Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Verisimilitude Redux: or When Life Reaches beyond an Outline to Become Story

Of course you read for enjoyment, but that quality-defining word is one of the forty or so words on your own Do Not Use List because of its fatal vagueness, as in what does "enjoyment" mean? If you were to say enjoyment means pleasure, you'd be digging yourself deeper into the hole of vagueness rather than taking a step or two up toward clarity.

If you were to say you read for insight, your chances of attaining the clarity you seek as a writer, editor, teacher are measurably enhanced. Insight does provide us with a metaphorical flashlight to probe the attics and cellars of our personal intellect. 

Insight also provides a way of seeing meaning in those difficult-to-evoke feelings many persons shrug off with a dismissive, "You know what I mean," a trope that reminds you of having among the things you normally have in your possession--cell phone, house and car keys, fountain pen, note pad--a tacit way of saying you have to be vague because you don't yourself know what you mean to any degree of clarity.

If the need arises to say "You know what I mean," either as a declarative sentence or a question (Know what I'm sayin') you are returning to one of the basic conundrums you face in your roles of writer, editor, teacher/instructor. Insights help us unravel the tangle of meanings and details resident in any emotion, and they often provide a clearer picture of the directions and consequences of an emotion.

But consider this: Emotions often travel in pairs, trios, or outright gangs. Can you, with all your experience as a writer, editor, and in many ways yet a student, give a useful recipe for enjoyment or pleasure? You can speak to the ongoing problem you face as a writer, editor, and teacher, How do demonstrate (dramatize) emotions so that those who read or witness those demonstrations understand which emotions are at reference?

Put yet another way, How do you demonstrate an emotion you can't describe to your own satisfaction?

You read for insights into the structure and propelling properties of emotions. You read to understand the symptoms and consequences of feelings. To a considerable-but-tangential extent, you read to understand such properties as sight, hearing, taste, pressure. There is little satisfaction to read of or write about "John ate a twelve-ounce rib eye steak." 

You can bring forth some of your own experiences eating twelve-ounce cuts of rib eye steak, but unless John notices some presence of taste or consistency, unless John prefers top sirloin to rib eye, unless John is seen to recoil at the cardboard consistency, you as reader, feel cheated of experience. You as writer feel the obligation to convey beyond such shadow words as juicy or delicious.

Your obligation as a writer is to cause whatever dramatic Now you bring forth to resonate with sensual presence. There is enjoyment in reading of such presence in the things you read, and a tangible awareness of having gone beyond "You know what I mean?" in bringing a moment to life from its nascent, outline state.