Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Pheremones of Drama

While on your way to the kitchen not too many days ago, you came upon your cat, Goldfarb, staring with great focus at something beyond your own line of vision.  Prompted by curiosity, you moved closer to the window that would give you a better perspective.  You could still not make out the subject of his interest, yet your curiosity continued, even to the point of supplying you possible scenarios.

So far as your relationship with Goldfarb is concerned, if he wishes something from you, he will find a direct way to communicate his wish.  For the better part of five more minutes, you watched a cat who was watching something you could not see.  

This continued until you were reminded of Angus, the Border Collie companion of your late wife.  Angus, and most of the Border Collies of your experience, have a fixed gaze of an intensity which they use as an effective tool in herding sheep or cattle.  Intense as Goldfarb's gaze was, you reckon the intensity of one of Angus's stares at least two times more intense yet.

Goldfarb's gaze was the curiosity of a cat, linked to one or more of his basic wiring circuitry.  A bird?  A dust mote?  A spider web?  Not knowable beyond speculation.  Angus and his kin use the stare to convince their target of the absolute priority of their goal, which relates to the herding training wired into Border Collies and the additional maneuvers they are taught.  

From time to time, you are likely to exhibit some of the ability to focus on a thing or task, perhaps even to the point of multitasking on subsequent strategy, which is to say, what you will do next, just as you acknowledge the potential for Goldfarb and Angus to click into a locked focus and begin to formulate a subsequent move.

No surprise that such observations nudge you into comparisons with story or, better still, an awareness of story you may have not articulated to yourself as of this moment.  A simple and direct comparison between the observations of a cat , a Border Collie, and Story in general suggests that all three share the common denominator of immediate action.

Story is immediate action.  There are occasions when the chronology is shifted about to bring in the relevant events from the past called backstory.  Most readers from about the age of Middle-grade or pre-YA readers onward are able to accommodate a non-linear sense of time because they have had intense personal experience with it.  

From about the middle teens onward, whether we are consciously aware of doing so or not, we focus on the immediate present, perhaps yanked back into past time because we've remembered something we'd forgotten, but as well drawn into the future in recognition of a need to have a particular task engaged at a certain time or to validate the assessment of personal obligations by such future-related thoughts as, "After nine p.m., I will have no obligations and my time will be my own for the next several hours."

Story is not only categorized by genre, some thoughts are given to the potential age range of readers, based on the linearity or complexity of time sequencing and such other sophistication as social, moral, and psychological conditions.

Narrative filtration such as point of view, reliability or naivete of the narrator, and authorial presence are among the qualities of story that have evolved over the centuries.  Without having specific critical vocabulary or training can give accurate estimates of when a story was composed, their clues coming from the awareness of change in narrative techniques.

You'd be hard pressed to identify with any accuracy your awareness of when you were first "in" a story you were reading, absorbed to the point where you'd lost contact with the present moment of the time frame you were in.  You were too busy being absorbed by and, thus, "in" the immediacy of the story itself.  

You do know you are aware of such transportation now, which is one reason why reading is so pleasurable for you, and also because this is the sort of transportation for which you strive when you compose fiction and nonfiction.  This is also the sort of transportation you have in mind when you edit your own work or the work of someone else, and indeed when you present such matters to your writing classes.

When dialogue becomes too conversational, what you call "chatty," it ceases to be dialogue, transformed into non-dramatic things such as explanations or defensiveness or screed or morality.  When story stops being immediate, it devolves into the same kinds of narrative analogs to the things dialogue ceases to become when it descends into conversation.

Story and dialogue stride along with purpose.  They are worthy components of the dramatic effect.  They support one another, engage one another, exude the same kinds of chemistry we find in two or more actors radiating a kind of chemistry that becomes the pheromones  of drama.

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