Saturday, April 9, 2011

This is absurd!

Your strategy at the moment is to return to the novel in progress by the end of next week, picking up the clutter and broken china all about you as a result of having to put all efforts into revision on what was once The Fiction Writers' Tool Kit as it morphed into The Fiction Lovers' Companion.  That will be more of a leisurely process for at least two reasons, a significant one being you do not yet have a thematic closure in mind, a no less significant one being the questioned proposed by Ms. Lopoppolo, your literary agent, "So what's wrong with turning it into a murder mystery, Mr. Regional President of the Mystery Writers of America?" It was the same question raised by Jean Harfenist, a writer you much admire.  One robin does not make a Spring, but two robins make a hell of a lot of noise.  The obvious character to kill off is clear to you; you'd put in a good deal of work by which you all but demonized him, with the intent of causing him to experience the equivalent of a conversion in the desert.  All the more reason to kill him off; the reader would care, and you'd be off to the races.

There is also your wish to have another work out and working for you, a sort of platform for making the novel into a viable series, with one being expected eighteen months after it hit.  There is a list of five projects the publisher of Companion is considering, all of which but one you believe you could have done by 1 January.  And thus you are puttering with these, looking for a clue among them as to which wants to be up next.

You've already begun leaning,but just these past several hours, yet another possibility has emerged, one that would be similar in its way to Companion, but not imitative of it, one you could see committing to deliver by, say 30 January 2012; it is an adjunct of the years you spent in scholarly publishing, wherein you made friends with the acronym KWIC, key words in context, as it applies to an index format.  There would be little of the scholarly and much of the idiosyncratic about Key Words for Writers:  Words, Phrases, and Concepts That Trash Talk Fiction Conventions.  Several times this year, you've blogged about particular words that seem to you to have some direct bearing on what story is and how it is formed.  As you sat before your screen for today's installment of your blog notes to yourself, almost before you could evoke the presence of the blog template, the word "absurd" came throbbing into your mind.

Absurd is a valuable tool awaiting the writer's serious consideration and direct use; it awakens somewhat like a cat ebbing forth from a nap, stretching languorously, sniffing the surrounding air, wondering about decisions.  Absurdity is the irrational, considering the preposterous; it is an interpretation of events, perhaps even the events themselves, that moves the beholder from observers of the ordinary to a newer plateau on which the great dance of the improbable is in full regalia.  The characters are behaving as though this surreal world in which they find themselves is every bit as structured and nuanced as the landscape we think of as ordinary, everyday, even if we wish to show off a bit, quotidian.  The absurd is an exact reversal of, say, The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, are transported from the ordinary of Oz to the forest primeval of Kansas, made to seek the portal of return to Oz after experiencing trials and tribulations.

Life on many levels is absurd, even today,when we are, in so many cultures, away from primitive shadows of linear, power-based social structure.  Some forms of social structure may produce the tyranny of conformity, but the possibilities inherent in more democratic structures are every bit as surreal and tyrannic, each in its own way.  We speak of theater of the absurd as a means of dramatizing the nuances of a particular social invasion, but for the observer to understand the nuanced implication, the observer must first see the absolute power of anarchy in his own strata before any standard of absurdity can take root.  In a lovely topsy-turvy of logic, the more things are made to remain conventional, the greater they are likely to split apart at the seams, spilling the contents of sanity before our eyes.

An individual with a vision may be an artist, a dreamer, or a lunatic; he may be simultaneously all three.  How absurd, after all, is it when we encourage our young to think outside the box, then award them the punishment of ostracism for having done so?

Writers--in fact all artists--need to keep their own tabs on what is absurd; it is the trampoline on which great bounding leaps of creativity have their origin, allowing the leaper to see with incremental bounds a tad beyond any given horizon.

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