Saturday, July 31, 2010

Letters to a Young, Middle-Aged, or Geezer Writer, XXV

Okay, they seem to be saying to you, Here we are, at your request.  Now, you going to give us a clue about why you called this meeting?

Well, you say, drawing the e's and l's out long enough to collect some thoughts, I figured we'd all hang out for a while, exchange some witty dialogue, maybe trade some gossip about a character who's not here yet, maybe even a remark or two about politics, then drip in a note about what a cool story this is.

Un, no, they tell you in near unison.  We're all members of the character's union; we don't hang out or give props to the author for casting us in such a cool story.  Our contract says we get a story or we're outta here.

But, you insist, I provided good snacks--get the early reference to lobster roll--and I provided air conditioning somewhere in there, didn't I?  Listen, you plead as you scroll through the scene on your computer.  Ah, here it is:  "The air conditioning purred away like a well-fed hummingbird, dispersing any traces of the torrid blaze of the sun outside."

You listen, they tell you.  We've been meaning to talk to you about that metaphor.  You've got to quit screwing around.  Get something going pronto or we're gone.  Capisce?

Couldn't happen to you, you say; you're not referenced in this; you're always on story, right?  You never hit soft spots in your work, right?

For many of us in the trenches, this scene is replayed with some regularity, meaning it must be faced and coped with in one draft or another and on a regular basis.  

Speaking for the "us" in the "us" in the above trenches trope, it is business as usual, the ongoing attempt to keep defensiveness and the need to explain well out of our work, banished in that dump site where all the props, useless foundations, and unreliable effects of our everyday thinking must ultimately be sent.  

We have enough on our hands as it is; telling a story in an effective manner--so that it produces an emotional reaction--quite naturally seems easy because it is supposed to seem easy.  Naturally you would think it easy; you were supposed to think it was easy.

It is only easy if you become aware on a word-for-word basis how difficult it is, then tell the story in spite of, perhaps even because of the difficulty.  That's how we got you into this business in the first place--making you think is was so easy that you could do it,too.

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