Saturday, July 11, 2015


After months of practice and close observation, you were able under most circumstances to induce a cue ball to follow after the numbered pool ball or the solid red and numbered snooker balls.  This was accomplished by hitting the cue ball with the cue slightly above center of the cue ball.

By aiming lower, below cue ball center, then delivering a short, brisk stroke of the cue, you were able in most instances to cause the cue ball to retreat some considerable distance from the object ball you'd aimed at.  

To complete the phenomenon, you learned how, by delivering a swift, sharp stroke to the cue ball at direct center, you could propel the object ball either into a pocket or against a rail from which it would carom to a point behind one or two other object balls, where you would have snookered or trapped the shooter following you, causing him the great likelihood of making scratch errors that would deduct points from his total score.

This process, called English or spin, is an essential skill to master if one has any hopes of running the table, which is to say systematically sinking all the balls on the table in one turn at the cue, this last a feat you dreamed of but were never able to consummate, even in practice by yourself.

By acquiring sufficient skills in applying English or spin, you were able to sink four or five balls in one turn.  Perhaps another five or six hundred hours would have extended your table-clearing activities.  Perhaps not.

In your mind, there is a correlation between the English or spin one puts on a cue ball to the equivalent quality in narrative technique, the narrative voice.  With the deftness of narrative voice, you have found yourself manipulated or spun from the merest contact with the opening paragraphs of a particular story,  You follow without question, or you begin to sniff the air to see if there is some unstated clue that will prove out in subsequent pages.  

There is of course the possibility of you recoiling from a certain character, only to discover, farther down the line of story, how you were meant to do this very thing.  This happened to you about a year or so ago, when you first read Gone Girl.  In recent weeks, you had the same reaction while reading the opening chapters of Girl on a Train.

The point you're after here is how the voice in a narrative leads you on by its embedded sense of urgency or, perhaps, a tone of confidentiality.  Quite often, there is no real story established yet beyond the conversational lure of the voice.  In that lure, there is a sense of something impending, of some spring being tightly wound, of some cup being filled to overflow.  

But as of yet, there is nothing overt, only the presence of the narrative voice.  That is about as important to you as the first swallow of beer on a hot day, the first sniff of a tangy cognac, the first bite of a perfectly prepared stead.

You knew all this about yourself, but lacked the reasons and means for connecting the dots until recently, spending time on what works well for many writers you admire but which does not bring you the pleasure you like to get from writing.  This all relates to the mixture of metaphor here between pool, snooker, story and novels, where the common denominator is English, as in spin, as opposed to English as in language.

For your tastes, story is a better word than plot, although each intends a gradual unreeling of a design in which information is gradually revealed, then scattered or disturbed, whereupon movement is under way.  You spent more time trying to teach yourself plot than English, but your results were sporadic until you came upon the vision of seeing your characters as inherently different in their spin while each incorrectly assesses the spin of the others.

Difficult to ignore the crackle of tension among individuals, all of whom are spinning with different intent.  Difficult as well, even as the writer, to ignore the call of adventure inherent in the impending chaos to be unleashed.

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