Monday, February 8, 2016

Somewhere, a Voice Is Calling

On those occasions when you find difficulty beginning you day's venture into investigating the two worlds of Reality and your imagination, you often take yourself to a coffee shop, preferably a busy one. An empty coffee shop will in the long run do you no good. 


True enough, you'll have picked the coffee shop because of your judgment, informing you how luscious the coffee is there, but in equal truth, you have the equipment at home to make a passable cup of coffee. Even though you seek a coffee shop, you go there to set up shop because of another matter altogether.

Your visit to the coffee shop begins with your recognition that you need specific, focused concentration to get you inside the project you're working on, in a sense becoming one with it and its attitudes. You go away from home in search of conversations at nearby tables or, in special occasions, well across the room. 

You want the conversations under ideal circumstances to be between two individuals, one of whom speaks in a high squeak. Gender is not an issue here; you've found as many men as women who speak forth in a high squeak.

The other quality you seek, the second banana to this duo, as it were, is democracy in action. You want a loud, unpleasant voice, made unpleasant as much from self-regard as tonal quality. You wish to hear these two, in full conversation, squeak, groan, me, me, I, I, I. You wish to feel parts of your body, responding to the conversation, wishing to roll up or down as a canvas awning at a store front. You wish to become irritated to the point of nodding your head in recognition of this, this conversation, this irritating conversation, being your reason for being at this coffee shop at this time.

This will seem a leap of logic, but it is not. Some years ago, you began asking beginning students to name as many basic story elements as they could. Plot. Denouement. Reversal. Suspense. Confrontation. And so forth. 

More often than not, the students would become interested, then contribute certain elements. Dialogue. Narrative. Pacing. Interior monologue.None of them would mention the element--quality--you had in mind and which is the reason for these paragraphs. The quality is voice, which i the way a particular composition sounds.

Voice is also the way you sound, the literary equivalent of the spin or English you impart to the cue ball when you send it off on its way to nudge, caress, or bluster its way through a crowd. Voice is a tangible quality, allowing you to distinguish one story from another, and, almost as vital, one character from another.

You were quite explicit about the way those two imaginary voices in the imaginary coffee shop would sound. If they sounded inviting, pleasant, learned, funny, intriguing, then you'd want to join them in their discussion. As you've constructed the element, the voices are irritating to the point where you have to concentrate in order to neutralize them so that you can hear your own voice and attitude.

How easy it becomes, then for you to ask your students to arrange the qualities they can name in a hierarchy, with the most important being on top, the least important at the bottom. The result is an individual literary portrait.

Your own top element is, thus, Voice. Your bottommost element is plot, for almost obvious reasons. Because you are so alert to the sounds of the voices, the effect of one upon the other becomes your way of dealing with plot. You can tell when one voice is being sarcastic or perhaps trying to please. Thus Voice gives you plot. You accept it and run with it, even at a coffee shop.

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