Saturday, February 8, 2014

Would You Buy a Used Car with a "Iago Rocks" Bumpersticker?

You sit in some convenient work area, poised for a session of composition.  An idea or concept arrives, knocking to see if there is anyone home, which is to say if anyone is in who is serious about getting on with the project.

In another scenario, you could be in a supermarket, shopping for the ordinary needs, when, of a sudden, an idea or concept arrives.  Better yet, you are somewhere a diverse cultural demographic gathers.  Your attention is arrested; you are immersed in a conversation taking place in all apparent innocence of your presence.  The signs are right for eavesdropping.  You follow the signs.

In either of these cases, at home in a usual work area or out and about, plying the warp and weft of your outer life, an inevitable dynamic flares into life.  This is the dynamic of dialectic, the argumentative discussion of options, potentials, category.  This is the place where the story begins to take on a life of its own, in opposition to your vision for it.  

Your vision could well be the more riveting, dramatically sound approach, nevertheless the story is in there, sending exciting messages that make you wish to do the one thing you know you must not do.  Stop.  Reconsider.  Ask pointed questions, not the vital pointed questions, rather the ones sounding so certain, so high-flown, so logical that you, no real student of philosophy, cave in.  You take this range of questions to mean you've settled on a theme of vast, impenetrable approach for probing the nooks and crannies of human behavior.  

Congratulations, you've gone from telling a story to explaining it in all manner of descriptive type instead of evoking the story in all conceivable aspects of implication.  You've chosen the immediate and clear, two forces argued to be lacking in much day-to-day interaction and thus of high desirability.  

You set a draft or two in motion, experiencing the heady sensation of characters within your narrative coming to life, wrapping themselves about the armature of your intended motivation.  These feelings are often so good, you resolve to return to this approach for composing because the feelings coalesce to remind you how industrious and productive you've been, how enjoyable the projects and the process that produces the industrious sense within you.

Furthermore, you resolve to compose on at least three days out of the seven hopeful such a schedule will produce recognizable material of craft.  You will recognize the need for more work, but you will have learned from observing the source of the story how important process--any process--is to the overall craft of writing stories.

You will also discover how, the more involved in the project you become, the greater the probability you will be getting into arguments among those numerous categories that comprise your personality, your range of tastes, your personal code of taboo, and if you are honest enough, your willingness to bend or cut off entirely the border guards of good taste.

A particularly virulent argument may come forth as two sides present themselves in arm-wrestle:  the story meant to entertain versus the story meant to essay the moral values and weaknesses of a particular time.

You may find yourself facing a moment in which your sense of conventional behavior prevents you from doing the things you need most to do, which is the touring deeper into the backwaters of your darker side, wishing to wreak more revenge, manipulate the Utopian future to resist the temptation to up the portrayal of human depravity.

No, no, a thousand times no.  The arguments are more often than not against the boundaries of niceness, sometimes disguised as a question:  Is this book written to merely satisfy girl readers, and if so, how are boys to be portrayed?

You can't have an engaging narrative without having this internal argument within a character.  All the while, the character rewards us even more, thanks to his or her thinking the reward or the prize will provoke enough controversy to make the contest even more fraught and in the news.

Disasters and their consequences must have deeper tentacles, in effect providing a ringside seat for their opposite numbers.  Engagements must seem long enough for arguments from within and battles from families and/or ethnic rivalries to seem out of the picture--until they emerge as very much the picture.

You've pretty much lost your patience with one-dimensional characters, Iago sound-alikes who exist only to provoke conflict that can be rationalized as pure whim.  You want individuals who breathe fire or snort flames.  At the same time, you want characters who are fighting off internal coups from dissident sides of themselves.

When was the last time you saw a one-dimensional villain?  Seems to you, it was right here, in real life.  A single-dimension villain can flourish in real life, but to make the crossover, the villain would have to have an enormous ego or intelligence or some preeminent talent--for which suggested explanations seem like examples, making communication seem impossible.


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