The Aftertaste of Peeps and Bunnies
As I've already mentioned I'm reading Stephen Koch's, The Modern Library Writer's Workshop (and you should be too). In it, he exhorts writers to embrace drama and to embrace improbability.
At first blush, these ideas make me cringe. And as much as I love fiction, I have a chronic aversion to even a whiff of melodrama. Artists suspend realtiy. It's their job. And I'll be the first in line to strap on the blindfold and walk the plank - as long as I trust the artist. That's the crucial piece. (And I'm pretty gullible when it comes to fiction - I'll climb in the car with anyone promising candy.) But there's nothing more annoying to me than having that trust abused.
-Coincidences that supposedly matter.
-Trite sermonettes that ignite weepy epiphanies.
-Car #1 taking flight after merely clipping the bumper of car #2 (parked, of course).
-Dorks & geeks getting the girls. (Okay, I was kind of a dorky geek and I did get THE Girl!)
-Barely employed twenty-somethings living in killer New York City apartments.
-The gun jamming at precisely the wrong time or the judo chop to the neck that drops the villain.
-Grown men & women flying around space in their pajamas, fiddling with the controls on their Lite-Brites, seated in 60's furniture, conversing in stilted Americanese, shooting tinted flashlight beams at one another.
-Eighty-pound supermodels kicking the crap out of a trio of burly professional killers.
-And the old black & white Superman show where the bad guy unloads his revolver into the chest of our hero who just smiles smugly, fists planted on his hips. Then the bad guy frowns at the useless weapon and, in a fit of frustration, decides to throw the gun at Superman - who then ducks.
-The English Patient.
Koch again: "All drama is based upon unlikely events surging up into ordinary life and changing it. All narrative is engaged, at some level, with the improbable. Part of your job, of course, is to make the improbable credible. Then, once you have made it credible, you proceed to make it inevitable. And then you may have art."
But it's possible to play it too safe. I know I have in the past. So Koch's words encourage me to seek the true, the good, and the beautiful with abandon. If I've been true to my story and things still seem implausible or contrived, it just means that I haven't written it well enough...yet.
Still basking in the pastel shadow of Easter I'm reminded the Greater Story, the One True Story, the lifesaving story of God taking on flesh and humbling himself to die for me in spite of my sin and willful rejection. Then, after three days, rising from the dead and ascending to the right hand of the Father. He did all this to save me. And the price of admission? Believing it's true.
Now how improbable and dramatic and inevitable is that?