Monday, December 8, 2008

Synecdoche thoughts part 2

(Part 1 here)

Now this willingness of Kaufman (the filmmaker) to bore and annoy audiences to get the point across reminded me, as so much does, of Edgar Allan Poe's unreliable narrators. (I wrote my MA thesis on this, so once I did understand it! No longer, alas.) Poe deliberately (I think) sacrificed his own credibility as an author – and as a man-- to create a creepy experience for the reader, that of identifying with murderers and maniacs. (You know, now that I think of it, Nabokov does the same thing in Lolita, only it's a child molester we're supposed to identify with—and Nabokov explicitly uses Poe as an inspiration, most notably his poem Annabel Lee.)

Poe supposedly chose (it's not entirely clear that he made this appointment or if Griswold just took charge after Poe's death) as a literary executor and biographer the notoriously nasty Rufus Griswold, who had been something of a rival for magazine editor jobs. You probably didn't realize what a vicious business editing can be. :) Anyway, Griswold created a portrait of Poe as a drunk, an incompetent writer and an abusive husband, a misconception that Poe's friends tried in vain to remedy. But they found it difficult to restore the reputation of the man who had pretty much invented the horror genre, not to mention written so many stories about horrible husbands. So Poe destroyed his own credibility by first writing stories with first-person narration by murderous men, and second, by choosing a biographer who took such glee in trashing him. But in a way, this caused the stories to be that much more experientially horrific.

(By the way, I see in Griswold's bio something that I should have put in my thesis, which was about some of the stories where Poe's narrator buries his wife/fiancee alive—Berenice, Ligeia, Morella. Talk about life imitating art. Griswold had left his first wife and children behind while he went to make his fortune in magazine editing— no wonder he was so bitter!—and so talk about projection... he was something of a negligent husband himself, sounds like. Anyway, his wife died in childbirth soon after that, and he wasn't there, but returned to "kiss her dead lips". A month after the death, he entered her tomb—really, this is SO like a Poe story!—and stayed by her presumably decaying body until his friends found him there—30 hours later. Poe's stories were written in the decade previous, so he wasn't basing them on Griswold's guilty grief. But as if previewing Griswold, Berenice starts with a Latin epigraph that translates to: "My companion said I might find some alleviation of my misery in visiting the grave of my beloved." Cue Twilight Zone music.)

So... well, there's a concept (devised by literary critic Stanley Fish) called the Self-consuming artifact, which has become well-known enough to have its own abbreviation: SCA. Fish uses this term to refer to artwork (mostly books) which transfer the reader's attention from the text, from what is on the page, to the effect it actually provokes, and that the work succeeds most "when it fails, when it points away from itself to something its form cannot capture." That is, the effect on the reader is paramount. In reading this work, the reader experiences something that is beyond the simple form of the story, some combination, I think, of author intent, reader response, and... magic.

The "self-consuming" part doesn't exactly mean what I want it to mean—that the author willingly sacrifices his/her own credibility or authority as the reader reads the story. True to the New Critics dictum of the "text is the text" (which I do agree with, I just don't think it's sufficient), the SCA theory seems to focus more on the "artifact" (the story) than the artist (the author), that is, the story consumes itself in the telling or reading. (William Gibson actually created a book that was supposed to consume itself —the ink was supposed to burn away when exposed to sunlight, and the electronic version was supposed to eat itself as it was read – and only on a Mac, talk about a self-consuming artifact... that's always been my experience with anything connected with Steve Jobs. No, no, Mac fans, I don't mean it's a bad machine that eats itself, but rather that Jobs's and Apple's focus on design and trendiness has doomed the products to mere cult status, which is, of course, exactly the experience they want, I guess!)

Fish, anyway, said that the reader learns of the futility of looking for truth in art by experiencing the art. But as in the liar's paradox ("I am telling you a lie now"), of course the very act of that realization means that you have indeed found truth in art, the truth that you can't find truth in art... and stop thinking of that right now, or you'll give yourself a headache! (He also sort of suggested that self-consuming ended with the Age of Reason began—18th C—because reason depends on the assumption that you can, in fact, determine the truth.) (BTW, I was talking to the husband about this, and he said, "Well, then there's quantum mechanics—" and I ran out of the room. Talk about headaches....)

Well, I do think you can find truth in art, and not just the truth of the futility thereof. So I find myself appreciating the technique (self-consumption), but not the conclusion. I'm sure it's fashionable and ironic to proclaim there is no truth, but anyone who writes or paints or sculpts believes there is some truth, and it can be captured (and is) in art. Else why bother? That "there is no truth" is what got us into this economic mess, a maze of mirrors called "derivatives," which bears an intriguing resemblance to Synecdoche's mirror structure (the actor playing the author and another actor playing that actor, etc.). If there is no anchor in some reality, well, everything's just a Vegas-style roulette game, right? I guess we saw that this last couple months on Wall Street, anyway. And there's no need for the rest of us to be so jaded—it's would be a good way to work ourselves into a creative block. (Why try, if there's no truth?)

But, as I said, the notion of self-consumption is quite useful. So I'm going to invent my own term, Authorial Negation (or Negation of Author—maybe we should vote on that :), meaning that the author of the work willingly and deliberately subverts his/her own authority by doing something that is destructive (of the author in some way) but helps to create for the reader an experience that is deeper, richer, fuller, something-er, than the story events alone would create. That is, the process of reading this particular work leads to an experience which is, to use a much-used phrase, greater than the sum of the work's parts. And the additional ingredient, whatever it is, is added by the author... and in adding that whatever, the author is sacrificing some essential element of authorship, whether it's reputation, credit ("Anonymous"), acclaim, control, pride of prose quality, voice, control of character, efficiency, orderliness, permanence, narrative logic, whatever the author would ordinarily take pride in and claim authority for. (See how I sacrificed my pride of prose by ending those both on a preposition?)

Let's look back at Poe—he subverted his own credibility by giving authority for the story over to these unreliable narrators, who lied and told bald untruths and didn't even try to make sense of what was happening, and often hiding the coolest and most thrilling events (like Morella's husband strangling her without ever admitting it).
Or Gibson, with his self-consuming book—what does he sacrifice? Permanence, surely. Maybe royalties—I mean, if I paid good money for a book that self-destructed, I'd take the fragments back to the bookstore and demand a refund. (Come to think of it, I have bought some paperbacks that have fallen to pieces, the spine breaking after one reading... I bet the author didn't actually choose that self-consumption.)

And what do they achieve, or allow the reader to achieve?
Poe's sacrifice lets the reader have the vicarious experience of getting away with murder, and maybe also the interactivity of solving the mystery of what's going on (because Poe doesn't solve it for us).
Gibson's sacrifice gives the reader an experience of the ephemerality of life (this poem is about his father's death) and of art, too, and also of the inability (cf. Synecdoche) of making a life into a poem.

And Charlie Kaufman, by sacrificing his skill at pacing and his knowledge of how film works, has created an experience that leads viewers to know something in their bones—life is not art, cannot be art, shouldn't be art. The risk is, of course, that the viewer will (as did everyone in the theater when I saw it!) walk on grumbling about how boring the film was, and maybe he should have cast Jim Carrey in this film too.
A big gamble, no doubt about it. The author is giving up some essential aspect of authorship in order to give over to the reader an opportunity to experience something new, even take ownership by creating her own meaning while perhaps scorning the author's ability.

Now about how this relates to fiction....
Just a few thoughts here. Readers now expect a more interactive experience, and to create it, fictionwriters are changing traditional approaches to narrative and prose. The element with most interest to me is, of course, is point of view. The tighter, closer the point of view, the more the author cedes of control over voice. That is, the author voice gives way to the character voice, which takes over the narration of the scene. What this does is give the reader not just a sense of what happens but an experience of what it's like to be this person—but at the cost of the perfectly grammatical sentences, the lush poetic prose, the omniscient panoramic viewpoint. Sometimes the narrator has an ugly voice; sometimes he sounds sullen and unpleasant and does a pretty lousy job of telling the story. Sometimes he even disses your favorite Dickens book:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two haemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They are nice and all -- I'm not saying that -- but they are also touchy as hell. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddamn autobiography or anything. I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy.
(That's JD Salinger channeling Holden Caulfield.)

Letting the character voice dominate is a great surrender for authors who have spent years honing their voice. Yes, characters can have their own rough poetry, but if it's their voice, it's not yours, is it? You are giving something of yourself up, aren't you? And why? Because you think the reader will get more out of the story.
That's an authorial negation, I think, letting the reader hear and feel the character's narration rather than yours.
What's another "authorial negation" for the sake of greater truth-in-fiction?


Sequencing and selection of event are certainly part of the authorial arsenal. The author can coax all sorts of response from the reader that way—suspense, amusement, emotion. You know all that. You carefully assemble your scenes into just the right sequence to propel the character journey, to arc the emotion, to build the suspense.... But sometimes the traditional mode of transit isn't going to get the reader to the destination, maybe because it's too predictable, or because you want to highlight ambiguity, or--

For example, Synecdoche's emotion climax (which would usually happen near the end) is out of the traditional sequence. After years of searching, Caden finds his daughter, but she is dying. (Oh, in another amplication of the "life as art" dynamic, she has become a work of art herself, and is dying from it—the tattoos all over her body are killing her.) She has been deceived about him by her mother, and believes that he abandoned her in order to go with his lover "Eric". She says she can't forgive him unless he confesses, and, weeping, he "confesses" to this false story (again, notice the echo of the life as art dynamic). She weeps too, but says that she can't forgive him after all, and then dies. It's a very powerful moment (in fact, the only true emotion, I thought, in the whole film—by design, probably), but instead of happening at the end, so we could stumble to the exit, disquieted and sorrowful, it comes near midpoint, and we endure almost another hour of the tedium of all those actors "acting" out much lesser moments in Caden's life.

So Kaufman used a less traditional and actually less effective sequence. Why? Not because he doesn't know how to pace his film. (In his earlier film Adaptation, Nic Cage having to call his mother to tell her about his brother's death was similarly emotional, and happened just as you'd expect at the end.) He was subverting his own ability there. Why?

I'm not sure, but I know there's a reason. I think it might be to provide a contrast between Caden's real real life—what he doesn't want to turn into art—and his supposed "memoir play". He has to strain for emotion in the play—he doesn't actually seem much more interested than we are—but as his daughter dies, we see the difference between sorrow and depression, between, I guess, life and art (only maybe it's art and life... mirror, mirror).

I've seen this before in Patrick O'Brian's great sea-adventure stories. He's a much more charming writer than Kaufman, well, than anyone, and so I never quarreled with his odd narrative choices, like setting a battle scene not up on the deck with the Marines but down in the sick bay with the ship's surgeon. But now I suspect that the experience created was an approximation of war—that is, the unpredictability of it, the "they also serve who stand and wait" aspect of it. Waiting anxiously belowdecks with the ship's surgeon, unable to know how the battle was going, who among my favorite characters was in trouble, deprived me of the adrenaline rush of a battle scene... and the pleasure of vicarious war. It was, perhaps, a more honest portrayal of war—the fear, the dread, the impending loss—than a battle scene might have been.

Another authorial imperative that you might forgo is the satisfactory ending. How pleasurable it is to wrap it all up, to make everything fit, to answer all the questions the plot has posed—to give your characters the ending they deserve. But closure might not be the experience you want the reader to have. Maybe (replicating life :), the ending is unsettled, uncertain, unpredicted—not because you as the author don't know what you're doing, don't know what organic or holistic ending is called for here, but –

Of course, you and I know that, just as Charlie Kaufman had control over how Synecdoche developed, the author has some control over the reader's experience—yes, even while surrendering control. The act of surrendering control, after all, is in itself showing a certain control—and I suspect, just as Kaufman knew what experience he wanted the reader to have, we have some control in choosing what authorial prerogative we'll forego and what we'll surrender, and what we'll keep to ourselves.

Maybe that's all part of the mirror-mirror effect, an infinity of images, of possibilities, of replications.
But... but there is truth in art. Whenever we're surprised, whenever we are settled, whenever we are moved by a work of art, there is some truth there that perhaps can't be captured any other way. Take that, Stanley Fish.


Oh, must quote Keats here—he was talking, I'm sure, about that Romantic inspiration, that creative frenzy, that mystic connection. But I've always thought (since I have never imagined Shakespeare as a romantic :) that in fact, negative capability (at least as regards S) has more to do with the ability to let go of this authorial imperative and let the story unfold and the characters change. Shakespeare was the one, after all, who kept turning villains into compelling characters, so they were never just evil, and heroes were never just good.

Anyway, here is Keats, and then a snatch of one of his odes:
I had not a dispute but a disquisition, with Dilke on various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason-Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration. (John Keats, 1817)
She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

Alicia

10 comments:

Murphy said...

I know I shouldn’t say this but, as you mentioned running from the room when you tried discussing this with your husband - and he brought up the topic of quantum mechanics...I must confess that I had to read your post twice to absorb it all. Man, what do you do in your spare time?...Oh yeah, you blog :). And just to let you know, I have been waiting for someone else to post – (it takes me awhile to warm up to these things) and since no one was kind enough to stick their toe in the untested water - here goes...

I happened to think the message portrayed in Synecdoche was, as Kaufman intended it to be: Humans are alone in this universe - life doesn’t necessarily have any grander meaning - other than what the individual brings to it. The work is played out in an original voice - which in itself, should make anyone who has a story to tell or a voice to exercise, sit up and take notice.

As one of those people, I struggle with the state of ‘comfortable’. We have been conditioned to expect certain things from our stories - the loose ends tied up, as it were - and of which, you made mention. So, in this movie, where ‘comfortable’ is abandoned - and worse - where there is no protagonist with a strong goal, I saw many patrons (attending and who were paying for the ‘art’ of the experience, floundering - trying to make sense of it all). I mean, who is the reader/viewer, cheering for? Isn’t this, what it is all about? Which makes me wonder: How successful will this movie be with main street America? (I can tell you, my son sounded like a leaking tire sitting next to me in the theater) - so, are we doomed to predictable consumption? Do we continue to crank out the same old expected text - or do we become mavericks (and don’t think I haven’t heard a hundred times - we’re looking for something new...but your work isn’t it. Try writing like...) - Yeah, okay -and, in no time at all - I’m back to being predictable!

The question becomes, are we really ready for a change in fiction writing? Or will those few brilliant writers continue to shine through... eventually - no matter what? The author/movie maker who won’t sell out for ‘comfortable’. You can’t tell me that the ones we remember (and we were made to study in school) weren’t controversial and misunderstood in their day- and probably had to fight tooth and nail to get, not only the Editor - Publisher - but, the fickle public to accept them (usually the latter happening posthumously). Which got me to thinking about your Authorial imperative - forgoing a satisfactory ending?

I’d like to say that I am bigger than wanting the Hollywood version, most of the time - where the guy saves the girl- good triumphs over evil etc...but I’m not. Most times - I am so sick of life kicking me in the proverbial butt - that I need that uplifting (if not corny) sentiment at the end of the day to restore my sense of all that is right. This is the reader in me - the viewer.

But hey, the writer in me says, forget about just foregoing the happy, predictable ending. What about the storyline as a whole. Do we - for ‘comfortable’ - and expected sake, try to make too much sense of it all? Putting everything in it’s proper place, instead of letting the characters have the time and the space they need to enjoy just living their lives? I don’t know about anybody else - but, sometimes the characters I meet in books are much too busy trying to keep pace with the story of their creators to make me a supportive friend. I mean, the reality is, that we are all here - on the same journey - experiencing life, love, death... and the monumental fear of all those three things combined – and, there is nothing unique about that - when you think about it - and anything that invites, or encourages us - to explore the concept of creating our own, or being our own, ( to use Kaufman’s analogy) ‘leads in their own stories - that we should be given ‘our due’? Kind of reminds me of Shakespear’s ‘All the worlds a stage...’ Where again, to paraphrase Kaufman: ‘none of those people are extras’’ – because I guess, we are all genuine players on the stage that it our life.

So bottom line? There is an excitement in watching something that is different. Recognizing that perhaps it is not the bigger things that define us as human - rather, the little mundane occurrences that set us apart - and cause us to grow through experience. Kaufman, in this instance proves the old adage - ‘truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.’ Can there be a greater truth-in-fiction? Possibly, but the question becomes - do you write your truth - or are still going to be stuck writing the fiction that is someone else’s? At least Kaufman was brave enough to put his truth out there.

Before I ever commit to testing these boundaries though, I’m given to wonder: How accepting is a reader likely to be, when a mainstream fiction writer breaks from traditional form? I mean, personally I feel that any art form - be it (paintings, movies or books) that invites an individual to explore themselves - their meaning and overall place in the creation of their own history, is to be admired – but like Kaufman’s work....how well would it be received? Sure, you will have an audience but, is it the right audience? Who are you actually writing for? More importantly, what is the voice that you want the world to hear? If it’s your voice, as the narrator, is what you have to impart to the reader, more important than the words your characters may have to speak for themselves? ...In the end would the truth of your fiction be better received this way? - It is certainly something to think about.

Edittorrent said...

Murph, I know what you mean! I value tradition and responding to reader expectation, and that's great, and you know what, it sets the stage for the shock when that expectation is violated. So I think part of the task of innovating is probably to figure out what the reader expects, and then departing from that.

I do think of Patrick O'Brian, who took a very traditional genre (basing on the Hornblower tradition) and used that form to do, well, whatever the heck he wanted. Now I will say he languished in utter obscurity until someone gave his out-of-print novel to a big NY editor to read on the plane from London, and even after he got NY-pubbed, his readership, I think, was about 80% other writers! I mean, this was the ultimate writer's writer. He never left the popular fiction form, but what he did with the form-- just spinning off the form-- is impressive, and he's the pop fiction writer I always point out to the literary types who sneer-- "If you can find a literary writer who writes that well, let me know."

Anyway, I think we need both the tradition that establishes reader expectation and the innovation too-- And O'Brian is very much proof that it can happen, though it took him forty years to get any recognition.
Alicia

Edittorrent said...

Murph, did you think the viewers in the theater got the film? I must say, I was annoyed by it, but very few films stay with me as S has done. I wonder if those people in the theater who were groaning and laughing at the wrong times also have been sort of haunted by it.
Alicia

Murphy said...

Alicia:
Forty years to get recognition? Really? I’d like to think that I have that kind of stick-to-itivness - but sadly, I’m not that noble. Languishing in utter obscurity? Uhmm...is definitely not for me. For O’Brian however, maybe the payoff was the fact, that eventually his audience was primarily made up of his peers. Would this make a difference to some writers? Heck, now that you have forced me to think about it, the idea really doesn’t appeal to me as a storyteller. I mean, it is impressive to captivate such an esteemed audience (cause we all know how savvy and intelligent writers are) but, that is precisely what makes the thought unappealing to me. Would I be happy to ‘languish’ waiting for that break to come - standing behind my unpublished masterpiece, despite all the rejection and advice, that has, no doubt, been handed down to me over those forty years? Nope, and as for violating (great word- by the way) expectations? I am going to have to think about that...cause the phrase has inspired me on some level - thanks! I love that, when it happens.

You were wonder about the other audience members when viewing S? I think most of the people in the theater were expecting something different –Jim Carey, perhaps? That realization annoyed me more, than some of the tedious parts of the film... (I mean, are we all so ready for the expected hype?) I wonder...but, like you, I have thought about the watching experience, a few times. Okay, I must confess, I have thought about it a lot. The amazing part for me, though? Is that my son (you remember - the leaking tire sitting next to me?) - who, was the one responsible for dragging me to this particular flick to begin with... has since, taken to text me on occasion, - with thoughts and ideas about the concept of original expression and underlaying meanings regarding this movie - imagine that? In this day and age, when we want immediate gratification -Kaufman managed a miracle. He inspired ‘a young man of the millennium’, to think beyond the ‘immediate’ action of what was taking place in the moment - thus, the story telling experience, has lasted beyond the theater...which, of course, has restored my faith in pushing boundaries! Anything that creates a dialogue to explore change, different concepts...or causes an individual to actually use their brains a little - is a good thing :).

Edittorrent said...

My "millennial" son also talks of it. Of course, he has loved everything Charlie Kaufman's written.

And I do think you can engender more thought and discussion by violating expectation... but how do you get to that point? And also, how many do you lose along the way? Would Kaufman ever have been given such status to be able to make feature films if he hadn't really struck gold with his first film? And who else will be so lucky?

Also what thoughts, I guess, would we want to explore? I don't think my mind is flexible enough -- I am a traditional thinker, I think. :)
Alicia

Murphy said...

What thoughts would we want to explore, you ask? I was thinking about intelligent ones -- larger than what to wear, where to go - or what a character may want to drink. Ever notice how wrapped up a writer can get in simply having the character drink an unremarkable beverage? I mean unless he/she is planning on offing that character as he chokes on his glass of chilled Chablis - I don't really need to know about it -do you?
(but man, look who I'm talking to - sorry for preaching to the choir)-Seriously though, wouldn't it be nice, if in a story, the reader was able to pick up snippets of wisdom - without it having to be shoved down their throat -- or explained to death until it takes the power away from the message? I mean, don't you just love it when you read something and you are able to go 'Hey, I never looked at it that way...?' and you think about a few times over the next few days? That to me is innovative and sorely lacking in mainstream fiction writing (but of course, I couldn't help myself and I have posted a very detailed and yawn, lengthy response to your latest questions about violating the expected and innovating in a current story that I am working on - so enough said - on that topic.
And, how can you say that you are a traditional thinker when you have raised a son who loves everything that kaufman's written?

emmpooch said...

Murphy,I agree with your comment about a writer wasting time on the unnecessay. Unfortunately I find I do this all the time :(.
Are you saying spiritual wisdom? Just wondering :).

Edittorrent said...

I find myself mentally narrating action. I mean, action like putting the car into gear and backing out of the garage. ("She put the car in gear and-- no, come on, make it more emotional! Furiously, she jammed the car into gear-- no, too obvious emotion. She unclenched her fist and grabbed no grasped no gripped--" "Mom, why are you sitting in the garage with your car running? Mom? Mom? You're not considering suicide, are you? Mom! Please answer me!" "Honey, look at my hand. Is that a grab or a grip?")

Alicia

Murphy said...

Ha, ha, -I have a tendency to do the same thing - but my mental narration veers off occasionally into fantasy -or, is it perhaps, wishful thinking? :) I guess it doesn’t matter - cause inspiration is inspiration, right? So, to borrow from your example –

“She was so pissed off, that she barely felt the jarring bumps, as she backed up over his prized mountain bike. Would he notice that she had to sharply angle their car, when she exited from the garage, to do the deed? She was counting on it!"

Of course, the best part of writing something like this, comes when I finish the scene and I ask my husband to read it - and he pauses at this point over the words. His look is speculative while he sizes me up, from across the room. “So, your male lead has a mountain bike he’s really fond of too, eh?”
I shrug and mumble, “What can I say? You write what you know.” – and there I am, two days later, laughing to myself as I get into the car...Yup, the moment I spy his ‘prized’ bike safely hanging out of harms way, from the newly installed hooks on the garage ceiling. I pause for a second, impressed by his foresight...but then again? I’ve been known to practice my golf swing, a time or two – in his man cave – so the bike isn’t really out of the proverbial woods yet...

Emmpooch: As for spiritual wisdom? I had to go back and read what I could have written to give you such an impression...because that really wasn’t what I was trying to convey - sorry. I was thinking about the wisdom of common sense - if that makes sense? I mean, there are a lot of things we know and learn by rote but, do we ever really stop to qualify these things with a better meaning or understanding of them? In everyday life, I think we can't, because we are too busy living and you know, doing that other thing, what’s it called? Oh yeah, – work. But, when a writer writes? Now, this is the perfect opportunity for him/her to examine the mundane and try to make it more interesting somehow...maybe more palatable? Like, the woman backing out of her garage – just to say that she was angry - and not qualify her level of fury, thereby making it uniquely her own in someway, is kind of...? I don’t know...ordinary? I mean, we all get mad right? But would you have the nerve to run over your husband’s favorite toy if you felt that he deserved it? Say, he used, said bike, to rendezvous with the tramp next door, three days a week, for the past five years, while you dutifully (during his ‘me’ time) whisked yourself off to the rest home to visit his ailing parents? (I know, if it were me - he’d be wearing the darn thing around his neck as a necklace)maybe you wouldn't feel the need for that kind of revenge -but the possibilities are endless when it comes to your characters. And that being the case, what are you, as a reader of this character's journey, likely to remember when you finish the book and put it down? That the betrayed woman backed out of her garage one day and was really mad - or that she was so furious with her husband, that she ran over his bike and didn't have one iota of remorse for doing so?
You see? You shouldn’t get me started. As for the kind of wisdom I would like to impart to my readers? (Keeping in mind that I am strictly drawn to examine relationships in the romance genre, only) - I try to give my characters the power of - if not original thought (cause what kind of thoughts are original...unless you are Nietzsche?) - but, maybe a fresh voice or angle when presenting an old idea. Give me a second (I’m tapping my finger against pursed lips trying to come up with an example...) Okay, a friend of mine had surgery last week. I offered to drive her to her follow-up appointment a few days later. Thankfully, the surgery was not life threatening - she was sore though, and when she complained ,on the car ride home, that she felt like she had been beaten up from the inside out? That her body felt worse now, than it had when she was in a car wreck ten years ago?...I said: “Hey, it is suppose to feel that way. I mean, isn’t surgery nothing more than an organized accident? In your head you know that the surgery was suppose to happen - but, your body doesn’t, right? All that it knows is that it was invaded .” This was all that I said and I never thought much about those words - until she called me later that night, to tell me that she couldn’t get the idea out of those words out of her head. That somehow the notion made her feel better - because it made sense to her, when she thought about it that way. And there it is - if you can take an ordinary experience and put a new and rememberable spin on it – ? That’s my version of common sense wisdom. Nothing profound or earthshattering - just something you can take away with you and examine later :).

Em said...

Thanks for the 'qualification' on that and the smile. I agree about the necklace part.