Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writing goals and rhubarb pie

For the longest time you told yourself--and believed you were speaking the truth--that the engine driving your writing goals was the engine of recording events.  The events were your interpretation of what you saw, or how you translated your inventions to the point where they seemed real enough to be believed.

By slow degree, you began to see how this approach was growing at every level, including the levels of your imagination when you were inventing out of whole cloth.

Sitting under a moonlit-but-cloudy sky in the outside dining area of the Cafe Luna, where you have heard many conversations and expressions you assumed were coming from individuals who'd migrated from Los Angeles or that even more woo-woo world of the believer in "occult forces," you were at close hand in a conversation with a young woman who set you to an unplanned plateau with a simple, straightforward answer to a question you'd posed.

This young woman claimed with the utter sincerity of one who speaks beyond woo-woo, on the firm ground of reality, to have returned a psychotic horse to a state of eager, comfortable normality.  She spoke in a way that caused you to understand how you'd already begun the process of writing to transport yourself and such readers as you might attract beyond the landscape of reportage or even of invented history, into the world of interpretation and exposure.

You asked for and got what seemed to you a plausible description of the horse in its psychotic state.  No, you are not qualified in the formal sense to determine, much less diagnose, what is and is not psychotic behavior.  On the other hand, if a human had done the human equivalent of what the horse did when the woman first encountered it, you might have used a less formal description of the person's behavior.  Bat-shit crazy comes to mind.

You were not expecting this information from the young woman, nevertheless when it came, you not only did not doubt the information or the outcome that went with it, you saw it as a distinct plus.  This was in a way the kind of question you sometimes spring on your characters when you find they are playing fast and loose with you or, fair is fair, they are presenting clues you are not yet able to see.

Questions related to why you do what you do are as frequent as those related to how you go about rendering a particular technical effect.  As a side note here, you are able to see now how, at one time, you fancied fantasy fiction, spent hours reading and trying to dissect it, bring to your own attempts some greater sense of realism than you were able to find in printed work and even less in your own attempts.  This finally led you to the conclusion that all but the most disciplined and imaginative fantasy writers chose the genre because of their fear of writing in any landscape approaching contemporary Reality.  This judgment included you.

What we're getting at here is the direction your evolution is taking, and why you need to look at it, consider its implications to your writing and to your vision (which informs the tone in which your writing emerges, and includes the vocabulary you chose, with specific reference to words you understand must be changed to yet other words the moment you get them down on the page.

A favored writer of yours ever since you stumbled upon his novel of mystery and suspense, The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins had a favored technique.  "Make 'em [the readers] laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait." What perfect advice for you to absorb and to throw at those students and members of your writing group who want more information right now.

Withhold.  Make 'em wonder.  Thus, make 'em wait.

Never give them what they want when they want it.

Never take the reader where the reader wants to go[because when you do, the story is over].

To all this merriment and speculation about the unquestioned return of a horse from a state of severe apprehension if not outright psychosis, you add your own contribution to the tar baby Brer Fox set out to trap Brer Rabbit.

Surprise.

You compose in order to discover things that surprise you and thus stand some chance of surprising readers.  You, after all, read to be surprised, to taken to places that surprise you. These moments and conditions of surprise come in large measure from the interaction between characters, the chemistry they create with their own agendas and views of Reality.

You have known any number of horse trainers, but you have never known a person who has helped a psychotic horse regain the sense of adventurous equipoise and comfort congruent with sanity.  You are not all that familiar with horses, but it is your observation of some cats that they had identity and comfort issues.  This allows you to accept the possibility of horses with issues, but even more to the point, this tolerant view of behavior and outcome makes you more likely to be surprised by a turn of events.  In the same way you have a particular fondness for rhubarb pie, you have an affinity for surprise.

Surprise in writing may not be everything.  There has to be story.

Rhubarb in pies may not be everything.  But whipped or ice cream mitigates much.

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