Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Keeping the Lobbyists out of Fiction

In your early experiences as an emerging writer and an emerging editor, you put a good deal of effort into the study of the term "page turner," which seemed a different sort of ideal than it does now.

Your writing and editorial focus was on the notion of the reader turning pages to find out what happened--or did not happen--to the characters, with a growing concern that readers would not turn pages to get past the descriptions, explanations, and exhortations that bring story to a halt in favor of a digressive parade of mere descriptions.

Unless a writer is born into a DNA of perpetual optimism and the ability to look for and find the good in everything, the writer faces two obstacles that must be dealt with in the same way a teenager must learn to deal with a face filled with zits.

The obstacles are impatience and anger, the former triggering notoriously bad choices in judgment while the latter, when understood for what it is, leads the writer to say things that should be swept under the actual rug or the more metaphoric one of anger management.

There are ready-made opportunities for the writer of perpetual optimism, at the very least in The Huffington Post, which pays its writers little or nothing except the cachet of having been published in the choir loft of individuals who become disillusioned when they discover they are not the liberals they thought themselves to be.

The writer who has coped with impatience to the extent of exchanging it for eagerness and who has made a suitable arrangement with anger management will have arrived at the toolkit of satire, which allows the full-throttle expression of things that should not be expressed.

This leads to a good example of what story--as distinguished from religious or cultural propaganda, and from mythology, which is ancient cultural bragging--is: a dramatization of some heretical information.

If the material is in any way satirical, which is to say it intends to bring the absurdity of an attitude or behavior up toward the surface, the writer will have provided a finely balanced exaggeration and made it seem plausible. 

Now, although your concern is still with the reader, you are looking for the effects of story on the characters as a metric for the effects on the readers' awareness of self. Thus self trumps character; we read to find out what will happen next to us.

Has the narrative had an effect on the way we look at the world about us? Does it cause us to doubt the lobbyist and special-interest takes on cultural issues or, in fact, on the notions of truth, authenticity, and a working plan for dealing with the complexities of Reality?

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