Monday, November 10, 2014

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

John wants an education.  He wants the tools of learning and personal growth he senses to be resident in most of the individuals he admires and--because John is neither dumb nor lacking in potential--in many of the individuals he dislikes for one reason or another.

How nice for John, you say.  You base this mild nod in John's direction because you recognize how most individuals want some sort of education, but even more in this direction; you know of few individuals who chose to remain dumb.

Mary, on the other hand, wishes to study chemistry because of her belief that a greater understanding of how some elements have special affinities for other elements will cause her to become the skilled chef she wishes to become.

You're already rooting for Mary because she has a specific goal in mind which will, if her hypothesis is correct, give her a tangible boost toward some of the major self- aspects of life, self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-analysis.  If her efforts to learn chemistry and her subsequent use of that knowledge to produce better results in the kitchen prove to be complete, unrelenting failures, she will still have profited from following the risks inherent in experiment.

Even knowing this little about Mary, you are beginning to like her, to wonder, in fact, how she will cope with some major reversals, which is to say you already know enough about what Mary wants to have begun speculating a story in which she has a major role if not the major role.

And John?  Well, you wish him all the best.  The point here is to note the importance of goals and purpose resident in the characters you bring on stage or page because this is an equivalent moment in story to the theoretical moment in evolution where a living organism speculates to itself, I wonder how it would be living on land instead of having to spend so much time swimming in this ocean, where there are so many large creatures such as whales, blue fin tuna, manatees, and porpoises, with appetites for beings such as me.

As the show runner writer-producer in this scenario, you have the additional opportunity to grant Mary other things than the result she seeks most.  You have the ability to provide her with such a spectacular result that in time, Chef Mary products will be more numerous than Chef Wolfgang Puck.  But will this make her happy, or will this story be a variation on the theme of The Sorcerer's Apprentice (which, for personal reasons) you have a great affinity.  Yes, Mary's ventures into chemistry have opened the doors of her imagination, revealing greater results than she'd imagined.  A glowing theme begins to emerge here:  Achieving your goals brings responsibility.  Or yet another theme:  Is it better to be goal oriented or process driven?

One of the themes you gave Mary, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, resonates for you to the point where you might steal it from her to pursue your own agenda of investigating your own theme, not the theme of the character you have created.  Early in your observation of story and of the men and women who crafted them, your enthusiasm for the medium led you to one of your two most volatile emotions, impatience (the other was anger).  The writers you chose made the process look so simple that you believed you could not only do it but do it as well as they could.  How many years did it take for you to realize how great a part of you being attracted to these particular writers had as its basis the fact that their techniques and voices made them so accessible?  Funny you should ask now.  But not funny during the time you spent learning the truth.

At one time, even though he was already dead and thus had no voice in the matter, you had yourself on a peer level with Robert Louis Stevenson.  By the time you'd got around to reading his  Travels with a Donkey, you were thinking of him as Bob, imagining him reading your version, then nodding that nod of an approving peer.  Your own Travels was set in the area around Virginia City, and you were dropping hints in the text of how your own ventures in the Nevada high desert owed its spark of life to Bob, whom you'd decided to refer to by his initials, RLS, because Bob was somehow a bit too much.

This, of course, was when your Travels was in the planning stage and you'd had the benefit of reading Bob's Travels and, while you were at it, Sam's Travels, except that Sam's Travels were Roughing It, and to prove you had at least a scintilla of awareness, you knew your own
Roughing It was still a few years off.

One thing to be a self-designated apprentice to a number of sublime sorcerers.  Another thing altogether to think you could exercise the same craft without learning it.  Ah, those subsequent years after the discovery.  But at least you had the sorcerers to read and reread during those fraught, uncertain times, where your heart was broken if not at the end of every paragraph, then at the end of a day's efforts to get the paragraphs to perform the magic you required of them.

This leaves you well beyond John, who does achieve admirability by wishing education.  So do you.  Your heart is with Mary in the sense that you wish to know the equivalent of what was chemistry for Mary.  You wish to embark on the study of composition.

By the way, Bob's donkey, Lodestone, was a dead ringer for your grasp on craft, stubborn, manipulative, and a force to be suffered.  You are left now at your age, wondering once again about your naivety as a narrator.  It was all there before you in your reading.  Even as you read it then, you knew it was there for you; all you had to do was take it in, integrate it, then go chasing after it, each time it got away from you.

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