Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stasis Report

The writer at all career stages needs to keep focus on Newton's First Law.  "Objects at rest tend to stay at rest."


Until a greater force comes along.

The same writer-in-metaphor needs to keep another condition in mind:  stasis.

Standing still.  Such forces that may be present are of equal intensity, canceling any potential for movement.  Stasis.  Stability.

No story in stability.  No story in stasis or being an object at rest, the possible exception being an opening line, suggesting objects at rest or stability.  "It was just another lazy afternoon, with bees and persons buzzing about with the ease of having nothing much to do and little energy to change the matter."

That's one form of set-up a reader will accept, provided the reader does not first fall asleep from the reading.  The reader will accept a sentence of stasis or minus inertia because the reader has come to expect via past readings that something destabilizing is about to happen now.

Something will go wrong.

Someone will come after an individual, perhaps looking for him the way the two hoods came looking for a character known as The Swede in Ernest Hemingway's short story, "The Killers."  Perhaps the reader will come to understand that the narrator is the wrong person, is not the one the hoods are after.  Some form of intent will become as persistent as a large dog, humping someone's leg.

Okay, we've just added another key word to the calculus:  intent.  Someone or some bodies with an agenda, wishing to follow through on that agenda.

You, for instance, in your work area, intent on trying to capture an idea, focused on all the internal yearnings and radiations emitted from that idea.  A fly enters the room, begins buzzing about you, distracting you from your focus.

You like distractions, and so you do nothing for a sentence or two, but the fly has a greater focus than you, is not as apt to become distracted. Instead, the fly persists in buzzing about your head.

You stop your attempts at concentration, roll up the copy of The London Review of Books on the worktable near the computer, then try to spot the fly.  You watch it until it lights on some surface.  Adios, mosca, you think, intending to whack it with your rolled up literary review.  But for its size, the fly is well equipped.  You will spend the next fifteen minutes or so, attempting with your larger brain and more sophisticated reflexes a way to bring the literary review and fly together in a cosmic uproar.  Whack.  Adios, mosca.

Now you are no longer static, no longer at rest.

Story is about the presumption of inertia, of destabilizing events, of intent and agenda rising our of the narrative like an army of amoeba and simple constructions marching forth from the primordial ooze in order to construct larger, more sophisticated life forms.

If you are not careful, they will get out of hand, and then you will have to cope with them.  This is a key moment, because the chances are good that you have been careful with unnecessary details and descriptions to the point where the little creatures cannot get out of hand.

Because of your fondness for a kind of narrative that has been at one time or other called formula fiction or pulp fiction, your views about more nuanced approaches to telling story may be shoved aside as irrelevant to the literary story, the story about existential matters, even though the characters achieving such existential angst might be young persons or persons wearing denims or men in their sixties, wearing pony tails.

But you'd be wrong.  

Your characters don't have to have the capacity to think about Existentialism or even Nihilism or Angst to experience them.  Nor do they have to understand how and why cancer cells work in order to be afflicted by them.  They need you to care in significant measure to get them to tell you their secrets, which you must not betray.  Instead, you must show them behaving in ways quite common to them, acting out their existential afflictions in ways that reveal some pinpoint of their pain or angst or fear to the eavesdropper, which is the reader.

There, another word. Eavesdropper.  Those of us who read and those of us who writer are eavesdroppers, listening for hints or clues related to the inner secrets and turmoil.  We try to understand the complexities motivating behavior the characters might not understand.  But we do.

Our own least favored conditions are stasis or being at rest, weighted by the inertia of non movement. We are thus writing for those places we recognize from our own interior stasis or lack of inertia, because we understand how wired and programmed we are to want to use the resources we inventory within our self.

When you were first learning about such things as Newton's Laws, you were in grade school and junior high school classes called science, where teachers seemed more concerned with your behavior than your ability to grasp truer meanings within science.  Your own science teachers were frequently given to sighing at you in ways that could be interpreted to mean that your own lack of intelligent investigating was appalling, or that you were a comet, being forged by your own puberty, trailing attitude, bewilderment, and frustration about you like the tails of comets you could watch on The Science Channel.

You were too busy experiencing puberty to experience the understanding about the type of life you were already racing toward.  But now, it makes sense in ways you could not have grasped.  Story includes everything about you, the seen and unseen, the demonstrable and occult,

You had to learn how to experience writing and reading in the same ways you'd had to learn about all the other relevant and valuable things you had to learn while not being at rest inside yourself, not being static inside yourself, not being satisfied with the answers you'd already come to suspect as being too simplistic.

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