When the audience becomes the speaker

I attended TEDxPortland this past weekend, and in addition to being blown away by Emma Mcilroy’s TED Talk (seriously, we gave not one but two standing ovations during it), I got to try out a virtual reality rendering of what it feels like to be on the TEDx stage.  Earlier they had brought out a special camera to the actual stage, and on cue we started clapping and cheering.  Then during one of the breaks I was able to put on the VR goggles, look around, and see the speaker’s perspective.  If the visuals had been a bit sharper (or if my eyesight were a bit better), I might have picked out myself to the left in row G, applauding for myself.

Being both an audience member and a “speaker” in that shared moment is analogous to a writer’s responsibility to embody multiple points of view.  And not just of different characters but of both author and reader.  Yes, we must pace that stage, populate those seats, aim the spotlight.  Then ultimately we should consider the effectiveness of our moment frozen in time, preserved for consumption by readers in times, places, and situations beyond our control.  In that sense, the reader is not the audience member but the user donning the VR goggles, deciding where to focus their attention.  Scanning the crowd for a fuzzy yet faintly recognizable rendering of themselves.

Also, the experience reminded me of a story draft that’s been waiting patiently for me to revise, plus an unfinished draft of another story that’s entreating me for completion…