Friday, July 19, 2013

The Dark Side of the Story

When you take a quick look at yourself, you're more apt to be blinded by the brightness of enthusiasm and an eagerness born of impatience to get things moving.  This quick look sends back reports of near normality because of the way the enthusiasm trumps so many resident quirks.

You would in fact rather be up and eager and alert rather than lugubrious, dark, cynical.  In this frame of mind and reference, you are aware of but forgiving of your quirks.  Sure, have a few quirks, but on balance, you're pretty upbeat, your politics left-leaning and your mode social.  

You're pretty much the sort who is not surprised when out in public, at, say, a coffee shop, trying to slip in some writing, one or more strangers will approach you and start a conversation.  Even at your age, you're not invisible when out in public, even though there are times when you try to make yourself invisible as a kind of actor's exercise.

Nevertheless you tend to gravitate more in your reading and writing to characters on the dark side of the line, darker than you.  You set a tentative boundary because you don't want the dark side to be so tedious in its darkness that plausibility disappears.  Let's leave it at this:  you recognize the need to push characters of your creation over the line you've set up for yourself in real life.

If you allow your characters to stop where you see yourself stopping, don't expect to experience a tingle of excitement or apprehension or tension when you reread what you've written.  Don't expect the transactions and responses and subsequent resolutions to resonate for you.  

Don't expect to push the confrontation to the point where the responses frighten you.  Under such circumstances, you're trying to get out with a show of edginess and probing while still maintaining a degree of comfort.

Yeah, well.  Comfort has to go.  Nice has to go.  If these two qualities are allowed to remain, somewhere along the way, the narrative is going to turn to mush for you, and you are not all that fond of mush except that it is oatmeal, prepared with some deliberation.

You're looking for encounters between and among individuals that reflect some plausible image of the reality you see going on in these early years of the twenty-first century, slightly beyond the bubble of comfort in which you live, bleeding into the polarity and extremes you see just beyond your line of sight and reach.

You're looking for entitlement, encounters with connectedness, desperate seeking for connections which may in the final analysis be impossible to maintain for any significant time.  You're looking for individuals who tie meaning into knots they find it impossible to untie, persons who seek meaning from things they've purchased at the literary equivalents of garage sales.  

You're looking for persons who've tried any number of conventional and unconventional things, hopeful of extracting tangible meaning, men and women who've been infused with expectations they can never seem to meet.

When you were in high school, it seemed to you many of the girls you were interested in were drawn to sullen types in leather jackets who seemed to understand motorcycles.  You were sullen in all the conventional ways but cared nothing for motorcycles and accordingly knew little about them except for the two primary brands being Indian and Harley-Davidson.

Trouble was, sullen seemed to go better with motorcycles and leather jackets.  Your brand of sullenness got you nothing but a few premature creases on your brow.

The way you see yourself now, if you're not careful, is someone whose sullenness is masked by his enthusiasm for the wild literary rides of investigation and essay, and from reading literature with an increasing focus on the noir or dark side of men and women who have begun to feel betrayed by the conventions they'd been led to believe would bring them a measure of happiness.

Dylan Thomas, the tormented and troubled Welsh poet, wrote of his craft:

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

You're looking for the meanings in that secret, dark side of the heart, meanings that will help you and your characters find some escape velocity from the heavy orbit of convention.  

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