Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Dramatic Genome

The Dramatic Genome is story hereditary information stored within the writer. It is a long, slippery moibus strip which eludes beginning writers and mature writers with characteristic movements native to each group.

The Dramatic Genome eludes beginning writers because they seek someone else's--anyone else's than their own--genome it eludes the mature writer because he/she has rejected major portions of the coded information or tried to splice hubris into the genetic sequence.

Story hereditary information differs from writer to writer, just as fingerprints do, comprising a map of experiences and attitudes, biases, intellectual allergies, and emotional scar tissue. It helps determine the kind of story the individual writes, the kinds of characters set in motion, the closeness or distance maintained with each, and a sense of what comprises beginnings, middles, and endings.

Writers who know themselves tend to have a sense of what information resides in their Dramatic Genome, but an unfortunate few who do know themselves tend to think what they have encoded is somehow not enough or lacking or not interesting, causing them to look around for the dramatic equivalent of teeth whitener. Truth is, you can't own anyone else's Dramatic Genome, you can only try to copy it, leaving readers with the choice of paying twenty-six bucks for the real thing or their imitation.

There is some strength, almost psychical in origin, that comes from deciding what your story is, then populating it with your characters and your format. Make no mistake, people will want to alter it, enhance it one way or another, leave certain things in it or remove other things from it. All this proves is that you have somehow arrested their interest, snagged their shirt or blouse on the thorn of your vision. They want to redefine your Dramatic Genome to make it less threatening to their own or to their Reader Receptors.

In their Reader Receptors, no one may comfortably make love in any way that is a threat to them nor eat meals comprised of meals that do not fit their dietary regime nor see the human condition in any way other than the condition that allows them to feel comfort.

You do not write for comfort. You may write for power or order or to set the record straight or to undo old injustices or to blow the whistle. You may write for something entirely else, which may be a threat or a yawn or of no consequence but you cannot help that, it is entirely beyond your grasp.

Have I said that your writing may be an act of anarchy? Has anyone accused you of this? A favored weapon of the anarchist was the so-called Molotov cocktail, which burned brightly, caused considerable chaos, and even more considerable concern. Your stories have the potential to be Molotov cocktails to some, but to others they will be torches lighting the way in the darkness between days and events, where human affairs are so complex and lay semi submerged in human behavior.

Some of the early homo sapiensanarchy dipped into caves, using charcoal and inks made of berries and blood and tints made from ground stones and scaly pigment. There are several theories about what these drawings mean and what they meant to those who drew them. Stories are our form of cave drawing. There are theories, theses, and studies arguing for the interpretations of these drawings and these stories, allowing their writers various forms of status, including tenure, but the men and women who have written the stories have provided the same sustenance for the writers of theses and studies as the cave artists have provided for the scientists. The fact is that the artists and writers have provided a vision of humanity and the animal kingdom that allows each of us to find the way in the dark caves and spaces of existence.


Anonymous said...

I write for a million little reasons. When I cannot find words to speak, I use my writing voice. When I hope to connect, I write. When I want to entertain myself, I write. When I want to shake things up or, as you suggested, play the anarchist, I write. I could go on but the point is it has taken me a long time to understand why I write and I would be a fool to say I've uncovered all the reasons. I discover new ones each time I work at my craft. If I wasn't growing in such a manner, I believe I'd simply stop.

I like this idea of a genome. And I especially like the freedom and honesty that lives within a piece of writing before the editor puts their hands on it. In that original work, one can find the handprint of the caveman.


Anonymous said...

Just what I needed to read today. Thanks.

Wild Iris said...

The temple at Delphi holds the best advice for all writers, "Know Thyself" Because in knowing ourselves, we recognize that the characters who introduce themselves to us are the portraits of our own anarchists, our own rogues, and lovers, and theives, and heroes, and villains, fools, and scholars. The genome of storytelling is that of a torch to light the way to self discovery, as the writer uncovers their own journey, at least to my way of thinking. Some days the journey seems mundane and routine, like a horse plodding for miles across a plain, and the wind blowing the grass in dizzy-making waves. But then somewhere the horse may step in a hole, or a threatening animal or person may appear, or another rider may join for a time, and suddenly the mundane becomes a vehicle for excitment. But always there is soemthing discovered about ourselves, how we react, what we value, why we react the way we do, or why we value what we value. Surprise, suspense, motivation, all lead to one result... discovery. And discoveries are often found amongst those things that on the surface do not appear very exciting or interesting at all.

Lori Witzel said...

I write to remind myself I'm free.

Free to travel across time and space, free to introduce myself to dead total strangers and have an engaging chat, free to imagine anything -- as long as my magic carpet is woven tight enough to carry me, free to dance in between photons, free to incarnate rhizome selves when and where they find fertile ground.

Thanks for this post. Better than coffee to fire up the continuation of what I'm writing about today.

Querulous Squirrel said...

This post is so helpful and such a brilliant, rich and validating concept.