Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Between a Rock and a Story Place

Three words to describe story:  cause and effect.

Without cause or momentum or someone wanting something, there can be no awareness or discovery or effect, which is to say consequence.

Without Sisyphus straining to roll the boulder up to the top of the crest, there can be no boulder rumbling pell mell down hill, its consequence enhanced by the degree of the downward part of the hill.  Thus no huge mass of rock, tumbling downward, impervious to anything in its path.

Story can be the rock at the top of the hill, provided there is some hint of what the plummeting rock would do as it gathered momentum.  However difficult it may be for a reader to identify with or sympathize with that careening rock, you can approach being able to write about its downward trajectory by demonstrating how it is an instrument, an active part of an active punishment.

You have a medium range understanding of the potential for mischief inherent in that rock because your understanding of physics extends only so far, then is left to its own devices for the production of relevant information.  Based on the mass of the rock, the angle and length of the downward pathway of the rock, you can approach its ability to damage anything with which it is likely to come into contact.  

Man, horses, mules, and the like would stand no chance against the rock, once it had been delivered to the top of a hill, then allowed to sit at risk for any length of time before being sent off on its downward course..

In motion, the rock would transform from its stolid, rockiness to a kind of force often associated with brute nature, uncontrolled and highly potential violence.  If the rock had human qualities, it would be an ideal antagonist, its possible consequences open-ended.  Such are the qualities of certain types of antagonists.  But since it is inanimate, the best attributes you could give it would be mass and thus a significant potential to inflict mischief when set into any kind of motion.

You could make it the instrument of an animate being, which keeps it on the stage, enhances its sense of a menacing presence, causes it to exude a potential for dire consequences, the mere mention of would alert most readers to the fact that somewhere during the arc of the story, the protagonist would have to deal with that stone in motion.

There are stories in which a character causes some single, significant event to take place, simultaneously changing the character's life and those about him or her, to say nothing of having an effect on the way the character views other persons, places, things, and institutions.

An extreme example of cause may be found in a noun-oriented sense, say the Confederate States of America, which became a cause in the noun sense as a result of verb-related political and economical causes of a noun-related issues.  There are yet consequences some hundred-fifty years after the events.

Since story has begun to haunt you to the point where it seems to appear before you in metaphoric shape like the ghost of his father appeared to Hamlet, your own story ghost asks you to consider story, to write it, write about it, think about it, dissect it, and yes, even deconstruct it.

To this end, you have had repeated visions of Sisyphus and his eternal assignment to his rock, brought forth by Zeus.  You have done enough research to get a possible motive for Sisyphus' crime that he should be given such a harsh sentence.  Your fascination leads you to assign various anomalous personality types to the character of Sisyphus, including your own self.

Having to do anything in a repetitious manner for a normal job span is de-humanizing, doing so forever comes closer to definitions related to noir fiction, where there is a tangible effect on the human spirit.  Add to this equation of story the essay from Albert Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus," where Camus argues Sisyphus is a happy man.

Now, you have a story with a universal appeal because who among us has not felt confined to a dull, seemingly purposeless task.

Among the possibilities, this one, of Mrs. Sisyphus, trotting along next to her hapless husband, trying to make sense of why her husband seems so to enjoy his work when, as a king, he had considerable activities he needed to oversee.  Then it comes to us why Sisyphus likes the job.  He likes it because it means he is kept away from his wife.  He likes it because his dealings with the boulder keep him busy enough to stay away from home, and his nagging wife.

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