Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Surprise in Your Toolkit

The more open you are to surprise, the greater the likelihood of discovery as you follow the trail of the characters as they dodge their ways about the story and you, withholding from you as you with some semblance of purpose withhold from the reader.

Of course you reach the place where the arrows are all pointing at you, the techniques and insights you have struggled to select and hone for inclusion in your toolkit turning into boomerangs, returning to you.

There is no hiding behind technique.  Even though you may admire the tropes of dialogue in some, the interior monologue in others, the deft manipulation of yet others, studying them to see how they manage it, there is no certainty in technique, only formula, no surprise, only repetition of something you did once before, enjoyed the way it worked, then thought why not try it again?

You need your toolkit, but to use it properly, you need to extend beyond what worked for you the last time and the time before that.

What you need in the sense of metaphor being used to illustrate the point is to find yourself hunting a woolly mammoth with a .22 caliber rifle and the knowledge that at a safe distance, said .22 caliber projectile would have thee same effect on the mammoth as a mosquito on you.  But the metaphor does not sneak off into the underbrush.  If you get close enough for any chance at inflicting the kind of damage you hope for, you also run the risk of having  one pissed woolly mammoth coming   at you.

The moral to all of this is that you cannot stay at safe distance; you have to get closer, closer still, into the area where risk of botching the entire scene comes rushing at you.

Best thing you can do is to come at your work prepared by all your previous work, all your previous reading, but caught out by surprise as a concept comes rushing out of the mists, straight at you.  Best not to turn and run or wonder how you did it before.  Best to be taken off guard, vulnerable.  Best to see where it goes.

Such moments lurk along the pathways, emerging when you least suspect them.  Of course you have to play your part, which is to recognize that you are somehow separated from your outline, your precise charting of events, skillful in their graduated acceleration.

You have to risk being genuinely frightened that none of the implements in your toolkit will work.  Then, you might have a chance.

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