Friday, July 04, 2008

Getting it Down

So, sat in the moderate coolness of our hotel room - Laura sleeping to the thrum of the air-con - I hunched over my pad of paper and started fashioning the story:
As soon as the door opened, Alfredo came hurtling through it, propelled, with his arms swinging to maintain balance like a cartwheeling clown, by the policeman now following curtly behind. Skidding to a halt against Mama's sideboard so that he had to hug the plant pot - an ancient ceramic urn painted in the Greek style of orange and black as if it were from real antiquity - and stop it from teetering over the edge. Mama would be more than displeased, even more so to see the trouble Alfredo had brought with him. Alfredo glared back at his escort and captor and hoped the young man registered his indignance. It's not like he was the thief.
Worry not, this isn't anywhere near the story narrative that went to Bridport. It does give an idea of my direction.

Anyhoo, I rely solely, in my planning and in my writing, on the scenic narrative. Now, I've mentioned this previously in this post on the dramatic modes. I quoted James N. Frey in the discussion. He discusses the writing of Flaubert's Madam Bovary as an example of dramatic narrative. I have come across this, I realise, with other works, for example Pride and Prejudice (I didn't get on with it one bit).

The dramatic mode, I thought, at the time when I was really settling into my learning of writing, was just a cheap and easy way to do a lot of telling and get away with it (oh, how naive I was, and really rather awful in my own writing).

So it was, that I set to work on my new short story by planning and delving straight into the scenes that show the dramatic purpose and direction and conflict of the story. I can't comprehend how to do it in the dramatic, and as such I can only consider in those muse-fueled early drafts the scenes and how they should work.

- As an aside, anyone want to open up a discussion on how to plan your work from the dramatic mode angle rather than beating out the scenes, let me know.

What I had, therefore, was a lot of gesturing and poncing around by the characters - Alfredo and the cop - as I tried to keep the story interesting, injected bits of exposition that didn't slow the narrative too much, and raised questions. I had:
  • The cop has brought Alfredo home, having caught him up to a nefarious deed
  • The cop wants Alfredo to get his mum, but Alfredo refuses because his mum is sick
  • The cop doesn't believe Alfredo because Alfredo has already lied to him
  • The cop calls to the mum (really, desperately sick) up stairs, and beats Alfredo when he complains
  • Alfredo's brother comes home and wants to know what's happening
  • Flashback: Alfredo watching the Spring bird exodus (there aren't any plants left, thus no bugs). Alfredo and his friend get beaten up by older kids
  • Flashback: Later Alfredo and his friend retaliate, having spied one of the other kids stealing from tourists
  • Flashback: Alfredo gets caught by the cop
None of it related to the story I wanted to tell - it was all set up, or the fleshing out of a far larger narrative, perhaps the film of the short story - and I barely touched on the theme or the direction of the piece.

Theme, at this point: If we take what we covet and what is kept from us, we destroy the thing's beauty and the thing itself.

It was a riff on the the fact that the flora had died off and now only private collectors can afford to keep their own collections alive - but at what price to the poor? But then, if the poor had access the collections would become infected, etc, etc.

In the piece I wrote by hand I managed to fit in two pages of explanation on the situation and how it arose... Two out of eight, and when I came to do the typing, by the third draft, a form of those two pages were all that would be left of the original plan and write-up

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