Thursday, May 12, 2016

Fiction: The Mischievous Brats of Prank and Invention

Plot may, without too many doors left open for argument, be seen as an arrangement of dramatic furniture through which characters must navigate with some measurable success. 

To extend the metaphor from the usual domain of furniture in the  inside rooms to outside events, plot may be seen as an elaborate garden maize through which characters must navigate, with no garden shears, of course.

Such metaphors are important to you because you do not readily see plot as the living, agenda-ridden thing it must be, not until you bring a cadre of characters on stage, then percipitate an argument--my argument. 

"You're not going to wear that red dress again."  This spoken less as a question and more like a statement of disbelief. "And what's wrong with the red dress?"  "Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but every time you wear that dress--" "Aha! I get it. You're envious of the attention I get when I wear it."  "Not so much envious of, as concerned about."

Now, things are growing heated, and we haven't even seen the red dress, much less have we any hint of its past history. But we do have the makings of a story because the dramatic furniture has been arranged in a way to provoke a heated conversation in which attitudes and conflicting impressions of past times are brought on stage and allowed to butt heads.

Sometimes a few glasses of wine or a not-so-restrained hand on the rye whiskey in a Manhattan cocktail will lubricate the mechanism for a revelation of plot points. Such a strategy has on occasion been the primary tool in your toolkit, both here on earth and within the terrain of a story in which, through constant shifting as the number of drafts increase, the dramatic furniture has been keyed to least comfortable and provocative arrangement from its former position of most inviting and comfortable.

Once you've managed to fan simmering sparks of resentment or envy or jealousy or suspicion into a recognizable flame, things begin looking up. New details present themselves, which remind you of past events you were a part of, or wish you'd been a part of; the eye for mannered or rational behavior wanes, the thought of reporting actual fact vanishes, and the mischievous brats of invention and prank step forth to undermine what may have been a photo of an actual time and place. 

Instead of the ordinary, the full complement of rascalls are out, looking for ways to trip the actors, smudge their lines to the point where they are unreadable. Small wonder you are to this day so enamored of the famed stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers motion picture romp, A Night at the Opera.

You know writers who are more direct in causing their stories to begin and to continue some discernible movement, and you often find yourself envious of the ways in which they seem to know with prescient accuracy when the next story point must be sounded or played or referenced--where anything is preferable to the extreme of nothing, of the cast, sitting about, discussing the existential nature of reality and illusion.

Much as you admire and have tried to learn from these writers, it falls to your lot to creat a semblance of unholy chaos from which to begin sifting through the layers for the artifacts and periphenalia of story, however small.

Your stories are about normal status having extended its boundaries, of men and women forced beyond themselves in search of something they want with intensity, knowing the something may not be at all good for them.

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