Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When Worse Is Not Worse Enough

Small wonder the apple has become a symbol of innocence.  In its shape and color, the apple invites closer inspection, seems to inspire some form of contact, then who among us is surprised when the first bite marks appear on its shiny skin?  Risk is the danger of the worm being introduced to the apple.  The worm is slithering, purposeful hunger.  The apple is at once a crisp, juicy repast and a model of sublime, luminous stasis.

The worm by itself is nothing new, by no means story.

The apple, already a paradigm--apple of his/her eye, apple for the teacher, folkloric bringer of health (as in keeping the doctor away)--is attractive, but not yet dramatic.

Put a worm and an apple in the same scene and you have a story underway.  The story progresses in direct proportion to the worm's appetite and their consequences.

When the paradigmatic apple becomes vulnerable, we are drawn to it; a bond of sympathy, perhaps even empathy, has been created.  Depending on our individual nature and the writer's skilled intent, we have chosen sides.  We root for the worm to "get" the apple, sate itself, then crawl off to some shady safety in which to nap.  Or we root for the apple to survive the invasion of the worm.

What happens next?  Is the apple-fattened worm now chosen for an amuse bouche by a robin or towhee?  Does the apple wind up in a pie which finds its way to a county fair in which it is awarded a blue ribbon?

Whatever happens next must be more intense than what happened before.  If not, the story needs emergency roadside service from the editorial equivalent of the auto club.  You subscribe to this concatenation as a result of your reading, studying the form, and your own attempts at rendering your own versions of story and your subsequent efforts as an editor of other individuals' attempts as well as your attempts as teacher to use this assemblage of intent and event and consequence to those who also wish to render their particular versions.

We lift ourselves, the reader, writer, editor, teacher, pupil aspects of ourselves, up to the next plateau which, near as you can read the sign, says ACCELERATION.

"Things" must come faster.  Couldn't hurt if they came with more INTENSITY.  Some might reverse the order of these two qualities here, which reminds you of your mother's instructions in combining the elements for cornbread:  Do you bring the milk to the cornmeal or do you bring the cornmeal to the milk?  Does this make any difference?  Does this have any effect on you?

At some point, and why not now, you have to consider the next plateau, which is by no means original with you but which you have put your thumbprints on by giving it a name:  THE UNTHINKABLE, COME TO PASS.

There have been enough moments in your life where you believed things could not be any worse, only to discover that things, like the worm, have a fondness for apple.  this leads you to understand how in story, we identify with the worm.  We want them to become worse to the point of admiring those writers who have the vision to take matters beyond our own threshold for worse.  Something about the condition and the way the characters respond to it give us a sense of assurance that there is something within each of us that can cope with the unthinkable.

Writers and actors who push beyond this barrier of enough and into the unthinkable are in effect speaking to the resiliency of characters, stories, inventiveness, and the entire human species to survive trauma.  If story is in fact, trauma personified and objectified, its resolution is what we read for and write for.  It is us.  We are it.

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