Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bad Choices

It is a truth universally recognized or perhaps only editorially recognized that ordinary characters in possession of normality, portrayals approximating a significant lack of otherness, must be in search of a viable quirk.

Eliminating a number of logical steps, you leap to the conclusion you believe to be well-founded:  Writers, by nature themselves quirky, are not attracted by persons with normal personality profiles.  Writers are themselves obsessive and compulsive, a fact you recognize as applicable to you as well as to your brother and sister writers.  If a character pokes along in a semblance of normality or uniformity for too long, you, as an aggregate, will move things along by having them fall in love with someone more appropriate for a writer to fall in love with than for a civilian to fall in love with.  Writers want things they cannot have.  This makes them sound venal but it has little to do with finances and more to do with solutions to dilemmas, answers to problems, triple-word score words in Scrabble, understanding of universal enigmas that are of no matter to mere civilians.

The more writers work out answers to these cosmic questions the more they reach into some of their core issues, coming upon them like those hearty individuals who roam popular beaches on Monday mornings with metal detectors.  Writers uncover more than lost keys or loose pocket change; they uncover old animosities and long buried hurts, memories of reversals, being passed over for dates.  As these events are sorted out and understood, the writer charges forth, energized, bent on overt revenge against the time and place and perhaps even the antagonist of that long ago reversal and humiliation.

It is not so much that civilians have not experienced humiliation as it is that they have, thanks to the normality, been able to move on, to heal.  We writers are a festering crowd.  Oh, yeah?  Abandoned, were you?  I was tossed aside by my biological and adoptive parents, shunned by siblings.  Well, I'll see that and raise you two ex-mates who left me because they hated me.  Oh, poor John, in the midst of a two-book contract, he had to go and fall in love with a girl who was completely unselfish and totally in love with him.  To make matters worse, she had no bad habits and made no demands on him.  Completely drove him to a writers' block.  He's done so much better this time.  His new girlfriend is a kleptomaniac, constantly being picked up for shoplifting tins of Underwood's minced ham at the local supermarket, occasionally runs off for the odd weekend abroad with her first husband.

You exaggerate, of course, because, as writers are wont to do, you find it difficult to stay within the conservative boundaries of plausibility, seeking in your way a hyper-plausibility that because of its very antic absurdity all the more mirrors reality as you see it.  Were you to deconstruct the previous sentence, it would scream out the fact of you seeing the ebb and flow, the warp and woof of reality as a fabric of absurdity.

In your universe people often get what they want but not when they want it.  This does not translate to the late arrival of a bratwurst on a roll at a restaurant so much as it leads to the sudden arrival of a contract to publish a book previously written and now set aside in favor of a new project you wish to have published because it in some way solves or avenges an earlier problem.  Failure comes as the result of performance rather than non-performance, of attempt rather than no effort.

Some writers have turned cynical following this philosophical vector, morphing slowly into bitterness, alienating themselves from persons with senses of humor, persons who see absurdity not as a doom or even as a failure but rather as the line in a fraction between the numerator and denominator.  Their writing becomes more a matter of rationalizing the results when bad things happen to good people.  You are more fascinated by the consequences arising from good things happening to bad people.  You would rather be embarrassed by a premature stand on cynicism than vindicated by a premature judgment of cynicism that turned out to be correct.  Thus you seek to manage the universe with a vision that appears sour and not trusting, but you are not willing to sit on the same side of the cafeteria as those who share this vision, precisely because you fear they'd spoil your appetite.

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