Saturday, June 9, 2012

This may come as a surprise


Of course you read to become transported from a place of anticipation to a place of engagement. Of course you do, of course, of course.  You also read to discover things, to find out how in so many ways you are like the protagonists in novels of your choice but also their opposite measures, the antagonists.  There is joy in the discovery of elements of each within you.

You read to empathize, to achieve in fantasy what you have not yet been able to accomplish in reality or, to redo via fiction things you did in real life for the sake of comparison.

Yet another reason puts the spurs to your flanks; you read to compare the extent of your storytelling abilities with your elders, your juniors, and your contemporaries.

All of these reasons are at once pleasurable and humbling.  How is it you can be equally at home on two horses at the same time, as in, you are the equal of X, your contemporary, and you will never achieve the wit, insight, and dramatic sense of Y, your junior by as much as a generation.

The more serious reason you read is a reason that often slips between the cracks, loose change falling from your pockets when you sink into some overstuffed sofa.  The serious reason is surprise.  You read because of the emotional charge resident in surprise, and when you speak of surprise, you mean not only the surprise turns of motive or agenda or behavior in the narrative before you but also of the surprise discoveries you identify within yourself.

You can and have spent time contriving surprises within narratives you’ve been working on.  You’ve also been surprised by their appearance somewhere within your sight line, and without sounding too vainglorious about it, you’ve grabbed onto the tail of the surprise and held fast until you wrestled it to the ground, exploited it, and come away feeling you’d accomplished something worthwhile.

More pleasurable yet is the surprise that comes to you in sufficient force to make you realize you were not so dumb or insensitive as you’d thought but rather open to things within you that you’d not given proper identification to.

As a reader and a writer, you are a great fan of surprise; it is the perfect antidote to boredom and to taking yourself too seriously; it is the best consequence of all.

Surprise is the outcome of a combination of thought or behavior or action neither you nor any character of your creation ever thought would come about. Surprise is the tsunami wave in the universe of your creation, the earthquake in the city you’d given thought to but had not thought to include earthquake.  Surprise is a joke that has backfired, someone taking your japery seriously or your japery as a joke.  Surprise is getting off the train at the wrong station only to discover you’ve embarked in hell or paradise, neither destination having been on your mind at the outset of the journey.

Surprise is you, revealing a portion of yourself to yourself at an inappropriate time, which has now been transformed into the most appropriate time of all to discover this information.

Surprise is where you never thought you’d be, never this high or this low; it is a nod of recognition from someone you’d not thought to have noticed you.

Surprise is the story you had never supposed to think of, much less write.  Surprise is the you you had not wanted yourself to meet, in a place you had not expected to go, in the company of individuals you’d been avoiding for quite some time.

Surprise is an event being thrust upon you—or you into it—that is no surprise at all.


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