Symmetry and Mirroring

Image by photogrammer7

Several books on writing mention symmetry. I'm sure some mention mirroring as well. I wanted to bring the both together. We all understand how a mirror reflects back an identical image. But we may forget it's reversed. It provides the other handedness. This phenomena is used to both comic and horrific effects in movies. In comedies, its usually when someone pretends to be a reflection, miming the orginal's movements. In horrors, its often to give a glimpse of something inside or beside the viewer. 

But could we use a mirror as a method to help generate symmetry? But firstly, why would we? Well, as a writer, I do feel drawn to symmetry and for me it does tend to resoved around the middle. Imagine you're making an ink blot. You take a folded piece of paper and dab some dark paint down the middle. You close the pages and squash it. On oppening you have a butterfly or nasty uncle, depending on your childhood, revealed. It's symmetrical although not a perfect mirror image. There is something satisfying about it but also annoying. The most beautiful faces are the most symmetrical. But most are not. So perhaps this is the dilemma we have to embrace. Create symmetrical but perhaps accept some imperfections as being natural.

So if a writer is drawn to this can we turn it to our advantage to help us design a story. My feeling is we can but as in all things, its not a rule just another tool in the box. I went to see Cell Mates at the Hampstead Theatre. It dramatises the life of George Blake and his escape from Wormwood Scrubs and time in Russia. It's a new production directed by Edward Hall (director) and starring Geoffrey Streatfeild as George Blake, following the controversial production starring Rik Mayall and Stephen Fry.

If we think of George and Sean as protaganist and antagonist, at the same time as being friends we can apply the character framework I've created. In this, both need to want the same thing. In this case, both want to be the owner of the story through publication. George wants it to justify his actions, Sean to demonstrate his cleverness.

In terms of the mirror, helping to shape their two opposing arcs. Here is a short list of how Simon Gray has arranged so the two lead characters switch behaviours and positions between the first and second act. 

1st Act

2nd Act

George is a guest in Sean’s office

Sean is a guest in George’s office/home

George needs Sean to help him escape

Sean is trapped by George

George is watched closely

Sean is watched closely

George has hope (to leave) then regret

Sean has regret (for coming) but hope

Sean knows where the power lies (Prison System)

George knows where the power lies (KGB)

George is dishevelled

Sean is dishevelled

George is disorientated

Sean is drunk

Sean looks after George

George looks after Sean

Oh, it's a great play with lovely peformances. Go see.