Tuesday, July 3, 2012

When Your Characters Say Frog, You Jump


A favored device of yours, in particular when you cannot get meaningful sentences down, is to come here, electric with the frustration of wanting to converse and not finding a spot in your inner narrative voice to insert the wedge of your own voice in the dialogue.

You pick some aspect you consider critical to story in general and storytelling in specific.  Voice. Pacing.  Plot. Dialogue. They are all important, but sometimes the enormity of the relationship linking them becomes overwhelming.

You realize again the humbling task being a person is, the near impossible task being a person who writes is, and the greatest daunt of all, being a person who most of the time constructs a flow as layered and convincing as a real life layered, convincing, feeling person is.  Person and writer become congruent for a sentence or paragraph or two, producing, when you encounter this congruency, a state of absolute hope for what has been done and absolute despair that you will arrive at such moments.

Often when this frustrating grip of Ideal Editor is upon you, you look at your favorite aspects of story, starting your way into work with a focus on Voice, moving on to Character, Story, then perhaps Dialogue.  Seeing them in their overall context of Story, they often remind you of a pamphlet, The Aspects of Brahman, given you by a Hindu nun.  In Hinduism, (and Sanskrit), Brahman is the formless, universal Supreme Self.  Any attempt to define it in effect limits it, thus such well-known deities as Rama, Krishna, Siva, and Kali are personalized aspects of Brahman, the Supreme Self, and Brahma is the universal creative consciousness of Brahman,

This pamphlet explained things about Hindu theology for you; it also helped you equate Story as an equivalent of The Supreme Narrative, which has no relationship to religion, but exists as a kind of dramatic paradigm that has powers to enthuse and attract most of the human condition on some level.

The interconnectedness of major aspects or elements is endlessly fascinating for you.  Pondering it gets your mind where it belongs in the early stages of composition, off rational progressions and the desire to explain, on to the not-so-apparent relations between the building blocks, this to the point where you have written a book specifically on that subject and are now roaming about in another, where you hope to demonstrate that wherever our origin, story has some tangible place within us that we are struggling to understand.

In such contexts, much of your writing—although meant to entertain—is about discovery.  What your characters discover in effect—but not necessarily—becomes your discovery.  There is the possibility that your characters can and do understand things more clearly than you.
This last is not so fanciful as it may sound.  On more than one occasion, you’ve struggled with the ending of a story, trying to construct additions or supplements to it, only to see them collapse on closer inspection, which is in its lovely way the equivalent of the characters telling you, that’s it; it’s over.  Goodbye.

Problems have emerged in real life when you have not listened to individuals, but they are nothing in comparison to characters having done their best to tell you things.  But you’ve refused to listen.


Now, when characters say Frog, you jump.

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