Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Story: a Note Slipped under the Door

There are times when Story becomes personified and slips a note under your door.  Someone, the note reads, attempted to see you in order to deliver something.  Mystery, already, right?  Some package, an invitation, a note.

But you were out, perhaps at a coffee shop, writing a story about someone who believes the chances of having an interesting note slipped under his door increase while he is away.  His reason is simple enough:  No interesting notes have been left under his door when he was home. When a thing is a certainty, particularly in story, then the thing is static and stasis is a negative quality, a condition of skip-ahead-to-the-good-parts place.

This character is relying on a ritual kind of magic, all too familiar to you.  For the most obvious reason, you had to leave the house in order to write the beginnings of such a story; the story would never come to you when you were at home.  Such a story has never come to you when you were home.

There is no telling what could be left under your door or in your mail box.  You might even get a note intended for a previous tenant.  The delivery person might have had dyslexia, resulting in the numbers of your street address being reversed or jumbled.  Where ever you are that is not at home, you could be energized by the sense of daring such a story might bring.

Although you do not think you resemble the actor Tom Hanks, he could be portraying you or your character.  Meg Ryan is the woman.  Bad idea.  She is talented and attractive, but you'd have to have finished the entire story, then leased the film rights, at once thrilled to have someone of her stature case in the story but already out of the story and distant from it because she is not a person you see when you see characters engaged in stories you've constructed.

You are back to the kinds of notes people would be likely to leave under your door or packages they'd be likely to deliver, knowing enough about Story to know that you find fault with one character left alone in a scene for too long because much of the time the character will get to thinking the kinds of things that also contribute to stasis, things such as John wondering how "it" had begun, or wondering why he was here, doing this.

Too many stories reach that point of stasis when a front-rank character stops doing and begins wondering or speculating.  The difference between speculation and suspicion is racing toward dramatic inertia.  Speculation is one on the scale of one-to-ten; suspicion is ten.  I'm speculating you might find John interesting.  I suspect you of carrying on with John.

Macbeth, for instance, did not have too much time alone before killing King Malcolm.  He saw, for instance, a porter, carrying Malcolm's supper to him, then began thinking this would be Malcolm's last supper, which triggered thoughts of The Last Supper, which triggered thoughts of conscience and religion, all happening pretty fast, sending him to Lady Macbeth to tell her he couldn't go through with the killing.

Lesson to be taken:  Thoughts are okay in small doses; story is about movement, action, spoken words.  The words have to be directed between, at, to, and about other persons.

Thus you've returned to your problem of a character who has left his house in order to work some ritual into being.  Thought won't do it.  The results have to come through action, confrontation, attempt, event, all those wonderful words meaning movement as opposed to thought.

Messages on your iPhone or slipped under your door tend to be as far removed from interesting as possible.  Once someone sent you an intriguing message on your phone, resulting in your realization that it was a wrong number, a response from you that intrigued the sender, plus a new note from her saying you might have become her new best friend.  You have no idea who this person was, but for days, story was running rampant all over the place because, at last, someone had sent you a message with some substance to it, which is to say mystery, ambiguity, potential, causes for speculation.

Such matters invariably return to story.  If no one leaves a note under your door, even one from your landlady, telling you she has a few Easter eggs for you, then you have to go out and find or invent circumstances with sufficient mystery, intrigue, danger, potentials for love or mistaken identity or both.

No comments: