Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sorry for Your Loss

Many characters are built around a single, compelling need or desire such as Dorothy Gale's The Wizard of Oz desire to be back home or Jay Gatz's The Great Gatsby desire for Daisy Buchanan. Your own characters are wrapped around the armature of someone having just achieved what he or she yearned for and now dealing with the consequences. You are also pleased to note that some of your characters are built on the construct of individuals who do in fact yearn for someone or something they know in advance to be running well behind the short odds of many gambles within reality.

This pleasure in noting such a trend comes from the more global observation that most persons on a daily basis are brought to grips with the notion of things, or at least some things, being unavailable for a considerable time, possibly even forever. Reminds you of the moments some five years back when the anaesthesiologist had his thumb on the valve that would cause to circulate a numbing and sleep-inducing substance into your blood stream prior to having some malignancy removed from your otherwise thriving body. You turned to Dr. Koper to ask, "Will I be able to play the cello when this is over?" and to hear the surprised Dr. Koper respond, "I don't see why not," then deliver the punch line, "Funny, I couldn't play the cello before."

After the Great Hormonal Attack of the teens has run its course, most of us wake up at an hour just short of what we'd consider a sensible hour, portions of the mind already allotting time to chores, necessities, surprises, and leisure activity. In direct proportion to ABT (age beyond teens), the definition of sensible hour is revised. You have long since begun to consider "sleeping in" to mean seven, even having revised sleeping in to mean six thirty, with sensible being six. Hail and farewell to all that, even though you would not mind an occasional sleep in. And if there is a writing project in the water, launching bottles of champagne having been smashed over the bow, five or five thirty are luxuries. All this is recognition of the increasing number of things plopped on our plates by the hands of Fate, which have come to resemble those resilient cynics, the grizzled ladies who were servers at the cafeterias of our high schools and undergrad years. We did not realize it at the time, perhaps because the hormones of the Great Hormonal Attack shielded us from the slightest hint of metaphor; we did not realize that each scoop of scrambled egg or mashed potato or macaroni and cheese was anything more than what it was, that in time hands of Fate would in deed plunk things on our plate we might want to refuse but could not.

And so we are trying to find ways to get our characters launched into action again, making actual and mental excuses to actual individuals in reality who have expectations of us, friends, for instance, or mates, or students, or employers. There is one dean to whom you can--often to your regret--refuse nothing, which opens another can of worms, as in the why of this being so. To be sure, she is enormously attractive, but to write this lack of ability to refuse down to mere lust is to miss an enormous range of response. There was one producer for whom you also had no ability to say no, I'm busy with other things, but there were other factors such as our having been school mates.

Snow-shoeing across the drifts of logic, you come back to the original concept, knowing you will be disappointed, refused, lost in some logistics shuffle, not likely to achieve your goal today or tomorrow or perhaps at all, perhaps on the cusp of success but then surprisingly interrupted. Do your people carry such weight in their fanny packs? Do they have some sort of batting average where, as in yet another metaphor, baseball, one for three is an A? Do the persons you create show any effects of unrequited love, any frustration at not being able to play the cello, any sense of living with the consequences of an error or mistake or simply bad judgment? Are they being stalked by a neurotic creep such as yourself? Do they ever find themselves drawn along as though a VW Beetle, caught in the slipstream of an eighteen-wheeler on the freeway, unable to cope with the pull? Do they recognize such weaknesses and walk around the block to avoid contact with the temptation? Have they ever amassed more than twenty-two rejection slips on a particular story or been told, thanks for coming out but you're not what we're looking for? Have they ever been turned down by the love of their life, driven across town to get the early diner discount only to be told that the early diner dinner has sold out, taken the photo of a lifetime only to discover the cap was still on the lens?

If they have not set out on these ventures, you must ask yourself what they're doing in your story in the first place? But you probably already know the answer to that one: these things have surely befallen then; you simply have not taken the time to listen.

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