Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Witness

Once again, you find yourself in an argument.  Once again, the opponent is yourself, an aspect of you who claims to know you and your preferences.

Does this alleged aspect of you speak from valid experience, or is he sporting some braggadocio for the sake of convincing you of his credentials?

This question goes beyond the boundary of how well you know yourself, into the more existential one of what reality is.  Listen.  You get an idea for a story, which immediately requires characters who must be used to set it in demonstrable motion so that persons you will perhaps never see or know will read their account, somehow identify with it, and have some emotional response.  You of course hope that response is not boredom or anything approximating disinterest.  But you cannot tell.  In consequence, you work to keep yourself on some kind of edge, a cusp between fear and confidence.

You create characters, individuals who in some ways or others reflect your own visions, even if there is a reverse psychology in which you are purposefully making the characters as different from you and your own views as possible, even to the point of investing these characters with the equivalent schism of your introductory paragraph, in which you are engaged in argument.

Questions emerge.  Should you delegate responses and motives to the characters?  Of course.  Who wants to act for a control freak?  And besides, isn't your goal to learn or connect something you hand;t seen as learned or connected before?

Which brings the question down to what part do you play in the story?  You like to think of yourself as the Stage Director in the classic American play, Thornton Wilder's Our Town.  Are you then an observer?  

Can you get beyond a need to control things by being content to set your creation, with its problems, conflicts, and characters seeking some relief, in dramatic motion, taking note of what they do without trying to influence it?

Tough call.  Suppose, for instance, that your characters are going about things in too slow a pace, without enough intensity?  Shouldn't you be able to give them a nudge or two?  You don't have to tell them what or how, just "let's speed it up, folks," or "can we have some more tension here, please?".  Okay?

The vision comes in near abstractions; you see situations that become the dramatic equivalent of squeezing juice from a Valencia orange.  You set to work, auditioning, seeking the exact characters who will in metaphor squeeze the story to the point where it drips, your intent:  to capture the concept in nuanced glory, extracting the core of it, turning it somehow universal so that a number of potential readers will believe they understand the squeeze, feel its pressure.

You can't be too careful, can you?  Too many stories fail to pull you into their vortex.  Too many stories allow you to say so what, too soon into the text.

Listen guys, you tell them.  You're being given the use of the family car, but there is no requirement for you to bring it home in the same condition.  You're being turned loose in a multitude of scenes in which you will disagree, lie, fall in love, show off, fear you're in way over your head.  You come back incapacitated, no one will give you a bad time.  Doesn't work that way, not at this level.

Still, you are uncertain.  You reckon it is a good thing to be an observer, watching them, hoping to catch the light embedded in their performances and decisions.

The solution begins to emerge, doesn't it?

You don't like the outcome, you keep watching, keep witnessing, until they get it right.  Then, and only then, is it up to you.

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