Thursday, October 29, 2009

Resign from your inner writing group. Now!

Is she wearing red shoes or black shoes?

Could be some readers will think red shoes mean to be sexually provocative.

So, let them.  Black shoes could be seen as stodgy.

What about black shoes with three-inch heels?

Trying too hard not to look stodgy.  Sends the wrong message,

So you're saying all women who wear black shoes with three-inch heels are seen as trying not to look stodgy?

Not my fault.  You want her, whoever she is, not to come across as defensive, you should give some help right away by saying pumps or sandals, either of which sound more--

--sexy?

That's a judgment, see.  Words carry emotional weight.  Like you think words with k in them are funny.

They are!

To you, maybe.

Okra.  Pickle.  Ketchup.

Not funny.  You want funny, tuna sandwich is funny.

Is not!

Is too.


All of which demonstrates some of the many problems attendant on thinking while writing.  Thinking is good when revising, although there are those who will tell you that even then, the way to revise is to read the whole thing, form conclusions and structure adjustments, then stop thinking, just get on the work through muscle memory.

When you are thinking, you have put a strangle hold on association, the process that causes details, sometimes even metaphors, certainly comparisons or connections to come to you.  Admit it, you once had the embarrassing experience of having, in the heat of composition, come forth with a simile something along the lines of, he had a facial pallor and texture like a peanut butter sandwich.  You were not, however, embarrassed until later, when you read through the story, relieved none of your friends knew the depths to which you were able to sink.  You wisely caught it in revision, even using another culinary metaphor in its stead, but one that didn't distract from the tone of the story nor intrude to show how smart you thought you were (which, in those particular days, you did.  Things are different now, so you can relax.  You don't no Fred, or Tom, or Bill.  You particularly don't know Jack, although, with a nifty comma in there, that could give you the title and a pathway to an interesting story.  You don't know, Jack. )

The point you are after here is that there is nothing like thought to snip off one of those long series of serve, lob, return, return, return volleys that give stories their pulse and their sense of life.  It's one thing to pause for a moment, waiting for the right word, rejecting all others.  It is all right provided you don't think about it, rather you let it happen, click, click until the right word comes and you set it down and have lost no time.  But if you think, if you ask yourself one question such as those gratuitous ones up at the tip about red shoes or black, you have brought the process to a crashing halt and must find a way to get back in the game.

Just yesterday it was, you were doing a brief transition in which your guy was leaving his breakfast and morning c/word puzzle half finished in order to walk across the grounds of a retirement community to meet another character and tell her, hell yes, I'll take you on as a client, when it came to you that he was about to be blindsided by a golf cart driven by a man perhaps one reader in a hundred could discern at this point as being his older brother.  My Guy recognizes him after a casually called out apology, refers to him by a name he has been at some pains to hide,  at which point the older brother says "Must you goddam always do that?"  The goddamn would never have come if you'd had thought it through.  What does a younger brother call an older brother with a subtext of anger and tease?  Well, given you know the first and middle names your parents gave their firstborn son who did not progress past six or eight months, thanks to SIDS, and whose death might very well have been a major cause in you being here to write these vagrant lines, you have stowed away the thought that had he lived, Bernard Marvin might have been a--well, an older brother, and to level the playing field, you might have called him BM, letting him know of course that BM was an acronym for bowel movement and that you were simply helping him prepare for the taunts of his friends and classmates.  Thus the origin of the goddamn in the sentence when the older brother recognizes the younger.

Big deal, you say, that the incident seems to hinge on that exchange.  Big is right, because it paves the way for a great deal of backstory, of thematic material, and a scene to come that is already percolating.  

Best not to think about it too much more lest it make you self-conscious. It's one thing to play the scene in you head, insisting on emotional readings each time.  That, of course, is not thinking.

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