Monday, February 11, 2013

Gorillas in the mist, and you, observing characters

Such terms as "overcoming obstacles," "conflict," "opposition," and even "in spite of" are seen by convention as major aspects of story.  Although some emerging writers find such concepts, in particular the one of conflict, to be painful, many others come to terms with such needs as integral components of story and, doing so, seem to find their way into publication on a regular basis.

Close examination of real-time life and imaginary life reveals the potential in both media for these tropes to appear, to demonstrate their presence in one way or another or, for that matter, in several other ways.

Awake, asleep, in fantasy-daydream, much of the human species lives in a constant state of story.

You have begun to note in these pages how story began in its ways to tempt you in much the same way education tempted you.  Your interest in story came because of your disinterest in the childhood options about you.  This was distinct from being bored.  You were interested in expanding the options you had as a seven- and eight-year-old person.  Your most accessible portal was reading.  One or more stories, plus your faithful following of the illustrated, four-color, Sunday newspaper comics, shoved the door wide open.  Your interest led you in rapid succession to more stories, which at that time and at that level of self-communication, seemed to you the most direct way to achieving and maintaining interest.

In simplistic terms, you never looked back.  At such times in your life when you were experiencing boredom, you also experienced regret that there was no hint or trace of story in your life.  in consequence, you attempted to engage life as story, more often than not with disastrous results.  But by this time, you were writing with some kind of purpose and regularity.  If real time life became boring for any reason, you had two excellent ways of engagement:  writing or reading.

These paragraphs are a concise undercoating to your intended chapters dealing with reasons for reading and writing.  You've experienced enough students and writer clients to be convinced that there are as many potential reasons for reading and for writing and for a lifestyle with heavy emphasis on both as there are individual cases of cancer.  In fact, you can triangulate your own reading, your own writing, and your own cancer to locate the Writer you'll need to become in order to write these two brief chapters (reading and writing).  At the moment, it is tempting to believe you will be able to do so without the need to mention your experiences with cancer.  Books about writing do not have to be about cancer.  This is made even more plain to you because you do not often think about cancer any more, rather you think about and react to the life you have had after coping with cancer.  Some of the effects of it surely still effect you, but this is your entire point of intention in these two brief chapters on reading and writing, all of which come under the heading of Who are you?

The use of second-person in these blog entries came as a suggestion from your friend, the late John Sanford, who wrote histories and a three-volume autobiography in it.  You enjoy its use because it reminds you without the need to think about it any longer that you are writing these entries for yourself in order to let yourself know how you feel and think about things and at the same time to underscore the path to communicate with others by being as open with yourself as possible.

Your fiction narrative is still a reflection of you, its themes filtered through characters of your invention.  In fiction, then, you delegate the story to them, confident they will do the better job of conveying the full spectrum of meaning.  You also learn how, even though the characters are yours, you learn more by listening to them.

Thus, there is some kind of agreeable circularity.  You still write to engage story.  You still read to experience story and listen to others.  The universe is not about you; it is about itself.  When you listen, you get story.  When you don't listen with close attention, you in metaphor remove yourself to the position of an overbearing father, refusing his teenage children the use of the family car.  Still in metaphor, you are in effect helping them earn their own car and their own life.  Deeper yet into metaphor, you are creating lab animals with particular strengths and weaknesses, then setting them loose in mazes whereby you observe their results.  Dian Fossey with gorillas.  Jane Goodall with chimpanzees.  You with characters.

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