Friday, March 11, 2011

Hooked

Some readers, quite serious in their affections and afflictions for reading, are able to recall favorite plots, which is to say organized patterns of agenda and incident, from stories they read years ago.  Even though you've been reviewing books for various publications for the better part of forty years, you are least able to remember the plot of a given story unless it is something as focused, say, as Jack London's "To Build a Fire," or Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado."

This inability might be one reason why you are not the plotter you'd hoped to become; on the other hand this might be why your stories are inclined to be more a matter of circumstance than the design that inheres in plot.  What you appear to be telling yourself here is that there is small wonder the tool of plotting is so low on your personal set of preferences.  As the United States Supreme Court Associate Justice said in reference to pornography, he cannot describe it but he knows it when he sees it, you say in relationship to plot.  You do understand the need for the quest or the discovery, the sudden awareness of an unauthorized corpse, the cute meeting between heroine and Mr. Right, the bandits who threaten the peaceful farmers, etc.  You've had actual experience editing some tolerable plotters.

Simply put, plot does not rank high for you.

In addition to such things as character, voice, dialogue, you are more taken by the hooker, the beginning presentation of intrigue that serves as the metaphor for the famous personality serving as an official greeter in a gaming casino or up-market restaurant.  An engaging hooker is your preference, your magnet for getting you into the swirl and eddy of story.  Think of it this way:  You are invited to a party or gathering with the full awareness that you will know no one else there except the host.  Accepting the invitation means you will at some point find yourself in an unfamiliar surrounding, struggling to remember the names of strangers to whom you have been introduced, struggling with even more might to think of some gambit with which to enter a conversation.

The hooker takes you past all of that in story; the host should and often does do that in social life.  The hooker causes you to care, overcoming distractions and timidity.  You are in, signed on, bound to a journey that will take you somewhere strange, unanticipated, perhaps even uncomfortable. But you will not care.  Not any longer.  You are neither argued aboard or complaining about the service; you are in.

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