Friday, October 2, 2009

What are you making us for dinner, dear?

Preparation for the day's writing session:

It may well have become a habit to approach the computer with all or a portion of a latte in hand, but this is not the preparation that gets the writing going in any meaningful sense.  Picture instead the setting of your next scene or, if it is to be a beginning scene, picture the place, the setting, including some sensual quality--sight, hearing, temperature, clamminess or humidity--in which the action will take place.  Then decide which characters are to appear and in what order.  Then think about what each wants the scene to lead to.  Then think about what each character has just come from and where the character is going next.  Think how well or how little these characters know one another, thus influencing the degree of intimacy or formality in which they discuss the businesses of life at hand.

Mary comes home from work at six, ravenously hungry.  The day had not gone well, particularly since her boss has told her how bad things are economically and how many faithful employees he has had to let go and how, even though there were some who were more qualified than Mary, he is keeping her on, the elephant in the office growing at about the same rate as Mary's boss's libido.  As if this weren't enough, Mary's husband, Tom, now watching the six o'clock news, beer in hand, informs Mary that the game of the week starts at seven, giving her just a tad under an hour to prepare supper.  Never mind that Tom has been laid off and has been home since about three o'clock, Tom wants to let Mary know that he wants his dinner not to interfere with the broadcast of a football game.  Do we have the basis of a story.

The more we have a sense of who these persons are as they step into the scene, the more likely we are to be able to represent them as individuals in action as opposed to characters being described.  The more we know what they've come from and what they have facing them, the more likely we are to experience empathy of their behalf.  Then it does not matter if we have or have not had that latte with which we approached the computer.

In a larger sense, stories are about such themes as loyalty, honor,devotion, love, dreams, aspirations, and the like, but we get to these matters through our vision of a character responding to a pressure, a tension, a clash of says versus feels.  How are you feeling tonight?  Under easily imagined circumstances, that could be interpreted as a code question for Are you interested in sex tonight?  To which the answer could be, before or after David? To which an answer could come, After because you're funnier without even thinking about it.  How are you feeling tonight takes on any number of meanings which influence and are influenced by the individuals involved.  You go ahead,start without me.  

Where do you think the scene will go?  Where do the characters push it?  Where is the surprise you hadn't seen coming?  What is your protagonist's worst fear (the one that extends beyond the boundaries of the next scene)?  Now we have some direction, some motion that is moving a collection of forces toward a splash of awareness.


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