Monday, March 6, 2017

Inevitability

 Although dramatic inevitability is only a concept or, at best, a quality, it often seems quite real and penetrating, with all the traits and agendas of a fully realized character. When you spot the presence of inevitability in something you're reading, you're pretty sure you've become engaged enough to stay the course until the final paragraph. Even then, your final judgments of the entire venture relate to how powerful the inevitability became and how the author directed its influence on the characters.

Within mere paragraphs, you saw young Philip Pirrip become the hostage of inevitability. And although he was some years older than Philip, also known as Pip, Ishmael, through a chance that seemed entirely random, became Shanghaied by this same force.

Inevitability took on a more human form, that of the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch, in Charles Dickens' masterful novel, Great Expectations, which became a dramatic and metaphorical tour de force. 

But then, within a matter of a few paragraphs on page one of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Ishmael, with the best of intentions, signed aboard a ship captained by one of the great fictional monomaniacs of all time, Captain Ahab.

You know from experience that you are caught up in a narrative when you begin thinking certain developments will come to pass, merely because of some carelessly dropped words or gestures. But were they carelessly dropped or, instead, artfully placed as landmarks of the great downward dramatic descent into the purgatory and hell of humanity's most thinly disguised terrain, the human conscience.

All the years in which you taught writing classes over the entire span of age range were a part of your acquired understanding, your muscle memory of inevitability. No matter in your favored stories and novels if the inevitable came to pass; what mattered was your anticipation of how, when, and why it might and the even greater inevitability, the confrontation between you and those who knew a thing or two about inevitability but saw none in your interpretations. Friendships are inevitably stretched thin over such contrary visions of the same incident.

In many ways there is an upgrade of inevitability in crime dramas where one of the suspects with the greatest apparent motive denies all awareness and involvement. He or she who ventures into loudness and fustian with their proclamations of innocence do more to focus our suspicions on them.

Even when we understand the insidious nature of story, which is to yank one individual into an accelerated, risky venture , we cling to the most shabby version of inevitability. Story is inevitable. The good persons are going to get into an accelerating series of really bad things, While coping with or suffering the consequence of them, the protagonist becomes cynical, entrenched, suspicious, or some emotion opposing normal .

The absolute best for you, when reading the work of another writer is to be led by clue and subterfuge into an altogether capricious premise, as though the writer knew you were coming, then setting traps into which you would not merely fall but tumble while carrying something you'd drop with a clatter.

Nothing makes you so certain you're in the right place than when you find yourself listening to a character arguing to one or more peers about why a course of action is the only acceptable outcome. However well articulated the reason, you don't buy it. Because you can't.

Unless something convinces you with its inevitable nature, you do what most readers do when their current novel  lags; the flip ahead, looking for the inevitable signs of some conflict that may have been oh, so smack, when it began but now is at least a 6.5 on the Richter Scale.  And later, you begin taking down notes for your own individual who is doing something that makes you think he ought to have known better.

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