Friday, March 27, 2015

Something Has Changed

Story relies on change  in the same way characters are predicated on desire.  You could quit right there, because you'd have said it all, observed the formation of the essential driving forces.  But such is the beauty of story that even if you were to stop right there, story would keep moving, set some event in motion, cause some discovery to be made that will have an effect on someone.

Whether you are a mere observer, say a reader or a watcher of a performed drama, a writer who is about to enter the stream of process, or a character, already linked into the unfolding of the story and its inevitable consequences, you are a part of the package.  You are involved.

Let's retrace our steps a bit.  Something happened.  Someone has gone missing.  A thing of consequence has been lost.  And now?  Now, someone comes after it, looking for it.  Someone of consequence appears, either to supervise the search or to charge a specific individual with finding the missing thing.  Person?  Thing?  I don't care how long it takes.  Find it.  Bring it back.  To me.  Stops, reaches into pocket, pulls out a wad of bills, peels off several.  Here.  Let me know if you need more.  Let me know if you need anything else.

By this point, we eavesdroppers have felt the tug of change pulling at our sleeve.  We have been yanked out of passivity or disinterest, down to the shoreline of a rushing stream where, with any luck at all, we will be swept along downstream to a point some distance away, where there is a point at which significant elements will be gathered in some kind of sedimentary closure.

By this point, we, the first observers to have come upon the intact design of the story, will have undergone yet another change.  We'll have begun disinterested, of course, then curious, then changed in the way short fiction, narrative poetry, and novels work change on those who read them.  If the story in question was written by Stephen King, we'll have gone from disinterested to curious to frightened, likely to have been turned loose again with a nagging hint of suspicion of more fear to come, right around the next bend.  

If the story was written by a mystery writer, we'll have become changed once again, this time from the stasis of disinterest to the intrigue supported by a puzzle.  In the process of investigating the aspects of the puzzle, we'll have changed at least one more time, evolving to the point where we either experience the satisfaction of solving the puzzle or the disappointment of having found the puzzle beneath our level of ability.

If the story is a fantasy, which by its own convention relies on some form of magic, will this fantasy help or hinder us in our attempts to live with the sturdiness of reality based on observable phenomena?  Will it open doors and windows and shutters that will allow the light of the unseen to show us the change of recognition that comes when we see things previously hidden within the shadows of our individual ignorance?

Change is all we have become that we were not before we encountered those tempting morsel set before us by the witch.  Change is the we now in possession of some answer or, if the work in question is a poem or a short story, change is the we afloat in that limbo just before the early arrival of an answer that will satisfy.

Change is the condition we suspect at first because we might not like the effects the change will have wrought on us; it is also the we of the past, before this story began.  Now we must judge whether or not we were happy before we began.  Are we eager to move in the direction change will take us or, to use an apt cliche, do we reflexively dig our heels in, dragging them to impede the forward progress into change.

Not all change is for the good, nor is change for the mere sake of difference a worthwhile state.  Not all new things are as good as or better than older things.  Will the changes time and story and discovery have on you make you a more evolved person or, to follow one scenario, a less accountable person?  In still another scenario, will change make you more adaptable or more stubborn, remembering the importance of that word, adaptable, as it was used by Charles Darwin.

Something happens and someone or something changes.

Story has changed.  Your university education sent you back into the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteen centuries to see the benchmarks left by the literary equivalents of Amundsen and Shackleton of those days.  Your explorations led you to a raucous celebration with the changes of the century into which you were born, leading you to see if you can trace the digressions and diversions from convention story is taking in this still relatively new century.

How will this new century of story change you?

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