Friday, October 19, 2007



A friend of mine told me what when she was little, she thought that falling asleep was the result of a specific narrative of going to bed. In other words: fluff the pillow, put hands beneath it, turn to side, draw knees up -- and if that didn't work, she would try a different order, throwing back the blankets and getting back into bed, then turning to her side, fluffing the pillow -- all the various combinations. And of course the next night, going to bed, she couldn't remember what had actually led her to sleep, so she had to start all over again.

This reminds me of writing. It's about the release of information. It's also about the awareness of the rewards of certain combinations of motion. When I started writing, I was crippled by the idea that there was one specific way to tell a story, and I had to find the right order. Reader needs to know a bunch of things at once: time, place, character, conflict, details, relationships. Or so I thought. It turns out there are an infinite number of paths, and each one has its benefits and its hazards and failures.

And there's a balancing act between information and omission. You have to have faith that the reader is inferring all that you imply, because that bond is a great pleasure. Right now I'm drawing back on the overt and ratcheting up the implied. If you decide, while writing the 97th draft of a scene, that it should end with an orangutan swinging in from the shadows, you have the choice of either telegraphing that or letting it be a surprise. If it's a surprise, you might want to make sure you're writing the kind of book where an orangutan can appear without puzzling the reader too much. Or it's THE puzzle. The scene I'm working on needs foreshadowing. An ook ook here and mysterious almost human forms lazily walking with saddle strides in the distance. So I'm inserting those even as I'm taking out other hand holds.

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