Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Deviled Egg Is in the Details

Back to back tonight, the unexpected details saved the story and, as such things will happen, the entire arc of the class--lecture and discussion--was shunted onto an express track.

Story number one, set at a country club wedding reception, came to life when a few of the guests, bored, roiled by a variety of emotional tensions, and feeling the effects of too much champagne and too little shade, began throwing eggs at one another. 

 Not merely eggs or even hardboiled eggs but deviled eggs. In a few sentences the event came to life, all because of that one word, deviled. When I asked the author why she included the word, she grew nervous, apprehensive. Should I take it out?

On, no! I explained, directing her to reread the scene without that word. Sure enough, the scene fell flat. Somehow, one listener said, the deviled part made it real for me.

And me.

The next story, a bit of a push in the direction of other-worldly implication, had a middle-aged woman receiving a package in the mail from her parents. Not at all unusual under most circumstances, but fact is, her parents had been dead for nearly twenty years, killed in an accident. 

 The package had probably languished in an unused postal bin for lo these many years, but given the context of the story, the arrival of the package made the narrative seem plausible; opened the door to the possibility that the package was proof of the woman's parents attempting to contact her from "the other side."

Was that package a part of your original plan?

Oh, no, the author said; the idea just came to me from--

--out of the blue? I finished for her.

That's how it seemed.

Seemed is right. That idea was there all along but you could easily have missed it for any number of cogent reasons. The deeper we get into who our characters are, where they really come from, what they want, and how they see themselves in the scheme of cosmic things, the more we are likely to discover details about them that form immediate revelations of character, human understanding, and the things people will do--or not do--to one another.

To get these details we must give up our own desire to control and allow the characters to be guided by their own pole star instead of ours. As their creators, emboldened by the corrupting power of creation, we are often corrupted by the notion that our methods are for the benefit of all.

Our methods are thus altruistic in a sea of malfeasance. Ever the benevolent dictators, we believe we know the details better than they, forgetting that when the details come from them, it is true discovery, when it comes from us it is, well, it is propaganda.

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