Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Waiting. For Godot, an Itch, and a Mosquito.

Although a mosquito is a live, buzzing nuisance and an itch, however persistent, is an abstraction, they share considerable common ground.

Each drives story elements along the bumpy road to engagement with an audience, taking us from mere, ambiguous concept to the roar of conundrum we recognize as drama.  In addition, mosquito and itch serve as abstractions and tangibles.

The mosquito--well, the female mosquito--wants blood for her supper.  Nourishment for her eggs, she says.  The male is more a vegan, content with nectar or other sweet juices.  Force a female to stick to the sugary stuff and her ability to produce eggs is  gone, pffft.  There you have it, agenda.  Reason for being.  Figure at least one batch of eggs per bloody meal.  Figure a life span of two, three weeks.

At the primary level, an itch is an idiosyncratic response of a specific patch of skin, triggering a desire to scratch.  Sometimes a mild scratch or two will alleviate the itch, whereupon it will do what benign conditions within story do, which is to say cease.  On the other hand, one or two scratches might not be enough to send the itch off packing.  

Some itches are not ready to call it quits, a condition that can result in further agitation of the place on the skin where the itch appears to reside.  Itches appear for reasons of their own, making it easy for our species to consider them live entities with the ability to think.  Itches are adept at accommodation, piggyback riding on the skin's early warning systems and its connection to our own processor, the brain.

Itches, being genderless, are already more versatile than the mosquito; they can be triggered by a variety of conditions and symptoms.  Something as small as a bead of perspiration running down a back or arm or face will translate into an itch.  Unlike mosquitoes, itches are not tied to a forceful agenda requiring blood; itches can improvise, sprawl where they see fit.

No surprise to see how itch has evolved from a desire to scratch a particular spot of skin to the broader implication of a desire for something or to do something, which can only be scratched, in metaphor or literally, by achieving the thing desired or doing the thing itched for.

In a most literal way, every main character--and many minor ones--in fiction get the story going by itching for something, even if the itch is to get out of here, wherever that may be, and over to somewhere else.  Still not a story.  John wishes to leave Bakersfield.  John itches to leave Bakersfield.  At last, John leaves, and now the story begins.

A writer--say you--is working furiously to finish a novel.  No story yet.  So we ramp it up by factoring in a deadline.  Publisher expects the novel next week.  Still no story.  Okay, factor in a bonus on the advance if the novel is delivered next week.  Go ahead, factor away, because there is still no story.  Now we factor in a female mosquito.

The female mosquito is looking for a nosh of your blood, circling about you in your work area, checking you out to see if you give off the scent.  Still not a story, not until the mosquito becomes such a distraction that you can't concentrate.  Then she is not only an irritation, she represents an opposing force, accelerating in intensity as you, like Wile E. Coyote after Roadrunner, become increasingly more determined to put an end to her already brief life cycle and in the process causing complications to your computer and printer and as well to your ability to compose at the needed level of concentration.

In an hyperbole sense, mosquito and itch become interchangeable.  You have equal rancor at each, and an agenda against both, your attempts to cope not only distracting you and causing you to take time away from your main goal but opening the door for you, in your accelerated frustration, to b ring about even more setbacks.

Part of the inspiration for these vagrant paragraphs is an itch that, were it endowed with intelligence, would cause you to think it was putting the tease or taunt on you.  In consequence of such things as rubbing your back against the wall, you have already knocked over a vase of pussy willow, scattering pussy willow blossoms about the floor and causing a blob of water on the floor.

You have twice had to stop what you were working on, remove your shirt, then use a bath towel as a medium to scratch the itch into submission.  You are now at your computer sans shirt, should the itch take a notion to return.

At one time in your writing career, when life was indeed more simple, you were on the lookout for more tangible story elements such as denouement, plot, characters, dialogue, reversal, and antagonists.

With age comes responsibility, greater experiential range, and the increased need to write with no shirt.

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