Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In or Out?


Your philosophy for rewriting seems to be paying off dividends for you even though the financial market has all but come to a halt, with interest rates hovering under one percent, much like a gang of panhandlers feeling the pinch, no longer content with the prospect of spare change.  Their pitch is for a few extra dollars, or a brisk reminder that the price of a two-shot cafĂ© latte will buy a loaf of bread and a small packet of sliced bologna.

Your philosophy is to keep rewriting, draft after draft until some previously not ventured detail manifests itself.  Such details lead to dimension and to discovery of things that were not quite there in the narrative.  The material then announces it is willing for you to move on.  You have learned something through connecting a few dots you had not connected before.

There is something of the mystical in this approach, assuming you have built a complex and relatively complete picture of a situation, where lacking details must be brought out one by one until you get a sense of having moved from the reality in which you are a working writer, at labor on his story to the point where you are a spectator, transported into the reality of the story.  Fond as you are of long, wrap-around sentences, the transportation you seek is more often accomplished through the use of short, emphatic sentences or sentence fragments, sounding as though lifted from a poem or a blues lyric.

How easy it becomes to derail a sentence or paragraph with a misbegotten word or phrase, effectively causing a speed bump.

The right detail carries with it a kind of emotional gift wrapping, coming in the first place from a feeling from one of the characters, a feeling you intend the scene to convey, working its way around the descriptions, verb choices, tempo, until you feel it percolating through you.

This is easy work when you are editing someone else’s work; when you are at your own, it is slow, precarious work, reminding you of a French motion picture you saw long ago, in which a truck rushed through the Amazon jungle carrying nitroglycerine.  You knew the device would have been gratuitous without an actual explosion.  When you are at you own work, there is the sense of the nitroglycerine, about to be detonated by the bouncing of the truck over the corduroy road.

How many explosions must you endure before the work gets through?  Enough details are necessary to cause you to remove the unworkable details, the events that don’t belong.

You might then say working a scene through to completion is overwriting it, then cutting the overwriting, then putting back the details that won’t go away, then wondering again if the whole scene were necessary in the first place, then setting the latest draft aside, opening yet another blank document before jumping in to get your impression of the scene.

You could as easily have been describing opening the door to let the cat in, then opening it once again after the cat has seen fit to remove herself once again, only to realize, yes; the inside is the more desirable, I shall remain inside.

There is no logic to the process, this much is clear.  The moment you attempt to apply a logical process to the design of the story, you send it rushing off in bewilderment, not wanting to spend any more time in your company.

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