Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Anticipation: the Gorilla Glue of Story

Anticipation is a driving force in life and story.

Whenever we think of event or goal, we snap off the safety catch on result, tightening our finger on the movement necessary to set process to work.

We turn from life to story because life too often produces a long delay before result arrives or withholds the result altogether.  And although this commits the pathetic fallacy of attributing agenda to reality, as though it were a sensate force instead of a process, life brings us results well below our anticipation.

You enjoy anticipation.  For you, anticipation is motivation written with a calligraphy nib.  Some events in life lead you to anticipate dire, dreary results.  You approach these with the hope and anticipation of surprise, another great pal of drama.  On other occasions, your anticipation leads you to visualize results that reveal to you the very real and purposeful presence of a kid with a gimme-gimme attitude.  On still other occasions, you are purposeful in the way you await surprise, which can go either way,extraordinary in its splendidness or dismal in its awfulness.

To live a life in reality or in the world of story without expectations and anticipation connotes to you a life of some rigorous spiritual discipline, which you lack to a remarkable degree, or is indicative of a life spent in a dense fog.

Reading allows you anticipations related to like, dislike, surprise and revelation.  Being out and about in realtime life allows you to indulge one of the pleasures you indulge in reading, which is second-guessing people (will they or won't they?) and events.  In reading, you are all too willing and eager to be led down the garden path, by the author and by your own jumbled pile of traits.  You try to outguess the author and the characters, taking as much joy in being led astray as you do in being sucker punched by a dexterous surprise.

Not all that many years ago, while preparing notes for a lecture on story and the need of the individual writer to arrive at a personalized definition of the meaning of story, you arrived at a phrase that stopped you in a blaze of epiphany.

For your taste, story ends in the protagonist's awareness that the outcome--the goal or catalyst for the story--is just out of reach, neither attainable as planned nor entirely lost, thus a negotiated settlement with Fate.  And for any practical dramatic purposes, you see Fate as including the characters, with all their quirks and failings, just as you are a riot of quirks and failings.  Can your characters accept the conditions of a negotiated settlement?

They'd bloody well better or they're mortgaging potential for future happiness.  With this in mind, you begin to experience anticipation on the part of your characters as you sense the story moving toward that moment when the accounting is done, the loot is spread out to be inventoried.  Is the loot a Maltese Falcon?  Is it fool's gold?  Is it incredible riches which the characters cannot appreciate?

You tingle with anticipation for the arrival of the IM with the description of the settlement, wondering how the characters will react when you present it to them.

On some cosmic scale somewhere, anticipation will be found to be a relative of suspense and tension, those two gorilla glues concocted to forge a strong bond between reader and story.

You read in anticipation of things going wrong.  You write in the certainty of things going wrong and of your characters somehow having the diplomacy and tact, however desperate they are for outcome of their own design, to settle for the negotiation.

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