simply women making a living — trying to feed the kids at home, maybe support a disabled spouse, and even pursue their our dreams of an education. (I can identify!) They do not deserve such treatment!

This world is so messed up. People swoon over celebrities like Schwarzenegger and flip off working women who make beds and deliver food.

Women’s service work is not valued and too often women’s income is based on non-existent tips so we don’t even feel entitled to speak out. Our innate niceness keeps us down.

Nice no more! We need justice for the working women!

Maybe the Schwartzenegger affair was consensual. I don’t know. But I do feel sorry for the women — especially the imbalance of power — if you are a woman who cleans houses and hotel rooms. They are almost always immigrants and they should not have to put up with such BS.

I wrote about this, too, a year ago: http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/the-end-of-men/ when I learned that women still make 80 cents on every dollar that a man earns.

As a society we profess to value women’s skills of team work, collaboration, and service, we really do not care about the women, especially nameless nannies and housekeepers.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/la-times-schwarzenegger-shriver-split-up-after-he-acknowledged-fathering-child-with-staffer/2011/05/17/AFBMTW5G_story.html