Saturday, April 11, 2015

Time Management

When it comes to reading a page of music, you have an equivalency ratio of about a third grade understanding of written text.  See Spot run and jump.  

Your strength in reading music, acknowledged with no intent of irony, is your ability to recognize the time value of notes, from a full note right on up the spectrum to a sixty-fourth note.  In some cases, you can decipher the key--B flat, C sharp, F sharp, etc--and yes, you are able to discern the treble and bass clefs.

Given enough time to peruse the musical score, you can distinguish the relative tempo--presto, adagio, andante, etc--of a segment, but you could not glance at a random sheet of musical score and either hear in your mind or be able to hum the value of the notes.  

This musical illiteracy provides you with the high-grade irony of you being able to hear the words of a text.  This kind of hearing, you understand, it not all that remarkable; many readers are able to hear the words as they read.

Even though you cannot "read" music in any close approximation of the way you read written text--The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog--you were able to take away an important element of story from printed music.  Further reflection on this point has caused you to understand how, for untold years, as you were listening to music--any kind of music--either in live performance or recorded, music was helping you understand a key aspect of story on ways you'd never dreamed possible, not until you began to think about, then study  the ways in which actors convey the primary goal of story, which is feeling.

Chance conversations with photographers left you with yet another way to see story as it progressed from some intriguing event or statement of beginning, all the way to as much resolution as the author cared to give the story before leaving it to the persons who would read it.  Light is a frequent topic of discussion among photographers, the meaning and derivation of the first two syllables of its defining word.  Photo means light.  Great light in the morning.  Light is too glare-laden here.  Need artificial lighting to capture this.  Either that or keep the lens open longer.  Aha.  Time.  Timing.  

You know a tad more about photography than music.  By your assessment, the most important thing you know about photography is that if you close the lens aperature down to its smallest opening, say an f 22, and are able to keep the shutter open for any length of time, the result is going to show a great sense of depth of field.

All this talk about the importance of light, and you required years to come away with the awareness of the similarity between story, music, acting, and photography.  All rely on time.  When you shift the conversation to your primary concern, which is not only story, it is short story, you are able to live with your relative ignorance of the languages of music and acting and photography because you have, in mitigation of that ignorance, a more nuanced sense yet of story.

You know a few ways, right off the top of your head, for controlling the passage of time in a story, ways that go beyond the mere stating the elapse of time, as in "Later," or "Later that day," or "At length, (which is best followed by a pronoun--he, she, it, they)," or the yet more specific time line, "He needed longer than he'd hoped," or "What she'd hoped would only take a few months required two years of her time."  

There are even more ways of causing the awareness of time to speed up or slow down, not the least of which is the shortening or lengthening of sentences.  If. You. Write. Like. This. The result imparts a sense of breathlessness and, thus excitement or, in context, of. considerable. emphasis.

Another approach is to break dialogue up in different ways with action.  "This," she said, "is driving me nuts."  Or, "This is," she stood, "as far as I go without an explanation."  Or, "This," he folded his arms, "represents my last offer."

Don't forget one of the simplest time-management tricks of all:  Arrive at someone asking a question or making a decision, then, before the question can be answered or the decision made, his the return key twice for a space break, indicating the end of a scene.

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