Friday, May 18, 2012

Rugs, Knit, Woven, and Pulled


Two effective approaches toward beginning story:

1. You are Number Two person in a company or team or faculty.  Story begins when someone in a supervisory position confronts you with the news that you are now Number One.  Right now.  Start behaving like Number One.

“But,” you say, “where’s Fred?”
“Never mind.  You’re Number One.  That’s all you need to know.”

2. You are Number One.  You are used to the quasi-dictatorial power, of getting your way and, in the process, of seeing a pattern of successful performance of your company or team or faculty.  You have met performance expectations in significant measure; you have even added admirable innovation.
Story begins with you being told by someone in a supervisory position that you are to work closely with X, sharing power.  X can be of either gender, of any race, a friend or enemy from the past, or a complete stranger.

“Why this sudden change?”
“Not for you to ask.  Start working with X.  Right now.  Start behaving like a team.”
“Or?”
“No or.  Not negotiable.”

 There are of course other ways to approach a story opening, most of which involve some rug somewhere being yanked from under one or more individuals or, contrary to that approach, one or more individuals being induced to stand on what we cynical and knowledgeable readers see as a rug.

Option number one comes to you with a certain personal pang at the realization of the times you have allowed yourself the passivity of being that number two person rather than that number one person.  You are by no means that mythical figure, the natural born leader.  You in fact doubt there is such a thing, only the reputation of one.  Nor are you a natural number two person; you are neither except when you are being lazy at the implications of being a leader.

You need to make this clear, the leadership relates to you being a leader to yourself, a CEO, if you will, to your own ego.  You cannot even think to lead others, readers included, if you are not able to lead yourself, treat your characters as individuals who work for you, delegate a sense of mission to them, perhaps introduce them to the concept of quotas or performance standards, then allow them to go about their assignment without the need for your micromanagement, which is hemorhoidal in nature, a certain pain in the ass.

In recent months, you’ve been seeing this circumstance in orbit, but having shot yourself in the foot a number of times with your own articulated sense of impatience, you find yourself counseling yourself to the longer haul, with results every bit as unsatisfying as those resulting from your impatience.

What you’re working toward here is the realization that it is better to take the lead and make a mistake than it is to confuse passivity with patience.  Give it a timeline, then take steps.  Win some, lose some.

Same thing with story.

Exact same thing.  Story is moving along at a pace not much beyond a plod, you need to step in, give it an ultimatum, which in its way begins to sound much like option number two, doesn’t it?


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