Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Character and Theme

Most good stories are memorable because of their characters.

Most writerly how-to advice says to start with character.

I always had the themes first. What is this about? Only then the “who is this about” seeped in.
Developing the characters took care and deliberateness. The theme came naturally, the characters less so.

A few months ago, an unusual character popped in, and I followed this character to the end of the story.

One member of my critique group said, “Cute character, but you need to develop the theme.”

Blasted bubblegum! My way of writing had changed.

Of course, it isn’t either or. There’s more than one way. But for the first time I realize that no matter how old I am or how long I’ve been at it, I, too, am a writerly work-in-progress.

So the theme of this post is change is eternal 😉

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Feeling Wistful

Many years ago, I had a friend who was important to me and I think I was to her.

Changes in her life made her drift away. I didn’t look for her. But one day she walked into my life again, and her presence was a blessing. She helped usher a different chapter in both our lives with grace and the kind of warmth possible in old friendships.

Then she vanished, only to reappear at an important junction, again. It was as if the great weaver was threading our strings and resuming embroidering at just the right time.

A few more years, and we lost touch. I thought of her, and trusted we’ll meet again, as the British song goes, “some sunny day.” 🙏

It was actually a foggy afternoon, when I got the urge to look her up. I did what people do who have no acquaintances in common: I googled. Yay! She had Facebook account, and yup, she had posted recently, including a photo of the two of us from way back. I commented on the photo with glee, and also sent a friend request. That’s the protocol of Facebook: you "friend" people who are already your personal friends, you accept friendship from people who will never be more than Facebook friends, and you ask for friendship from people who once were good friends.

I didn’t get a response. I figured that was that, or maybe not.

A few months ago, out of the blue, I got a keen urge to look her up again. I went straight to Facebook. The last post on her timeline was two years old. On one of her posts, another of her friends wrote that she will be missed forever now that she is gone.

The date of her earthly departure was a month before my old friend request. She was much too young to have made this transition. 😢

I’ll never know the last chapters of her life. But I felt wistful and also marveled at the intensity of the connection I experienced right then. To write the whole story of our intermittent connection and how much it meant would be writing a full-length novel, not a short blog post. To try to make sense of it, as one does when constructing a novel, would take more inventive powers and imagination than I have access to for now.

 But nothing stops my feeling that a story is looking for a proper tying of loose ends, the way editors ask us to do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Looking for Balance

When DS, an enthusiastic baking intern at the home kitchen, noted how quickly the dough rose as compared to his previous experiences, I commented on the role of sugar to jazz up the yeast, and salt to retard yeasty over-exuberance.

Put it this way: it’s a prized balance of the bready arts.

This made a literary quote pop out of my memory bank:

Henry James

I use adjectives, and I use adverbs. I’m aware of their effects and omit them where they add nothing. I kill them where they detract. But they have their place, and the key is balance.

No slavish rule following will help achieve balance. Great writing is just this, measured and effective. Like fresh bread, which is neither too light nor too doughy.

Wow. So many adjectives in this post. Which should I have cut?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Great Question of the Week

The same four-year-old from next door (mentioned in this post) gave me the highlight of the week, again. Call these our philosophical back-yard neighborly chats.

Four-year-old: “Auntie Mirka! Auntie Mirka!” (Our neighbors are of Indian origins, so every non-related adult gets to be “Uncle” or “Auntie”)

Me: “Hi there!”

Four-year-old: “What are you doing?”

Me: “What do you think I’m doing?”

Four year-old: “Cleaning the yard?”

Me: “Good guess. What are you doing?”

Four year-old: “Me too. I’m cleaning the yard.”

Me: “That’s good.”

Four-year-old: “Auntie Mirka! Auntie Mirka!”

Me: “Yes?”

Four-year-old: “why do I always want to talk to you?”

I’m left speechless. But I admit it’s a great question.