Tuesday, May 13, 2014
not as scheduled
Last week I wrote about using what happens in life to fill out the emotions needed in writing. You dredge up what you felt and put it to different happenings but ones with the same kind of energy.
It came to me that there is another aspect to this, and it's timing of events. Not only can we use our life to give us the emotions we need to describe dramatic moments. We look to it for pacing plots.
Where it comes to my life, I can see how pacing has played out many times. A time of great activity followed by one where not much seems to happen. A time of creative energy that seems to go on and on followed by a time of doldrums. A time where I think I finally have it together right before it all crashes. A great high immediately followed by an equal low or vice versa.
Most of us live our lives with the WW that is often used in fiction-- although mostly (we hope) to lesser degrees than we create for our characters.
A good example came last week. Farm Boss came into the house to tell me he found a lamb dead in the creek. Our lambs are to the age where they play with each other by running in circles and chasing. For instance, one day I looked out to see lambs running like crazy in a gang of about 8. I watched for a bit to be sure no dog or coyote was chasing them. No, it was just exuberance with one ewe, last year's lamb and this year a mother, who was running right along with them. It's adorable to watch but also can lead to accidents.
What we surmise happened is the lamb was running with others right along the creek bank. It ran into the electric line which supposedly keeps them from the creek, became tangled in the thin wire, and fell into the creek around the roots of a tree. Now this could have been in any sequence. The end result eventually was dead lamb.
If you have livestock or even pets, you know how that moment felt. Guilt. Why didn't I hear a lamb in trouble? How is its mother coping? Did I miss a cry for help? There is the desire to push back time except we never can. Just the regrets and the tragic feeling of loss.
Same afternoon Farm Boss came in the house looking for a small net on a long handle. (gotta get one as we have one in Tucson but not here). He went out with his bulky fishing net to try and get a hummingbird that had flown into our little greenhouse and was beating its wings trying to fly out through the plastic roof.
The hummer was beyond panic and no way was it open to looking for other ways out. The fishing net was too big, the hummer was flying between two small rafters. They don't take too long to die in that setting given the amount of energy it takes to keep them going. Farm Boss stepped up on a rickety shelf about the same time the hummingbird trapped itself in a thick spider web. He gently got hold of it, took it outside, got the web off, and it flew away at mock speed. We also closed the greenhouse door...
Two moments in one afternoon where we had to accept a loss of life that it is hard not to think we could have saved if we had just seen it in time-- and then another saved by lucky timing. It is ironic but not unusual. Life is made up of moments we wanted side by side with those we did not.
When we write, this entwining adds dynamics to scenes, to the experiences of the characters. I've read a few reviews, not of my books, but others where the reader didn't like the way that happened-- wonderful news, love making, followed by violence or something tragic. Well, they might not like it, but it's true to life. It enriches a fictional story. It makes it closer to real.
You can see this same analogy working in painting or music. It's adding the complementary color to a leafy green tree that suddenly makes the green come to life. Undertones and the unexpected can make something that is blah become lively and interesting.
That is what makes for exciting writing. You take the reality of how things happen-- which are often not as scheduled. It also makes your writing less predictable-- just like life is.