Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Got any spare changes?

A thing remains what it is until it changes.

A person retains the qualities that brought her to this point.  Then she changes.

You change.

Characters change because they are turned on the lathe of story; they are spun, shaped, brought to contact with abrasive forces.  If they are your characters, sometimes you are the lathe, but on other occasions, it is they who have you spinning, being shaped, brought into contact with the sandpaper of realization.

You've had enough experience with the way of things and people and yourself and characters to be accepting of change.  Your approach to the concept of change is to make the best of it you can.  A story long enough to be called a novella or novel is at it's simplest state, "Something happens and somebody changes."  You might add a layer or two of nuance by saying that something happens and as a consequence someone changes.

You grow downright subtle when you up the ante to:  "Something happens, causing someone and some thing to change."  The thing might be a relationship.  The thing could very well be an institution.  The someone who changes could become bitter over the changes or resigned or working so hard not to let the change effect his behavior that it becomes obvious to the audience.

Books change you.  These books can be yours or someone else's--no matter.  You can reread a book of yours, then wonder how you could have not seen the glaring flaws, an awareness that shows you how your attitudes to words, phrases, modifiers, and descriptions have evolved over the time you've practiced your craft.  There are, of course, the books of others that make you wonder what new discovery you will make when you reread it again in another year or so.  These are among the friends you have kept in touch with.

You've learned to compose on a computer, to edit your own work and the work of others on a computer, to read proof on a computer, to copyedit on a computer because all the while you were rolling sheets of bond paper into a manual typewriter, change was going on about you, and you thought the change was emblematic of your own need to allow your work to change, to show some sense of the metaphoric you, standing against a door jamb so that your literary height maybe marked off with a pencil.

Not far from where you are composing these lines, there is a rather large Conklin fountain pen, its cap and body resplendent in a subtle agate hue.  The pen reminds you of the writer who apparently secured a lifetime of Conklin pens for endorsing the product.  The writer is the reason why you have two Conklin fountain pens.  The writer is also the reason you went to Virginia city, Nevada, because you'd become aware that the newspaper the writer began his career with was publishing again.  For some time, you contributed a column to The Territorial Enterprise.

Your desk is overrun with ballpoint pens, most of them bearing advertisements of banks or cleaning establishments or real estate salespersons.  They are reminders of when, even in high school, your favorite instrument was the fountain pen.

Although you do quite a bit of composition on one or more of your computers, you will not let the fountain pens gather dust or the crust of dried ink.  There are times when only the skating of the nib of a pen over a sheet of paper can provide the sense of intimacy you crave for early draft.  This is not to say that you feel constraint when composing on a computer (from a wireless keyboard, assisted by a wireless mouse, both of which have been Blue Tooth paired with the computer); it is to say that in this one way, you have accepted the change but you are not going to abandon the way you began.

There is comfort in seeing how far you've come, whether it is checking the miles you've traveled on the odometer or ordering from Amazon.com the very first book on writing of your experience, which reminds you in its way of an encounter with a high school teacher who, you now understand, meant you no harm and in all probability wished you some greater ability in spelling than you had at the time.  "How is it,"  she seemed to puff up as she spoke, "how is it that you are able to use and correctly spell a word such as denouement, when your general grasp on spelling is execrable?"  And you, with the callow aplomb of a high school senior, said, "Because it is a writing tool I use when telling a story."

Callow aplomb no longer works as a description for you.  That has changed, evolved, if you will, to smart ass.

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