Thursday, December 6, 2012


Why the immediate necessity to put down the cooking pot lid, picked up in an exploratory mode? Why?  Because the lid has become quite hot.  Because you will burn your hand if you do not set the lid down, now.  Because, the human reflex pattern being what it is, you are programmed--wired--to drop anything you believe is too hot.  You have more than likely had this reflex reinforced by painful misadventure.

Such a reflex, and the experience with having picked up or touched something too hot for the body to accommodate with comfort, are useful reminders of the need for immediacy in story. including the sense of urgency a character feels about wanting a major wish or goal accomplished.

Immediacy, the wanting of a thing now or the need to do a thing now, and experience, the residue of an event somehow painful or memorable in its exquisite, tingling pleasure, become two acupressure points for character.  As the fictional character is squeezed or poked, or prodded, or caressed, the writer is--or should be--and in response chooses words, sensations, cadences that go flying from his fingers into the text and into the acupressure points of the reader.

You've heard numerous stories of actors who wanted a particular role in a particular drama to the point of badgering the producer, director, writer, and anyone else who would listen.  Sally Field is said to have been so eager for the role of Mary Lincoln in the current iteration of the Lincoln mystique that in spite of producer's grave doubts, she prevailed on the grounds that this part was meant for her; she was meant to portray Mary.

No matter if this is partial of total Apocrypha. The point here is that the writer should feel the same fire for the story and, as a direct consequence, the characters should experience the same burning desire to be their bigger-that-book selves; they should want, ache, rejoice, fear, and respond so that every moment they are "on" is a moment where the other characters recognize them as the dramatic equivalent of the hot cooking pot lid.

The moment a character appears, a set of consequences, like some wind-up toy, is set loose and begins its movement.

You are fond of giving as an example the pizza delivery person, whose moments in the story are limited.  But you, the writer, know this person, this young man or young woman, has not committed to a life;s career of delivering pizzas.  The tips, and such scant salary as their is, go to pay for acting lessons.  This pizza delivery person wishes to become a fully developed actor, with deeply felt skills and reach.  How is that character going to act, or perhaps react, when"on." How will that character deliver the one line:  "Someone order a pizza?"

That appearance will have some effect on one or more of the other characters present, and there is the powerful likelihood it will have an effect on you.  Thus you have the difference between reality and story.  Reality has moments between moments.  Story has beats, all of which, to extend and possibly mix the metaphor, are like playful splashing at the beach or the pool.  Everyone is going to get soaked.  That's what story is; everyone gets splashed, whether they intend it or not, and you know how you reacted the last time you got splashed.  No matter it was unintentional; the splash landed, caused reflexive response.

Story is a dropped garden hose.  Everyone gets splashed, most of all the reader.

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