Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Impatience, Cholesterol, and Frustration as Literary Tools

As many Santa Fe residents will tell you, this is one of the oldest if not the oldest city in North America.  There were no city planners a such.  Unlike many modern cities, Santa Fe is relative in its innocence of a grid system.  

A walk around any given block is an adventure worthy of Lewis and Clark, with a similar potential for results. You may not get where you intend.  What you seek may not in fact be there any more, but what you discover is pure and simple, adventure.

Santa Fe is, thus, not a place for a person with impatience.  As your life and writing process grew to a point where rethinking and restructure or--go ahead and say it--rewriting first emerged as necessities then came to be the greater pleasure than the first draft, you thought the tea bag of impatience had been pretty well used up, but both by vehicle and by walking, the Santa Fe system of streets proved you wrong.

Santa Fe has little in common with Los Angeles or, for the matter, Santa Barbara.  Take away the Spanish founders and the binding tie is the fact of each population swelling.  Things in Los Angeles, for all they are spread out, are easy to find provided they still exist and have not been lifted by the roots and moved elsewhere, such as some of the remarkable Queen Anne-style homes on Bunker Hill, or simply bulldozed down and built over, edited, if you will--extremely edited.

And editing is your point here, the exquisite sense of shaping things so that you can find your way in them without the frustrations that lead to impatience.  These frustrations, by the way, are unlike the frustrations associated with suspense, conditions where you as a reader, become frustrated on the behalf of a character, who is about to do something you believe dangerous, ill-advised, or plain foolish.

These two types of frustration are the literary equivalent of high- and low-density cholesterol, the one a helpful and healthy working compound, the other tending to clog things and make for systemic clots.

After a few near misses on the streets of Santa Fe today, you had the positive awareness that you were not so far from impatience as you'd supposed.  Missed connections, wrong turns with the goal in clear sight, then seeing yourself set off on an impossibly complex tangent, demonstrated a lesson you'd come close to forgetting.  Impatience and frustration are valuable collaborators in story.  Unlike most bank interest rates of today's market, they continue to pay high dividend, inflicting burdens on beset characters in ways most readers can appreciate.

Thinking you'd come to terms with impatience, perhaps to the point of understanding its dynamics borders on patronizing the condition and its use in story.  An impatient person of only moderate impatience is not worthy of being in a story yet.  The story has not begun until the character feels lost and no longer confident the way out is clear.

So, all right, you were at such a point for about fifteen minutes, until you realized you were in fact enjoying the situation.  Then a solution presented itself, and you took it.

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