Sunday, April 25, 2010

Waiting for the Right Story

Yesterday, as you were winding up your comments to a client who to date has written two novels (both of which you have had an editorial hand in), she said with casual grace, "I so wanted to tell both these stories that I had to learn how to write." Her admission clung to me like the foam on the sides of a pilsner glass. The fact is that both of the stories she wanted to tell changed considerably from the moments of their beginning to their more recent form. The first one still has a way to go. The most recent one, which more or less triggered what you wrote here yesterday about happy endings, has morphed by a factor of about seventy percent and when I reminded her of this effective sea change, she was equally casual. "I had to work at the way the story went to get it to my liking."

She is good, you might use the term naturally good because she is so willing to listen to her characters and get their essential reality down on the page rather than a conceptual or thematic reality that so often leads most readers --including you--to ask, "You mean that's it? That's all?"

All of which brings you to the rhetorical, perhaps retrospective questions "What is your story?" and "What has been your story?" Ah, relations, you say. Not quite close enough. Relations reflecting the awareness of the constant argument between free and connected. Free of what? Connected to what?

Your basic story is and often has been the way things turn out after some plateau was achieved. It is at once a cynical, romantic, hopeful, frustrated vision, reflecting the various stances individuals within your vision have aspired to achieve, have actually achieved, then met with the awareness that the story had undergone some changes along the way. Yours then is the story of quest, longing, pursuit, the achievement, then the awareness that the story has just begun. You might say yours is the story of realization or recovery, although that implies a connection you have yet to see to certain Twelve-Step Programs. For the moment, it comes down to a deeply felt awareness that some progress has been made and that it is neither enough nor the progress that was anticipated or that, even more to the point, there is always something more out there to be learned.

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