Saturday, October 2, 2010

What are you trying to say?

Even were you one of those remarkable writers who plots out the twists, turns, and labyrinthine ways of a story, you would still not know in advance what you were trying to say when you began.  That is, you would not know consciously; your inner navigational systems would pretty well be on top of the intended outcome with the same kind of expectation as a youngster convincing his parents for a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.  "We don't even have to go inside," they'd offer, "just sort of drive by."

You pretty well know what you're trying to say in a one-on-one conversation, or the antic gatherings of your friends at various coffee houses, where there is no particular agenda.  Certainly, you know what you are trying to say when you flesh out lecture notes or when you write an editorial report for a client.  And when there is a review deadline emerging or the need for an essay overcomes you, there is some form of pole star to guide you to the destination.

A story is another matter; long or short, you require a minimum of two drafts to get used to the characters in action and the signals your emotions are sending you from the sidelines.  In some seemingly convoluted way, story telling works for you as a series of explosive discoveries.  On one hand, you are setting off to relate a series of events with some dramatic conclusion; on the other hand you are telling the story to see what you can learn from the way the characters behave.  The characters are in effect arguing with you, telling you to do as they do, not as you write.

Any logician can see where these visions go caroming off the walls, coming back to keep you off stride, particularly if you ride herd on the characters too closely, forcing them into so-called conventional wisdom which, you are increasingly learning, is not your wisdom.  For better of worse, it is not your wisdom.  Indeed, you may not have any wisdom other than the ability to listen and to wonder.

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