Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Inner Bird Feeder

Unless you are describing something with profound meaning to you or, by implication, to a character you have created, your description falls into the journalistic equivalent, the who, what, when, where, and why plateau, where you have no trouble picturing a generic version of the "something," but so far as another reader is concerned, perhaps even so far as you are concerned while rereading the material some days later, you are taking the "something" pretty much on faith.

Whatever the "something" is, it remains in the shadowy world of the general, primarily because you have not established a dramatic relationship with it. The "something" could be literally or figuratively small potatoes, in fact a small potato, baked, with a glob of sour cream and some shaved chives, which most readers will take for granted in much the same manner they have taken actual potatoes with sour cream and chive garnish at mediocre restaurants. 

The "something" stands a better chance of being memorable if it is served with one or more sensual garnishes or, if not those, some note of sentimentality or nostalgia relating to a past time and event, or, better yet, a memento from a person of significance.  

A man finds a necklace that may or may not have real garnet stones, lying in a Priced-to-sell tray at a pawnshop. He has paid less than five dollars for it, leaving us as witnesses to the purchase with an overall impression of the buyer as a cheap, manipulative sort. Our impressions of him worsen when he presents it to his lady friend, telling her this used to belong to his grandmother.

This inanimate object, a necklace, which may or may not have real garnet stones, has now undergone a dramatic transformation from the cheap trinket we know it to be, the cynical tool of a character we have little fondness for, to something of great value to the recipient because it was the first present from Him, and the fact of it having been his grandmother's speaks beyond the authenticity of the attached stones and to the recipient's impression of the level of seriousness attached to the giver of the necklace.

You have in almost daily use a chipped dish, too small to be a salad plate, possibly intended for a bread or roll plate or a plate to store leftovers. The person who brought it into you life paid all of a dime for it, but the mere fact of its having been brought into your sphere by the person who paid the dime for it at a neighborhood lawn sale makes it of inestimable value to you. 

If there had to be a broken dish in your immediate venue, there are other, more expensive dishes you would sacrifice to the gods of broken dishes, a simultaneous reflection on the value of the dish to you and the memory of the person who brought the dish out of its lawn sale orbit and into the kitchen orbit where you preside.

Such information is not often included in descriptions, which, however acute and accurate they may be, tend toward the general, a state and location we are all familiar with. Only when we are poised and focused for work are we able to move out of this state and into what you enjoy thinking of as the singing-in-the-shower state, the place where the birds of ideas and inspiration are likely to find the bird feeder of your imagination.

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