Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Aftertaste: Life off the Page

In order to understand the orbital nature of story, you need to remind yourself on frequent occasion how a story may have several potential places for a beginning, but no matter which is chosen as a starting-out point, the beginning is not the true beginning.

Sometimes, in haste, we chose the wrong place for the beginning, then spend as much time and space getting to the beginning as it would take a proper beginning to shift into movement toward the midpoint of the material.

While you were in the process of learning your way around beginnings, your strategy was to pick some spot at random, then do your best to imbue the involved characters with an exaggerated sense of impatience, causing some sort of eruption or combustion sooner.  At this point, you could see a strong candidate for a beginning, which in effect would be an in medias res of an argument type of beginning.

Another fertile approach was triangulation, in which two characters who have some basis for a relationship are confronted by a complete stranger, often one who is lost or asking for directions. Character A says piece of cake, your destination is readily accessible.  Here's how to get there.

 Character B immediately disagrees, first of all that the stranger's hoped for destination is all that easy to reach and even more to the point of combustion, that the directions given by A were totally ill advised and inappropriate.

This can be fun, because Character A feels his judgment had been attacked along with his accuracy.  The complete stranger is in effect stranded, watching these two locals argue, his own sense of vulnerability becoming more immediate with each passing exchange of dialogue.

Next step in this scenario is to turn the tide against the stranger by having both A and B attack him.  Then, if you can manage, to turn the tables once more, by which stratagem the stranger regains stature by taking it from A and B.

You are also pleased with the anomaly in your observation that most beginnings are not true beginnings, only compromise beginnings or what you like to think of as negotiated settlement beginnings in which the writer--often you--settle on a beginning that seems most plausible.  By this, you mean a beginning requiring the least possible explanation regarding characters, their goals, agendas, or past history.

That is not by any means a shabby description of a beginning.  Even so, such a beginning is only an accommodation because a true story is orbital, revolving to a point where almost any point in the orbit can be a place to begin, any place in consequence a possible ending.  When you see beyond a story, to its orbit, you can control the effect it will deliver by adjusting the point of beginning.

There is ending after the actual ending as well as a beginning not being the real beginning.  This is called life off the page or aftertaste, which does in its way equate the ending of a story with garlic, which, to be sure, is an aftertaste.  But it is not the only one.

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