Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Did Anyone See Where My Scene Had Gone to?

A favored complaint heard among the evolving writers who are scolded for presenting unconvincing responses, "But it really happened that way."

The complaint is neither age nor gender specific.  For that matter, neither is it genre specific. Thus the boulder has begun to trundle down the hill, carried along by the momentum of its own faulty logic.

To the extent that logic is an iffy tool in arguing the aspects of a story, "But it really happened that way" is a statement that opens more doors than it closes.  When, for instance, was the last time you read a story that had been argued into place?

Well-wrought technique often is so stunning in its effect on us that we override out sense of logic and remain rooted inside the story, cheering some in their efforts against those who appear to stand in their way.  Technique takes us places logic can never hope to reach because technique makes us feel the rightness or correctness of a moment in spite of our nuanced awareness that story is a contrivance, a confection, an illusion, done with mirrors, smoke, and a great deal of delegating responses to the reader.

The event driving the writer's insistence, the "it" that really happened, is yet another example of logic gone to disgrace.  If the writer insists he or she saw an event similar to the one under critical examination, the writer is guilty of not delegating the "it" to one or more characters, saving it for a moment of authorial intrusion, which was in great likelihood the reason why the matter is called to review in the first place.

Got a writer here who says the suspect material in a story is based on an actual event, took place on June 15th, 2011.  Got witnesses.

For one thing, so what?  Perhaps we'd have accepted the "it" as having really happened if the material had been a product of evocation rather than description.  Perhaps we'd have restrained it under any circumstances because we didn't believe it, were not convinced, had no stake in the outcome, had, in fact, no awareness of or concern for any outcome.

Even if the event happened in real life, we so far have only the writer's word, and if we have to go about, relying on the writer's words as opposed to the characters' feelings, we'd have begun our migration away from the story, breaking into a trot to increase our distance.

Another way to look at the "it" that really happened:  if there'd been two or more writers skulking about when things were becoming dodgy and the fireworks were erupting in the early Spring night, perhaps each of them saw it a different way.  No--emend that.  Get statements from each.  Anticipate some agreement regarding details, but do not expect total congruence,  Even among loving individuals and groups, when did you last see total agreement about anything.

Thinbgs that really happened took place to a wide scatter of observers or to as few as one.  In each case, the observer saw what he or she beloeved was the true agenda of the event.  The simple, basic joy of story is that observers of an event have an individual belief in the correctness of their individual vision.  We may have both witnessed similar events, but my vision of it is more correct and, therefore, truthful than yours.  Well, I'll see that and raise you my version was more correct and actual than yours.

Abstract triangles in geometric exercises may be argued into congruence with demonstrations of side, angle, side being equal or even of angle, side, angle having equal weight, but suppose you had a writer from the American south and a writer from the American Northeast, discussing, say, the Battle of Shiloh or Bull Run.

You think of the times you directed your characters to play out conversations you'd had or wished to have, events you'd hoped to achieve, outcomes for which you'd expended considerable preparation.  You think of some person in relative authority, an agent, an editor, a television producer, or, in one example with a television laugh-track technician, wanting to know from you where the laughs were to go on a script, how far down the line the reader or viewer stands in the preparation of such things.

Such thoughts are enough to push you deeper into processes you invent rather than copy.

The voices within your head, demanding to be let out, or seductively suggesting a touch of sun at the pool or, better yet, the beach, don't give a fig if you got "it," whatever it was, from something that really happened.  They're clamoring to be heard in their own voices, with their own trembling cadences and squeaky larynxes.

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