Thursday, January 15, 2015

Activity: Action on Steroids

Activity, if persistent and vigorous, becomes a significant force in the burning of calories and the potential for weight loss.  Certain books, motion pictures, and television dramas remind you of this observation.  

Characters within these dramatic landscapes seem to you to be chosen for their well-sculpted body, rather than their story-related goals, even much less for their ability to act, to come off the page in a dimensional surge of personality and life force.

An alarming number of prospective writers whose work passed through your hands in your editorial and teaching capacities seem to enjoy detailing the steps a character takes to get from car to office or living room to kitchen 'frige to secure a beer.  Even worse, some in this type like to give blow-by-blow details of fights, or the exact number of casts with a fly rod needed to land a trout, or the number of strokes with an iron to have a shirt or blouse crisp and fresh for the next day's wear.

From your own perspective, active people seem more slender and fit looking than less active individuals.  That same perspective allows you to conclude your own rate of activity could increase by a factor of ten percent of fifteen percent above the current rate, not so much for weight management purposes as for those of general health.

Without the slightest intent of double entendre, you find some people-related activity attractive.  But this is related to your belief that most people are at the very least attractive in a number of ways, and yes, some are pretty much attractive at whatever they do.  

This leads off into the individual's overall stance related to happiness.  Although you take no pride in your ironing skills,there were times when your finances dictated that you iron your own shirts.  Much of the time, you were so pleased with the notion of being able to do the task without botching it that you were happy while doing the ironing.

The point here is to distinguish action, the movement necessary to initiate, maintain, and support story, from activity.  In your view, activity often translates to an inchoate group of individuals waving swords, shooting arrows, firing automatic weapons, having arguments in which things are thrown at walls, mirrors, windows, and other persons.  

To the same extent some readers, movie goers, and TV watchers enjoy the spectacle of horror or suspense or, worse yet, violence, there is an audience for activity.  You are playing casting director here, when you see such fans as individuals whose real-time lives are so devoid of action that their reward comes from the passive positioning of the self in some form of audience, where other individuals take on activity for them.

You should use parentheses here to remind yourself in digressive connection of your tendency to look down on those who prefer activity over content that produces action.  You do not look down on readers or writers of romance or fantasy or uplifting, parable-like stories.  

Matters boil down to this:  In your time, you've tried to write nearly every genre of story you're aware of; you even have two pseudonyms (Walter Feldspar and Craig Barstow) for that sub-genre of historical fiction called The Western.  You've essayed fantasy, science fiction, horror, and mystery, some with greater rates of success than others.  

Seeing activity story and its insistence on the detail of steps taken, exact sizes, number of stitches, colors, and the like reminds you of your pain at reading your own efforts at translating mere activity to story elements, strong reminders that activity alone is of a par with what you once considered naturalism.  

Lew paced the floor twenty-three times before he came up with a solution.  How many times do I have to tell you no, she asked.  Isn't six times enough?  You'd think he'd have learned some greater strategy after having been dumped by six girlfriend.  Ah, the sting is still there; you could hardly wait at one time to get your characters to excuse themselves in order to inspect the loo facilities of host or hostess, the better to learn the true nature of the host or hostess from the contents of medicine cabinets, drawers, shelves, and closets.  

Action finds its best translations in actors doing physical things to convey feelings and engagement with the needs of the story, and in writers allowing us to see from the way a character responds to story points and reacts to the setting about him or her.


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