Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's about Time

  For some, winning is not the only thing--it is everything.  You have no problems with such thinking but it does bring with it the awareness that individuals who think in those terms would have a difficult time being a writer.

True enough, finishing a page is a form of winning, but of itself it is nothing.  Finishing a page is only a step toward a sharper vision, what you might call a focus or, better yet, a matter of timing.  Then, with a particular writer's calculus set into place, timing becomes the span over which the refinement becomes honed and the inherent drama becomes apparent.

Timing is at the heart of this precarious business of writing.  The rate of discovery is only one such example.  How much the reader learns and when.  How much the characters learn, when, and how.
Action scenes, if they are to remain action scenes, present dabs of raw, persistent dramatic information, coming at the characters like mosquitoes on a Summer evening.  Start mixing in a few thoughts and reflections and the action scene becomes diluted, expressing the sad, humorous truth that action and philosophy are the literary equivalents of oil and water; they do not mix well.

Reflection is best saved for later, after the action has elapsed, a form of Monday-morning quarterbacking in which characters can dwell on the consequences of what they did or did not do, and at what speed or leisure they did or did not do some of the things available.

You are not even at the Look! Look! Look!  See Dick!  See Jane! stage of being able to read music but you do know that a page of musical notation has a splendor of time-related notations and indications, including notes on which to depress sustaining pedals and lively Italian instructions about intensity and spirit.  Your envy of the composer is apparent, you hope, when you finish a page of your own work, because it is about time that you paid recognition to the fact that where writing prose of any sort is concerned, it is about time.

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