Saturday, May 7, 2016

Doomed to Determinism

If you happen to be a writer of fiction, you are in one way or another a determinist. one who believes things do not merely happen, they take place or appear because of some previous intertia.  There is also a great leaning on your part toward creating the pathetic fallacy, which means you from time to time attribute human qualities to inanimate objects. 

You don't create the pathetic fallacy for the mischief of overstepping rules or conventions of grammar and syntax so much as following the generosity of spirit by you wish to cause others to see inanimate forces as being more vivid, more themselves, in other words, than they are in their actual taste.

Without even thinking about the matter, the actual fact of you taking pains to become a writer cause you to spend a certain amount of your working day in a determinist state even though you may move out of that state to become the left-leaning Democrat you are or possibly the hopeless romantic you are, or the growing possibility, again without giving the matter much direct thought, of spending time as a cynic.

You in fact are and/or do all these things during the course of your working day, and when your working day as a writer is put upon by your need to be a teacher or an editor,you add adjunct aspects of determinism, romanticism, and cynicism to the cavalcade of events, secure, if not comfortable, in the knowledge that you are being propelled by conditions you hereby propose to call idiosyncratic muscle memory. 

Whatever time you have left over, you are at liberty to pursue free will as a philosophical concept you have had a running argument with pretty much dating back to the days when you began having arguments with yourself in seriousness.

To explain self-inflicted arguments for the sake of these paragraphs of May 7, 2016, sufficient unto the day your experience-related belief that free will is an abstraction invented by philosophers, politicians, and religious zealots. Although you sympathize with the notion that extreme visions of determinism tend to have aspects of woo-woo and class distinctions connected to them like tin cans tied to the bumper of a newly wed' car, you also believe that there is simply too damned much going on in the universe that is your bubble for there not to be a present force of causality that ties past event to present behavior.

One of your favorite forms for the unfolding or development of a story, whether short enough for appearance in a magazine or with enough layers to provide fodder for five or six hundred book pages, or the stage, or the screen, has an interesting lead character caught up in some present-time mischief, which is exacerbated to its full dramatic momentum, then appearing to have been abandoned while the author shifts the point of view to another point in time, possibly with the same character we've only moments ago left.

Story deployed in this fashion allows the introduction of relevant events as they took place sometime back in the past, in effect becoming backstory for the events we'd just been unceremoniously whisked away from.

You will not discount out of hand stories that jump around in time, provided at least fifty-five percent of them take place in the present moment, the great bulk of the balance being dispersed through past times. We can and do take to some major characters we've just met and for whom we have no backstory, Frank Chambers of The Postman Always Rings Twice, comes to mind.

 But for the most part, we want characters who travel about like the Starship Enterprise, warping through numerous pasts, occasional presents, and one or two sideways digressions, reminding us as readers how our journey through Reality is always bumpy, filled with pot holes, detours, and dead ends, in much the same way our own life has been buffeted about.

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