Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In That Case

Your preoccupation in recent days has been with specific words as they relate or, with some specificity obvious to you, do not at all relate to the telling of story.  A recent review choice you made involved a novel otherwise constructed in a craft-pleasant manner but for the author's seeming relish in constructing sentences where independent clauses were conjoined by "and" to the point where you believed you could go for days without wishing to see another "and" much less use one in your own written communication.

"If" has a splendid pedigree for dramatic usefulness.  If only, for instance, gets a story going in two short words.  If only he had, if only it would, if only things had gone as planned.  Sometimes a scheme of narrative leaves us with the sad commentary, "What more is there to say?" as an ironic footnote, indicating the way story so often speaks for itself.  If and If only are significant in the way they not only provide but insist on more words, more details.

A favored trope of yours is the way If can lead to the expectation of another big word in story--consequences.  If this continues-- If this does not stop--If no one intervenes---  and now we have the reader concerned for the consequences to all parties to a performance or non-performance.

Some characters enjoy the momentary sensations of power washing over them when they imagine abilities, power, or circumstances not available to them and, in potential, never available to them.  If I were--ah, taste the expansive power of if, wafting genie-like powers about the universe.

Of course there is the old "if" standby of "If I'm not mistaken--" to open up nuances of potential.  Imagine the speaker of such words, already dripping with the false modesty of suggesting potential error but not for a moment giving that potential much thought for being apt.  He or she who favors that particular if is playing at enormous risk with the Odds, the Fates, the Cosmos.  Even if you are not mistaken, story insists upon the presence of someone who believes with a vigorous passion that you are indeed mistaken, your memory was faulty, your information was wrong, your surmise was askew, your vision was impaired.

All of this makes If a delight as a playmate, a word to be reckoned with in the most literal and figurative senses.  You like to think the final reckoning, the resolution of a story of yours, will come from a series of ifs you have set in motion, making them more difficult and complex in succession, and which your characters will be able to unravel at the proper moments.  This can be possible--if all goes well.

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