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Thursday, July 9, 2009

And now you know the rest of the story

I was thinking more about last night's post this morning, and I think in my rambling and flailing around, I actually put my finger on something.

Let me tell you a bit about how story generation goes for me. I'll get the barest suggestion of an idea from whatever--a bit of nonfiction, or a dream, or a chance reverie--and I'll automatically begin to generate story elements as I see the possibilities in the premise. A scene, a complication, even just a line of dialogue. And then when I sit down to write the stories, I try to arrange the plot in such a way as to get all that good stuff in, and that's where the contrived bits come in. Because some of those ideas are like different branches of a timeline . . . the story could go this way, OR it could go that way, and I'm trying to make it go both. Is it any wonder my stories sometimes hemorrhage under the strain? It's obvious in hindsight, but I wasn't even questioning some of these ideas . . . it was all good stuff, or so it seemed, and so I wanted to include it all. Now I'm seeing that I have to make choices sometimes, include some ideas I like, and leave out some ideas that I like and wish I could have written in.

So referring to killing darlings was an apt comparison. (Or maybe everybody but me knew that killing darlings was not just about verbiage, but about plot points too, and I'm just coming to that realization late.)

-o-

It's been a hell of a summer, hasn't it? I think it will go down in my mind as the summer of death. It seems like a disproportionate number of national news stories in the last month or so have been about high profile deaths. One of them touched me personally.

You probably know about the monorail crash at Disney early July 5th that killed one driver. That driver was a former student of mine. In fact, I taught him for three years, and was also the sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Team, which he was an integral part of, for another year. America knows him, if they know him at all, as someone who was proud to be a monorail driver and loved his job. That's all true, but I also knew him as a genius, and a generous, funny kid. Monorail driving was a job he was pleased to have, but it wasn't going to be his career. He was a senior in college, and he had a very bright future.

My thoughts and feelings about this go far beyond this little banality I'm about to share here, but I try to focus on writing in this blog, and here's the connection I'm seeing between Austin's death and the writing ambitions I and my handful of regular readers share. A couple of posts back I talked about why some talented, even brilliant, people with artistic ambitions achieve them and some don't. I was talking about perseverance, basically, but now I'm also thinking about not wasting time. Austin was brilliant, but he didn't live long enough to put in his ten thousand hours. I'm sure he would have accomplished amazing things; he was just that special. It's unusual to die so young, but even those of us who live long enough to have a career and a family don't know if we'll make it to eighty, sixty-five, or just into our forties. So the thought I'm taking away from this right now is to make the most of your time, because you don't know how much of it you have.

2 comments:

rebecca said...

i'm sorry for your loss, Joe. It must be very hard especially when the one that dies is someone so young. It's very sad all around.

I find that every time one is confronted with death, questions of 'how am i living my life,' come front and center. Personally, I find that I waste much of it in things that I shouldn't pay so much mind to and find excuses to focus on those that are better worth my time. Then, I get depressed and angry at myself for being such a waster of life and not honoring it the way that I should so that when that day comes for me (because we never know when it will be) I will not live to regret it. This, dear Joe, is a continuous WIP.

Hope your spirits lift soon...

Take care,
Rebecca

Joe Iriarte said...

It sure is a WIP. Thanks.