Thursday, December 26, 2013


There are a few actors you can bring to mind who have an adequate range of expression but who, in your view, portray themselves rather than the characters they are cast to be.

Where ever possible, you avoid performances of such men and women because you have been so spoiled in so many splendid ways by men and women who are able to project so many different characters over so wide a range.

John Wayne comes to mind as someone who never left much doubt he was bullying the character into pretending he was John Wayne rather than John Wayne taking the effort to step outside himself to be the character.  Much as you admire her presence, Katherine Hepburn appeared to have been the victim of many women actors, forced in a sense to wear the directorial and dramatic equivalents of girdles to fulfill male- and box-office-dominated visions of the ruling classes.  A few managed to radiate range and potential, paving the way for many first-rate women actors at present.

You are still in the process of touching up and in some cases re-framing already published stories to appear early in 2014 in a collection of twelve stories to be called Love Will Make You Drink and Gamble, Stay out Late at Night (which is the title of the penultimate story in the collection, and which takes its title from a Billie Holliday blues.

Only this evening, a friend remarked to you that you have kept them a mystery for so long.  Your reply:  "They were mysteries to me before I wrote them," which speaks to your process for fiction in a way you realize was begun in vulnerability and remains so to this day.

You've learned enough from these thirty or so stories from which this group of twelve has been culled to have developed an even closer bond between the actor and character, conflating the things you have learned to date from your writing mentor, Rachel Maddux, and your acting mentor, Virginia Gilmore.  When the tweaking and recasting of these stories is finished, you are back at finishing the opening two chapters of A Character Prepares, which title is homage to Constantin Stanislavsky, the noted Russian director who brought modernity to the stage, influencing actors and writers.

Once again, you will have written a book about writing to open mysteries of storytelling to you and, you hope, to the likes of those to whom you teach the elements and concepts of fiction.

Finishing this book will, you hope, solve enough mystery to allow you back to the two novels you have already set in motion, both of them featuring a character who is in many ways you as well as not you in even more ways.

This you first appeared in a short story called "Fish," written when you were an undergraduate.  The same character appears in a short story, "Molly," in the collection, wherein he considers the logistics of stealing a dog belonging to a close friend.  He also has walk-ons in a few others.

Some of your recent editorial focus is to keep him from sounding like you.  Some of your recent editorial focus is to keep any and all your characters from sounding like you and, from sounding too much like one another, even though they might come from the same family, school, or part of the country.

The character who is to a degree based on you, call him, if you will, your alter ego, appears as the narrator of the two novels yet to come.  You have a time line worked out for him and, because of a combination of whim and a fluke, you also know something about his grandfather who, unlike either of yours, was once assigned to the U.S. Army Camel Corps (and yes, there was one; you did not make it up.  You have made many things up, but you did not make that up.  You did make at least one hundred dollars from writing stories about this character's grandfather.

Your belief today, December 26, 2013, calls for both the writer and actor to step out of self in order to use the things the self has acquired, but as aspects of an entire range of other individuals, not of the acquiring self.

The acquiring self, you believe, is observing, taking in behavior, at times practicing the behavior in front of mirrors or in the privacy of the work area, the better to become actors or characters representing others.

The acquiring self, whether actor, writer, musician, dancer, artist, or photographer, tries to explain mysteries of behavior.  All these selves have at least one thing in common, which is time and its portrayal in their medium of choice.

Your thanks to LFB for, among many other things, calling you on the mystery related to your stories.  This was not done in an accusatory sense, more as an observation.  You are quite comfortable with this observation.  In particular, you would not like to keep your discovery of the mysteries of your stories in any way a secret from yourself.

What do you do?

You observe mysteries, then attempt to solve them for yourself through the winding up and setting loose of characters.  You wind them up as wanting something.  Then you step aside to observe them, wandering, careening, wobbling, pondering.  They less they are like you, the greater your chances of seeing more stories, more differences, more mysteries.

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