Friday, November 14, 2014

Off Course on Purpose

You've been giving wide and various considerations to the historical aspects of the chimera that is story, paying attention to some of the early times before readers understood that story was an invention, contrived to seem real.  Some readers, on the discovery that what they'd believed to be an actual history was in fact an invention, expressed the anger of those betrayed or deceived.

In the approximate interim of six hundred years, ironies of all sorts have crept into story.  Today, the reader is rare who enters story with the belief that it is real.  In fact, the reader enters with the chip of cynicism on his or her shoulder, daring the writer to knock it off by causing us to believe the story and its ensemble cast are real.  

We pride ourselves on being able to understand these distinctions, motivating at least one writer, Truman Capote, to produce a volume, Music for Chameleons, in which the reader is not at all certain the events portrayed and the characters involved in them are unreal.

Matters progress from the 1980 publication of  Music for Chameleons to the point where certain mainstream fiction is thought to be closer to the actual events and individuals therein portrayed than a work of nonfiction dealing with the same times, events, and people.  

Point-of-view--the person or persons relating the story--has evolved into a chimera of its own, a remarkable composition of parts which, taken together, somehow seem larger than the whole.  Today's diligent reader has to scramble to determine if the filter or narrator of a story is naive, reliable, or biased.

In another display of irony, today's reader will often question to the point of dismissal depictions of behavior and information that are quite accurate while at the same time accepting behavior and information at some distance from actuality.

Wide, historical sweeps are of great interest to you, in particular when you are able to see in them traces of patterns which are bench marks of evolving process.  Taking these sweeps of awareness into account, then trying to search for patterns helps you to overcome the ever-present sense of being overwhelmed by the inevitable consequences of event.  

In this case, the overwhelming force is the yearly parade of story, either in its exquisite short story form, its intermediate form of the novella, or the longform, which is the novel, itself one of the more remarkable of all potential chimeras.

You'd already written several novel-length manuscripts before taking the time to note your definition of the novel, then consider ways in which your own productions differed from that vision.  By using the process of triangulation, you'd try to be able to present a consolidated front to students and yourself, using your own vision of the novel as the outlier in this metric.

Trouble began at once because you did not like the thing you'd described the novel to be.  You saw some admirable things in your vision, but more undesirable things.  When you began trying to work out what you'd like the novel to be, you had a feeling of what it must have been like for seafarers who moved beyond the shore line and, thus,beyond a place where they had landmarks.

You still enjoy this position.  What you are doing is in effect a combination of gathering and sorting.  Sounds neat, orderly, purposeful, but for it to work, you need to have some sense of how the process of story works, and some kind of reliable system wherein you can file the things you discover and the things you produce.

In those ah-ha moments where you begin to think you have a sense of how story works and what it wants, you often feel confident enough now, whether because of your age, your experience, or your determined stubbornness.  With this confidence, you emulate the early mariners; you venture beyond landmarks.

Story is taking a number of persons beyond sight of shore, then trying to find your way.  You've reached this position enough times to know what it means.  Things are not apt to change for you.  Each time you catch the whiff of an idea to the point where it draws you into the search for a route, you understand the overarching nature of the process, which is adrift, asea without navigational tools, with no coastline for landmarks, no night skies, brilliant with stars which you cannot in any case read.  You've tried walking away from the process, but that doesn't work, either.  You'll just have to stay out here, looking, until you can find your way back in.

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