Conversation is the sound two or more individuals make when they are getting along or trawling for a subject to engage. Sometimes when you are in a stream of conversation, you become aware of the easygoing, floating sense of the transactions, which you then try to liven up as much as possible with specifics as opposed to generalities.
A variation on the theme of conversation occurs when one or more parties in an ordinary conversation shifts into some role playing status such as trying to impress the others with acquired knowledge or with opinion disguised as inside information.
Beyond the desire to convey information of moderate importance, the basic intent of conversation is to pass time, to provide a sense of good fellowship, or, out of boredom, to initiate an argument.
Argument is often the result of conversation between disparate individuals or groups, where a neutral observer might in fact be able to identify two or more separate streams of conversation. These streams are growing heated because the participants rise to the occasion by becoming more vocal and quite possibly defensive in the presentation of their major thesis.
Alcohol is often a lubricant for argument, oiling the irony of the respective forces, who persist in their own theme with little or no regard for the thesis of the others in the conversation, in fact often demonstrating their scorn.
A variation on the theme of argument is internal within one individual, who is also proceeding in the belief she or he is presenting a binary from which a decision is to be made. Such arguments often end when the individual is in actuality winning the debate and, angered at the weight of the argument, says "Fuck it," then proceeds to do what he or she wished to do before the argument began.
There are two or three reasons for argument, one more often than not forgotten is to pass time at a more interesting pitch than the time passing related to conversation. Argument is also a convenient form of establishing social rank and dominance, of getting one's own way, and foreshadowing future agenda.
Dialogue is the sound of story, expressing its various perspectives through a combination of pressure or tipping points. The basic source of energy in story is the outcome of conflicting agendas. What better way to propel story toward some necessary combustion point, say the end of a scene or chapter, than one of the forms of conversation or argument listed above?
Ending a chapter with two characters who believe they are in agreement but who convey to the reader a completely different circumstance will create the dramatic equivalent of producing an unresolved series of notes in music. The reader, requiring resolution, begins the next scene or chapter, which the alert author will have then resolved while in the simultaneous act of working on another unresolved chord.
Whenever you think or speak of dialogue, you are at some effort to broadcast how unlike conversation it is. Dialogue is confrontation of story points, made to seem as though two or more principal characters are having a conversation. Well and good; story is not Reality, story is internal and external jousting of theme, plot, and character idiosyncrasy, each making statements which the others override in defense of their own agenda.
In your early twenties, when you began reading Dashiell Hammett, John O'Hara, and James M. Cain, you found ample occasions to copy passages of admired dialogue into the notebooks you began carrying with you in hopes of being able to fill them with something significant. You were entranced with their dialogue and how much dramatic energy there was in nearly every exchange between characters. You were so impressed that you began trying to use dialogue in Real Time Life, only to be met with stares of incomprehension. O'Hara came the closest to producing dialogue you could use as conversation.
More often than not, dialogue does not work in Real Life situations any more than conversation works in story. Argument becomes the safe position by default.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
There is a part of you that wants tangible proof, requests sources, citations, and other assurances of stability. This aspect of you is rather proud of the number of times it checks facts considered unreliable, prefers to admit innocence or ignorance rather than to take as established fact something long since disemboweled on Snopes.com or some other equivalent of sensible peer review.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
You'd not given much thought to parallel lines until you were forced to define what the term meant, then prove the lines were truly parallel. This came about in the eleventh grade, when you were introduced to geometry and an aspect of yourself you'd had some experience with but had not defined to your satisfaction.
By the time you'd reached grade eleven, the habit was already in place: If a question were raised by a teacher or, for that matter, any adult in authority, you'd volunteer an answer to that question, whether you had a rehearsed answer in mind or not. This is a euphemistic way of saying you were alert to answering questions, whether you knew their answer or not.
There is one more confessional detail at work here: Your answer might have been invented on the spot. It might have had a significant degree of accuracy, a modicum of it, or none at all. Much as you enjoyed having the right answer at hand or being able to make an intelligent guess at the answer, you also enjoyed being able to have your answer, however much it varied from the actual answer, taken as though it were accurate.
Back then, as well as now, the word "lie" as in untruth, did not enter the equation, rather the word fabrication, sometimes used as a euphemism for telling one or more lies, was your pole star, if not the teacher/adult to whom you were venturing your answer.
You did not at the time have the strength of sense that such fabrications were versions of play or build-up to what has become your career path choices. You were more interested in seeing to what degree your impromptu answers were challenged.
By the time you were confronted with the matter of parallel lines, your answer. which was you speaking spontaneously, posited parallel lines as two lines that were always the same distance apart. The teacher nodded acceptance, but added her observation that your answer, while right, was only an average answer, leaving room for greater accuracy.
To that effect, you added, these lines, by their nature, would never meet. The teacher said your answer bumped you up to a C+, meaning there were still other qualities or conditions to be observed. With a wink,the teacher allowed that for the sake of geometry and mathematics, parallel lines meet in infinity.
You think of that teacher to this day--Ms. Krantz, she was--when you observe in fiction-writing classes that in geometry,parallel lines meet in infinity, but in stories, they meet in the last act, or in the reader's mind. Much as it troubles you to use such absolute words as always and never, you offer the observation that a narrative without parallel lines is never a story; some thematic or cultural base must always be present in order to transform the narrative, which, however engaging and sublime, into a story, which has as a major constituent the sense of dimension and at least a sense of parallel development.
Often--note, often, not always--a story will appear to be lacking the parallel line, a classic example being Edgar Allen Poe's famed short story, "A Cask of Amontillado," in which so many of the requisite dramatic elements are placed with such adroitness. The narrator tells us in so many words that he has reached the breaking point when being teased and ranked on by the snobbish Fortunato, who has gone too far when insulting the narrator's family.
From this point, pun intended, the construction is brick-and-mortar. The reader sees the narrator in the process of successful orchestration of his revenge, even to the point of paying off on an earlier iteration of his family motto in Latin with the valedictory In pace, requiescat. But where, the reader might ask, are the parallel lines? If the reader will like, the parallel line is in the reader's head: Surely this is not the first time the narrator has dined out on this story. Surely he has told it before, many times, making him the doppelganger of the snob on whom he sought revenge.
For all the difficulties geometry gave you--you had to take it three times before it made sense--you extracted from it the ability to design the typographical layout of books, and the understanding that story not only required at least two parallel lines, it required your awareness of how, when, and where these parallel lines meet.
Monday, March 28, 2016
The idea has been buzzing about in your head like a hungry mosquito in search of her dinner, casual at first, the intriguing but closed-end notion in which most of the books you liked and knew you'd revisit seemed simpler than you knew they were.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
In a real sense, nostalgia is the emotional equivalent of the hair of the dog as a remedy for a hangover. Nostalgia likes to put in an appearance after some present day iteration of a past event--even a comparison of prices for a given object or service between then and now.
The memory of what you could do for a dime back then causes what you tend to do with a dime that comes your way today to serve as a reminder of irony. One Then of such nostalgia is the DC comic book you could buy for a dime, the admission to the Ritz Theater on Wilshire Boulevard, for the Saturday matinee of a double feature, an episode of a serial, a cartoon, and a MovieTone Newsreel; a Duncan basic yo-yo, a mile-high ice cream cone at Curry's on Wilshire and Detroit.
Remembering unpleasantness from the past has the side effect of causing most persons who do so to resort, at some point, to nostalgia. This observation has its origins in your belief that the majority of humans will jump at the opportunity to move away from unhappiness, even if the nostalgia invoked to provide happiness is short lived.
You've had sufficient experiences with hangovers from drinking and hangovers from spending too much time getting comfortable with nostalgia in the face of some contemporary distraction. A favored opening to L.P. Hartley's memorable novel, The Go-Between, states, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." Nostalgia reminds us of some warmth for some time in the past, but examination reminds us of a number of ways inflation has set in.
The dime with which you were able to do so much was also a respectable tip for something that cost a dollar-and-a-quarter. Some of your early jobs paid you fifty cents an hour; some of your earliest stories brought you the munificent pay rate of a penny a word. More to the point, this particular type of nostalgia is price-oriented, suggesting that much of past happiness was related to possessions rather than presence.
Another Then of nostalgia relates to your favorite job that had nothing directly to do with writing. You were the manager of a parking lot at the northwest corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Dunsmuir Avenue, your managerial duties involved keeping track of when a car entered, when it left, and how much to charge the driver.
For all that the parking lot was in the fabled Miracle Mile, its in-and-out traffic never reached levels of intensity, meaning you had ample time to read, to write, to visit with friends, and, most important of all, to look forward to the arrival of your scheduled hours of work.
There was no thought or hope of upward mobility, no take-home worries, no reports to write or meetings to attend. When you were given a ten-cent-an-hour raise, you promptly splurged on a deluxe hamburger across the street at Wimpy's, where you frequently ate, looking at a wall drawing of its eponymous source, J. Wellington Wimpy, friend of Popeye.
Thinking about nostalgia often reminds you how the present moments you experience are candidates for the nostalgia of the future, a factor you attempt to build into characters you create for fiction and for ideas you wish to follow for essays and booklength nonfiction. Your current project, which is nonfiction, is an unexpected result of nostalgia as it reflects on and filters reading experiences.
Of all the novels you have read over the years, you have selected one hundred from which you extracted the most profound experiences leading to your greater understanding of storytelling. The least you will have read any of these hundred titles is twice; in some cases the number of revisits has gone upwards of ten.
At the time of your first reading, you had no idea these individual stories would offer you so much, become such equivalents of friends, and, most important of all, occasions of nostalgia. In the same manner your early encounters with nostalgia had hangovers, rereading these hundred novels reminds you how much you missed with earlier encounters, how your own attitudes toward reading and retention of responses have changed.
At the tail end of this calculus of reading, rereading, and self-evaluation, you encounter the unexpected awareness that aging and experience also involve inflation levels. The very reading you indulged at first to learn and to escape has evolved to the most humbling awareness: Learning will only stop when you do; there is no escaping from the inflation levels.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
When you look back on the early parts of your education, your primary image of yourself is as the sponge you were, soaking up information and skills thought to be appropriate by a progressive school board, a national culture tottering on the cusp of a recession known as The Great Depression, a birth culture teaching you its historical and tribal values, a family culture that was attempting to cope with having one been affluent, but now connected to The Great Depression.
To a limited sense, you were being educated by the questions you asked yourself about these sources of information to which you were being subjected, and by your growing awareness of frustrations you experienced with all of them.
Although you were unable to articulate the matter as such, you understood even then how the source of some of your frustrations had to do with you being at the mercy of two significant sources, adults and, once again in ways you were not at the time able to articulate, plans made by adults.
You pretty much were reminded daily of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which imposed curricula, reminded of rules and suggestions transmitted by your parents, and ways you were likely to be treated by random adults. Sundays brought you in contact with a similar set of conditions through the filter of Sunday School, where you were presented with ritual, tradition, and information relating to the culture into which you were born.
You were well aware that the going was not easy for those of your culture who happened to live in Europe. Since your maternal grandparents had migrated from Europe, you were aware of some of the reasons they chose to leave relative affluence in Russia before migrating to this country.
This brief background explains some but by no means all of the reasons why your responses to education caused you to be given high grades for learning and, charitably, less than satisfactory grades for personal behaviors such as responsibility, cooperation, and attentiveness. Your grades in such qualities were Ns, the N signifying Needs to Improve. In other words, you were a smart ass.
Against such a background, another form of frustration arose, your awareness of the ways in which events often followed a pattern of random effect. Things happened that you were neither aware of nor did they have effect on you. Things happened at random every bit as often as they did because plans were made for them to happen. Cakes failed in the oven, souffles fell.
Because you studied for a test or expended wide and considerable research on a project, preparation did not guarantee a positive or even good result. Of course, there was the basic: the fact of you wanting something was no guarantee you would get it or even be close to achieving it.
In some cultures and in many circumstances, such awareness was part of the process described as "growing up" or "that's the way things are," or "coming to terms with reality." To this day, you consider yourself an optimist, notwithstanding the numerous disappointments, failures, reversals, and occasions where you were beneficiary of unanticipated happy outcomes.
In many, if not all, cases, you are grown up, recognize the enormous efforts needed to change some of the cultural things you'd wish to change, and are at the least in a state of detente with reality.
The most significant thing you've learned about yourself is the need to put your efforts into preparation rather than relying on faith-based options. You still understand that preparation is action-based faith; it is not a guarantee of the outcome you have in mind, but it is the best thing you can do, and the most probable source of happiness.
Friday, March 25, 2016
You don't remember either of their names, although you are certain both men wore suits on a regular basis. There is every probability each had only the one suit, which he wore at work, then changed at home. The one who ran the used bookstore in Hollywood wore a blue suit. The one who ran the used book store on Santa Monica Boulevard wore a gray suit.
Each in his way had a measurable effect on what you read, and of course what you read, in aggregate, began to have the most measurable effect of all.
The bookstore on Santa Monica Boulevard had bulging stacks of pulp Westerns, among them Ranch Romances, Real Western, and .44 Western Magazine, which you'd begun to read along with any Western magazine publishing stories by Elmer Kelton, Ernest Haycox, and Elmore Leonard.
At the time, while you were thinking you could advance your writing career by writing for mystery, science fiction, and Western pulps, you were editing a man who old regularly to hardcover Western and mystery publishers as well as being story editor for a popular TV anthology, Tales of Wells-Fargo. Based on an introduction he wrote to a selection of his short fiction, you got the man to write a more comprehensive memoir, The Pulp Jungle. In your dealings with this author, he seemed to understand you as well if not better than you understood yourself.
"You can read Shane all you want," Frank Gruber said, "but the novel you really want to read is no doubt the best Western ever written." Both the blue suit and the gray suit agreed with this assessment and, from the fact of your awareness of it, seemed to regard you as less than the lost cause they'd both supposed. In time gray suit and blue suit each found and gave you a copy of Jack Schaefer's memorable novel, Monte Walsh."
"This is a bildungsroman," the gray suit said, when he gave you a used paperback version. "This is what Saul Bellow would have written had he written Westerns," blue suit said, giving you the copy he'd managed to secure for you.
Monte Walsh is indeed what blue suit and gray suit said if it as well as the quintessential character-driven story arc you favor as the ideal template for a story arc. In the most basic simplification, all the character ever wanted was to work where horses were an integral part of the setting. No horses, no Monte. He didn't mind Texas longhorn cows, didn't mind boiled coffee or leathery steaks although he hated automobiles and machine-rolled cigarettes.
The more you reread, the more you learn about storytelling, background, and that difficult-to-master narrative filter, point of view. In Aspects of the Novel,one of the more memorable )and readable) books on writing craft you've spent time with, its author, E.M. Forester, talks of causality and the way events in a novel trigger subsequent events.
In his own stand-out novel, A Passage to India, Forester demonstrates his intimacy with events that trigger subsequent events and consequences, to the point where you quite agree and understand their importance. Monte Walsh seems a contrary lesson, except for the fact that the causality is the sense of progress to be found in many coming-of-age novels, We see Monte in various stages of growing up, from his early youth until the adventure that takes his life; this is all the causality we need to cause us to continue turning pages, if only to see what Monte will do next.
Monte is everything the actor Marion Morrison attempted to portray in his role as John Wayne. Monte did not have to work at being authentic and of a time and place lost except in history. Jack Schaefer, a writer from Connecticut, came West, captured the time and work of the cattle drive, the life in the bunkhouse, and the lives of the men who in all probability spent more time sleeping outside, under the stars, than they did under the bunk house covers.
With each fresh reading of Monte Walsh, you see a clearer vision of a character who becomes the force of inevitability in his own life. Before Monte is well enough along in his twenties, we know how life will not break him or lessen our regard for him. He is, as the epitaph on his grave says, "A good man with a horse." And to you, who have ridden perhaps fifteen rental horses in his lifetime, wagered sums of money on perhaps fifty others, and are content to think of the horse as a proud, dignified animal, experience the loss of Monte as a friend each time you revisit his superb history.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Your earliest remembered associations with instructions began with your interest in building model airplanes. Without a doubt, you'd had previous experiences, but remain to this day unable to remember them. You do remember having worked your way through a number of ten-cent models to the next available plateau, a twenty-five cent model, powered by a rubber band.
In a rare glimpse of prescience, you decided that you wouldn't have paid much heed to any instruction warning you not to use more substantial rubber bands than the one that came with the kit.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Of all the possible ways of becoming an editor, your approach was the most accidental you can visualize. This accident was compounded by your complete lack of interest in becoming anything other than what you were at the time, which was a freelance writer.
Some writers you knew and know now were forced to take non-editorial and certainly non-writing jobs to pay living expenses. True enough, there were times when you had to take on what you called rent work, but the dance intensified to ironic proportions when you found yourself writing novels and short stories at night, while becoming an editor during daylight hours.
After the initial surprise of becoming an editor for a publishing company wore off, the surprise of having to write letters relating to editorial matters produced a complex and unsettling state of circumstances, many of which persist to this very day.
To fill in the needed background, you were supplying a mail order sales organization one book a month, predicated on a list the mail order sales organization had paid a rather dodgy public relations firm a considerable sum of money to compile, based, the dodgy public relations firm assured, on a survey of significant and diverse n-sampling to be accurate.
Two other pieces of relevant information: (1) the mail order sales organization was successful to the point where it had six money-counting machines, one at the desk of each of six individuals who opened the mail, extracted cash or check, then produced a daily tally of the items ordered. (2) You'd demonstrated a talent neither you nor the mail order sales organization knew you had when you began writing books for them.
This talent was the ability to write stimulating enough copy to motivate individuals who might never have bought books under any circumstances to buy the remaindered or discontinued titles the mail order sales organization bought from recognized publishers. You were actually given a bonus for writing copy that sold a two-volume set of the short novels of Henry James. Thus your introduction to such terms and concepts as remainders, overstock, and, in the most blunt of metaphorical terms, dogs, which is to say books that had not sold in the book trade venues of bookstores, book clubs, and promotional tie-ins.
The mail order sales organization explained to you that there was a greater market at hand for them than the one book a month you were on hand to write, therefore you were to solicit, select, and secure works from your writer friends, your initial quota going up to four books a month.
None or few of these would find their way into bookstores, rather they would be sold directly to readers, meaning among other things that the mail order sales organization did not have to give bookstores a minimum forty percent discount for one-to-five books taken, and as much as a fifty-five percent discount for quantities over a hundred.
Dear Jack, you would write. Or Chuck, Or Matt. You would explain the thrust of the sorts of titles you were interested in having them write, they would call you to see if you were serious, you would tell them you were, and then the dance would begin, with such things as contractual agreements, royalty schedules, cover designs, and two things you were aware of, but only in the most abstract terms, content editing, and copy editing.
You would on occasion have to write to Jack or Chuck or Matt the equivalent of letters you'd had a significant experience with, letters telling you that the material you'd submitted didn't work for the persons you'd sent it to. Jack wanted to know what the fuck kind of friend you were to say such a thing, because he'd had one novel published, two plays produced, and a short story accepted by a major magazine. Chuck took matters a step farther and said you were using your position as editor as payback for all your own rejections, and Matt wanted to know if there were something he could add to the material to make it closer to your liking.
One of the principals of the mail order sales company had the reputation of being a mail-order genius, which he might well have been and would have continued to be had he not decided he might also be a trade publishing genius. At about the time he began thinking to see his books in bookstores, you were far enough along your editorial learning process to suspect you might know more than you did. Thus the company launched itself as a trade publisher; thus your letters of solicitation to writers and literary agents you knew and did not know, and the further accident of your having found something in the slush pile that caused you to write a letter to the agent who'd sent you the "something," in which you spoke of how well the material worked for you.
You were to learn that it was not a good idea to speak with such enthusiasm about a project, even one that had been rejected by seventeen other publishers. The reason behind this was the author, wanting a considerable advance.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
If inanimate things such as hills become alive with the sound of music, we may suspect there is at the absolute least a solitary musician, hunkered down, practicing on an instrument, in all likelihood an exotic instrument, say a bag pipe or Sousaphone, our logic being only someone with an exotic instrument would want to practise in the hills.
Dramatic logic overcomes the possibility of a single musician, a string quartet, or a full symphony orchestra, overcomes because most of us who read have been indoctrinated. We accept the potential for hills coming alive in the first place because of previous things we've read.
We admire the hills, taking on a musical quality, which is in fact a poetic quality as opposed to the more scientific presence of wind or rock slide. Thus the phenomenon or, if you will, literary device of the pathetic fallacy.
Writers, in particular poets, were using the pathetic fallacy before the pathetic fallacy had been discovered by the Victorian-era critic, Walter Pater. William Wordsworth, for example, "wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,”using a lovely image that attributes the human emotional quality of loneliness with the non-human form of a cloud.
At one point in your development, you were of the opinion that the term "pathetic fallacy" was typical of the buzzwords of the critic and academic. Why, you asked yourself, wasn't a pathetic fallacy anything more than personification?
Why, indeed; you'd yet to consider how personification was an attempt to attribute a human trait to an animal or inanimate object in a comparison where the subject was seen as more purposeful in attempting to achieve a human trait. "The dog was telling us the time for its dinner had come." The ocean was behaving like a politician, alternately waxing and waning in its enthusiasms."
You''re not only willing to accept the pathetic fallacy for what it is, which is to say an author, trying to make some inanimate quality more memorable--"The wind howled like guaranteed banshees," you use the device. You're not deliberate, often surprised to find a pathetic fallacy in your work when you begin to consider self-editing. Nevertheless, with some frequency, you're tendency is to leave the pathetic fallacy in rather than delete it only because you slipped it in without thinking.
You want your prose to bear the heavy load of agenda- and intent-laden emotions rather than have any sentence bear the stigma of outright declarative, with no hint of feeling. How wonderful it is to deal with charactrs who are so driven to accomplish their goals that they will scarcely give you time to think of backstory or traces of rationale.
A character who comes forth to take stage, then declaim, "I did it in recognition of my having been humiliated and punished as a child," should be identifiable as a character not of your own creation.Pathetic fallacies work best when the reader scarcely notices them; they are buried within sentences and paragraphs, in some cases given foundation when they are made to seem as having originated in the speculations and interior monologue of a character.
No one you're aware of has given Shakespeare bad marks for his observation that life is a brief candle, nor indeed a poor player who struts and frets his moment on the stage. If anyone will be caught out, using the pathetic fallacy, it is more likely you than Shakespeare, even though his Big Three for storytelling platforms, dialogue, narrative action, and the soliloquy of interior monologue are there in plain sight, for all the playgoing world NOT to see. As for you, you have a while left to get your act together, which is a pathetic fallacy to be overcome, right?
Monday, March 21, 2016
The effects of two habits from your early years remain in full adult sway even as you set this down. The habitual desire to have an ample supply of pocket-sized notebooks close at hand persists to this day. Your fondness for fountain pens causes a regular procession of catalogues featuring fountain pens to arrive by mail.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
If you are about to take a road trip, say to visit your eldest niece and her family in Santa Fe, you're more than likely to take the care for a check-up. Almost--but not quite--without thinking about it when you begin a project, you check the equipment of dramatic narrative, the beat, the scene, not so much because you fear you'll forget them as to remind you of their presence and availability.
He chortled in his joy."
Saturday, March 19, 2016
The first time you appeared in a police line-up and were picked by a witness you could not see, you suspected the outcome was part of an elaborate prank, orchestrated by a friend who was a senior detective with the Homicide Robbery division of the LAPD. A voice over the loudspeaker directed Number 2 (you) to step forward and say, "Hand it over."
You did as directed, modifying your voice to imitate the actor Sheldon Leonard, who frequently portrayed mobster types and had a running presence on the Jack Benny Radio Show as the robber who accosts Benny with the line, "Your money or your life," giving way to an iconic retort from Benny, "I'm thinking, I'm thinking."
"It was your voice that convinced the witness," your friend, the detective, said later as you were tucking into the police special at Taylor's Steak House, bourbon rocks, water back, a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese, and a steak sandwich. You'd been asked to appear in the line-up because you were of an age and type described by the victim of a hold-up.
The fact of you being noticed was satisfaction, the greater fact of your appearance approximating that of a robber was a flattering affirmation of your self-image being so diverse. At the time, you were editor in chief of a moderately successful publishing company, but being mistaken for an armed robber spoke of your potential for menace as well as editorial gravitas.
You were in two subsequent line-ups, related to you being a regional officer in the Mystery Writers of America. In the first of those, you were again identified, picked from a group of six. Two robins do not make a Spring, but being "identified" twice did set in motion an association with times when, as a fledgling Screen Extras' Guild associate, you'd been chosen to play bit parts on live television dramas.
The association linking audition and police suspect line-up started you on your way to considering the nature of choosing characters to populate concepts you were striving to expand into full-blown stories. This was an apt approach for you because of your then belief that you had little or no ability in the matter of organizing plot-driven stories.
Your ultimate solution was to turn to character-driven stories, which is to say selecting individuals who were forced to make a decision, take some action toward achieving a deeply felt goal, or avoiding consequences of past mistakes or indiscretions.
This approach appears to have worked for you. When you have need of a character, you in effect conflate the police line-up and the casting call, then wait around to see who shows up and how they will present themselves.
Sometimes, you'll vary the routine slightly, scrolling through your friends and acquaintances for types and for quirks, aware that the more prone they are to idiosyncratic notions and personalized traits, the greater the chances they will suggest more to you in the ways of vital surprises and behavior traits.
As a general rule, one individual per story can approximate your sensitivities, but the rest must be immediately distinguishable from you, otherwise the entire cast will end up sounding like you, using your vocabulary, complete with habit words, and tendencies to speak in complete sentences. Your goal is reached when a reader sees your characters as dimensional individuals rather than mere types.
You may have painted yourself into a corner with your belief that you need to write enough drafts to reach the point where story emerges, then moves along with a purposeful pace. Nevertheless.
You enjoy the way story emerges with an inexorable force, as though you'd plotted the material in advance in the manner of the prolific, plot-driven writers you admire. The other possibility is the simple yet profound one of you having at last leaned the importance of listening to the characters tell you what they wish to do rather than trying to impose your agenda on them.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Rereading a novel after eight or ten years is much like encountering an old friend with whom you were once close, but are no longer certain if you have anything in common. This has happened to you more than once, sometimes with impressive, Hail, Fellow, well met positiveness, other times with dreary results.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Writing about Orange Street as you did yesterday must share responsibility for pulling the cork out of the bottle.You remember a time back there/then, when you asked your mother how old she was. She told you, 32. Doing the math, this wold have made you late 5, early six.
The young persons you had to deal with were aspects of you who had not progressed as far as the chronological you thought he had. They were angry, which meant they were working on a base of fear' they were uncertain, resentful, defensive, and given to moments of vulnerability and vainglory, wanting something from you, largely assurances which you could not give them because, chronology and professional positions to the contrary notwithstanding, you did not know how.
In some encounters, they came to you in ways that now seem quite normal and understandable: they were fearful of not having the sort of career path so many of your classmates had, they were fearful of having squandered their talents and abilities, of having had no talents or abilities in the first place, and, from time to time, fearful of having reached various plateaus as a result of deceit, deception, or misadventure.
You were, at those earlier times, striding through the chronology of the career path of a moderately late bloomer, much of your faith in your abilities invested in the equivalent of long-term bonds. This made coping with the priorities of your younger selves a chore, spiraling downward toward a crisis of confidence and no clear plan for avoiding disaster.
Unless you could, as you had on numerous occasions, produce a result that would buy you some time and leave your confidence in tact. Your desperation scheme was to in effect gather these younger aspects of yourself into a cadre, then begin asking them to detail their fears, expectations, and gripes, all of which you promised to absorb.
Their lists of grievances and fears was even worse than you expected. In desperation, you asked them to consider your own priorities, many of which, as you feared, they considered as bad as or worse than your responses to theirs.
Somehow this internal pow wow produced extended periods of accord; you could at least exchange ideas on a civil manner. When events pushed their fear buttons, they could explain their fears to you in an atmosphere of accord from which workable plans emerged.
Some of these younger persons have taken steps toward achieving a chronological catch-up, easing the generational gap, although you do catch them, on occasion, telling you, "Nice catch, sir."
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
More than once, while engaged with the early draft of a story, you allow a character to ask some question of existential curiosity. "What's this really about?" she said. In response, another character will respond, "Nothing is what it seems."
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
You forget how old you were when you first heard the expression "As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs," but the memory of it still brings a smile to your face across a span of at least sixty years, Figures of speech that have found their way into the language to the point of popular use and the eventual status of cliche owe their momentum to the image or condition they illustrate.
Monday, March 14, 2016
In many ways, reading reminds you of your childhood attitude toward ocean swimming. Depending on your mood and the mood of the surf at the time, you'd inch your way into the water or you'd wait until a wave appeared to be about to break, then dive directly into it, The degree to which you become a follower of a particular writer becomes the degree to which the writer entices you into the world she or he has created.