Sunday, October 17, 2010

It isn't a story if the reader stays home.

It it brings an entire level of awareness to the story you wish to tell when you have written yourself past that first flush of excitement, toward the point you begin to understand will fuel you all the way through to the completion of a draft.

Invariably for you there is a diminution after seeing the first draft, a sense of wonderment at what you have created, as in, does it have any real chance at life?  But soon, you begin to see where the enthusiasm came from and you begin to pick up fuel, determination, even a mischievous vision because now you have a better idea of where to begin and where to end; you might even have a vision of what it is all about--what it was you were trying to teach yourself.

This last awareness is important for you because back in the day, you almost ruined yourself for good by thinking you could write novels without having to revise them or indeed know what they were about.  A novel a month for those years made it possible not to have to work at jobs you had no interest in, but it also meant you were drawing your resources out to as thin an extrusion as you could tolerate.  Then no fiction of almost any kind for years, during which time you began to beat up nonfiction with the same abandon.

After so much abuse, editorial work seemed the only way out until the forces of accident brought you to teaching as well.  Talk about increased levels of awareness; you began to see the value of acting and editing skills as teaching tools, which, because they worked, allowed you to see the more gradual evolution of a story through the constant sifting known as line editing and the constant blocking or placement of characters-as-actors within scenes, which you consider the basic unit of story and drama.

Winding up today's weekend session you called a Boot Camp, it came to you that storytelling can be taught provided the writer understands the tools and their use, a word at a time.  The splendid example that exploded the world for you and for a middle-aged Korean, Jay Lee, was a word you had him pull from his Korean vocabulary, in spite of his protestation that no one but  Korean speaker would know what the word meant.  You wanted a word a Korean would use to describe an alien, a stranger from another village, an individual palpably not Korean.  He gave you the word.  Put it in the story, you advised.  That is the word the narrator would use in describing the American soldier who wandered, wounded and dazed onto his family farm.  Even though the American reader would not know the word, he would know it in context of its use.  Even a word from another language, used strategically, conveys a meaning.  The four Latina ladies in attendance agreed.  We had, you explained, an international agreement, made possible because in many ways behavior is self-explanatory, especially the behavior of someone seeing a stranger.

Jay Lee assured you of his thanks for the weekend, then confessed he still had a great deal to learn, this man who was an English major in Korea, where he also learned French and German, then came to America to attend Harvard divinity school.  The least you could do was expose your own need to learn more and to suggest that the method you had chosen for attempting this learning was writing storie.

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