Monday, April 18, 2016

Keep on Truckin'

Your first new car was a Sahara tan 1956 Volkswagen sunroof, financed through The Writers' Guild Credit Union. The down payment was a payment for a screen treatment dealing with a man whose major goal in life was to practise with some regularity on a flugel horn. 

Your first new car, after many both wonderful and disastrous used cars was something you thought of as a writer's car when you drove around Los Angeles in it, reflecting how unlikely you would have concerns about its upkeep and general health for some time to come.

Then, one fateful weekend, your drove your new car out onto a highway system leading toward the high desert, first stop Mojave, whereupon you had the experience of your VW being caught up in the slipstream of a passing eighteen-wheeler truck. While not an unpleasant experience, the sense of capture was a sobering one. 

By the time you were once again caught up in the slipstream of a careening eighteen-wheeler, you'd done something that appears to come with ease to you; you'd turned the experience into a metaphor.This is not to suggest that your early metaphors seemed spontaneous or that, indeed, your narrative had a spontaneous feel to it rather than a mannered one. Such things have to be learned at the rate you are able to learn them. Meanwhile, they're present for you to notice, lights reflected from distant stars.

You wanted your stories to have the effect on its readers of the same series of feelings you had when at the wheel of your Sahara tan 1956 Volkswagen sunroof sedan, caught in the dynamic pull of a large truck as it sped along the road toward its destination. The thematic vision has remained with you these many, many years.

Such a feeling is necessary in your belief for a reader to experience, the feeling having its origins in your early attempts to understand the dynamics of story, then accomplish the ability to put such dynamics down on paper with the kind of regularity some of the writers from the days of the old pulp magazines had. It is not lost on you that your attempts in this direction were of the best intentions, nor is it lost that intentions are not enough to produce desired results. 

Good intentions certainly help. Another not lost thing yet, your awareness of how, with growing impatience with your inability to get the slipstream effect of dramatic inevitability in your narratives, you resorted to what so many writers come to rely upon instead. You became a stylist, an ironist, a literary type.

One of your early favorite storyteller role models was a man who'd worked as a sand hog before turning to writing pulp stories, which writings allowed him to move from the workingmans' hotels of New York and San Francisco to the Hollywood studios and a bungalow at The Garden of Allah. 

With him and a few others like him in mind, you became the equivalent of a sand hog who wore a necktie to work. You did in fact often wear a necktie to work in your scriptwriting days, but that did not provide the help you'd hoped for.

We're talking about an enormous amount of writing, which, in truth, you knew was the equivalent of the monthly installment payments you made on the 1956 Volkswagen. Some of these payments were made possible by producing articles for pulp Western history magazines. 

Your ongoing hope was the naive one of thinking the day was close at hand when things would, as you put it, "make sense," and story would be on the same kind of speaking terms with you that literary style was.Story is in effect a continuum of exact details, chosen with great care to suggest great spontaneity while in the process conveying a surging complexity. Story does not work any better in Reality than Reality works in story; each is a rehearsal for a desired effect.

For every articulate author, there is a plausible simulacrum of Reality. Authors have intent, which they exhibit in their presentations of characters, settings, and narrative voice.

Since about the time our forebears and present day species began contriving ways to convey Reality, we understand this much about the process: We don't yet understand what Reality wants. At least, you don't. Perhaps this is why you still have greater leanings toward style than you do toward actual story.

The good news is, you still have time left.

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