I don’t denounce structuralism. Every time I watch a Disney or Pixar movie with my daughters and tears start welling up in my eyes by simple structural tactics, like music and camera angles, I’m reminded there is a reason it works. But I’m a literary writer and we are defiant bastards and we like to take structuralism and bend it our will. So we can look in the mirror and say to ourselves, “The industry will not make me a slave.”
How to hear? Not to listen, like saying “You need to pay attention,” but instead how we create consistency in our voice as artists. How do we hear voice? How do we recognize what is uniquely our own? Is one obstacle. Then the next. How do we reproduce it again and again?
That’s how far back we’re about to go. I’m going to use a simile only a certain generation will understand. Remember tapes? It kind of sounds odd to say now. Tapes. Sounds like a prehistoric infection. If my kids overheard me ask someone if they “had tapes” when they were a teenager, they would think it was an STD. Like an old school slang term for gonorrhea. But I digress, as usual. I’m about to rewind my tape and take young and old back to my days as an introverted neophyte surviving on southern sweet tea and tapes.
So what do you do when a character is powerless? The first thing I tend to do when I’m looking to solve problems in my storylines is to turn to my immediate surroundings. For some reason, and I’m not sure where I got this from (possibly through reflection in the early mornings as I sip my coffee), I started to realize or assume or maybe just consider that all dynamics of story or narratives are in constant mimesis, so…if there is something missing in my story or novel (as is the case now) I start to look for signs and solutions in my daily interactions—in my immediate. I believe I’ll see the same thing, conceptually, happen at some point in the day if I just pay attention.
Like angels and devils breading hordes of bastard monstrosities, the impetus for the type of stories I like to write comes out of the comingling of two polar opposite ideologies. One is quite happy frolicking with idealism and innocence, while the other takes great pleasure in torturing countless victims. Together they make for unpleasant friends. The type to cater to your highest morals and simultaneously use those morals to bash you into the dirt.
“How many lives do you think you have lived?” someone asked me, and I responded “In this lifetime, I’m on seven.” I’m sure she meant previous lives, as in reincarnation in its literal meaning, but if you’re going to have a conversation with an artist you have to understand our minds work in symbols. I’m going to speak metaphorically before I speak literally. It makes more sense to do so when you consider the multifarious dynamics in life. Everything is fluid, ever changing, like narratives and lifetimes and phases, making for a rollercoaster ride in the dark.
We love the sound of our own voices, and there’s a condition associated with narcissism that calms people when they look at pictures of themselves (if you’ve ever wondered why we take so many selfies). The same goes for values. We like to hear our own values echoed back to us. If we took a real look at our circle of friends we’d find people who have the same value system. Yeah, there might be some differences in opinion, but no deal breakers. Just echoes of eternal conformity.
It’s about to get real nerdy in here. Turn around and walk away. Don’t read any further. If you pass beyond this point of warning then all consequences will be your own and you will be held accountable. So… Do the right thing. Just stop reading now.
Sometimes I wonder about the critical thinking skills of our era. We are taught in school rote behavior. Regurgitate, bell rings, regurgitate, bell rings, regurgitate, bell rings. In that form of habitualization, we stop thinking for ourselves. You become even more aware of this tactic after you read “Social Class and School Knowledge” by Jean Anyon. Having had dropped out of school after the sixth grade I wonder how that impacted my ability to think critically about the world around me and its role in my nonconformity. I’m comfortable on the periphery. From this vantage point I find it odd how quickly our society went from hipster beards to tiki torches.
I’ve been revising chapter five in my novel for about two months now. On the second draft and I was moving along quite nicely until I hit chapter five. There was something about the chapter that wasn’t gelling. The previous four ran smooth and there was a dynamic quality that forced the chapters to more or less revise themselves. The plot and the character development coincided well with each other. Then chapter five hit me like owl shit hitting a windshield.
If you’ve ever watched a documentary on sharks then you’re familiar with the feeding frenzy. This is when a school of sharks start to feed on prey. It can be an attack on a single victim or a school of other fish, but once the feeding begins the energy multiplies over and over as the sharks feed. Soon the sharks are feeding in such a panic it’s as though they can’t stop themselves. Now I’m about to compare this activity to the way negative types make friends.
Do you think you watch the behavior of dark skinned males more closely than other people? Maybe you feel you don’t. Then you have to watch this video: