One? Or Two?

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Choral Fantasy (From one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s sketchbooks)

If you wear glasses, you’re familiar with that part of the eye exam when your doctor lowers a phoropter into position in front your face and starts flipping between lenses, asking, “Which is better? One? Or two? One? Or two?”

***

I finished my novella about seven weeks ago, and immediately started working on what I assumed was going to be a stand-alone sequel.  Five thousand or so words in, it occurred to me that maybe I should merge the two short books into a longer one, to make my work more marketable.

So, I cut and pasted and combined, wrote lengthy notes to myself and revised my notes, and forged ahead.

Then yesterday, I spent an hour giving my reimagined novel-in-progress an honest look.

Have you ever seen a movie that veers off in a new direction midway through, abandoning the original story line, and, occasionally, characters, leaving you feeling like you’ve just seen two completely different movies that have been stuck together with library paste? That’s the way I felt reading my draft.

***

So, now you’re probably wondering why there’s a page from one of Beethoven’s sketchbooks at the top of this post. Well, as you can see, Ludwig scratched out a lot of what he wrote. And I can envision him, at points during the creation of this sonata/symphony/concerto/quartet or that, flipping between pages of his books and thinking, “Which is better? One? Or Two? One? Or Two?”

***

Sometimes, one is better. And, other times, two are better than one.

(Stowing library paste.)

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Enigma Variations

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A man walks down the street. He’s wearing sneakers. White sneakers. Well, they used to be white, now they’re…gray…ish, and old. Because he’s checking his phone, he doesn’t see the nail sticking straight up in his path and steps on it. The shaft goes right through the sole of his shoe into his foot. Within seconds, the fabric has soaked with wine-colored blood, and he is calling 9-1-1.

What interests you about this situation? The man and what happens to him from this point? Or the nail? Where it came from? How it landed on the sidewalk sticking straight up? Which story do you want to hear?

***

I remember my first reading of Silence of the Lambs. I loved Clarice Starling, but I was fascinated by Hannibal Lecter. He was an aberration—both teacher and adversary, cultured and inhuman. It didn’t matter how he got to be that way, what shaped him, twisted his psyche. It didn’t matter what his motivation was. I didn’t care. He was mysterious and enigmatic, and that made him intriguing and captivating. I accepted him as he was.

***

Magic realism depends on our acceptance of such images, characters, conditions, and situations that defy our standards of reality, defy the norm.

When Tita cries into her sister’s wedding cake batter, in Like Water for Chocolate, knowing the union will keep her from the love of her life, the cake sickens everyone who eats it. We don’t question how her tears accomplished this, or wonder if some type of bacteria or virus was transmitted through those tears and survived the oven’s heat. An explanation isn’t necessary. In fact, it would kill the magic, ruin the book. We must accept her transformative gift, and the consequences that come from it.

***

Now, a nail is not a person, and a cake is not a person, but they both can act as antagonists, if momentary ones. And, sometimes, an antagonist is more compelling when they appear out of nowhere, or their reasons for being in the story, behaving as they do are nebulous, or just don’t fit.

Magic, the unexpected, aberrations, and enigmas can be irresistible if they stay true to their natures, resist explanation, and let readers fill in the blanks…or not.

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Bones

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I’m not going to talk about writing.

There are these bones, you see, almost 32,000 of them, strung together in a fairly reasonable order.

I think they will function well. All the joints are properly connected, in the right places—foot, ankle, shin, knee, and so on. It took a bit of effort. A few bones didn’t seem to fit, and had to be moved. Bones do have their logic.

And now that they’re properly fashioned, as bones should be, they look, well, skeletal.

They need padding.

I can’t put a suit or a dress on them yet. It won’t hang right. A skeleton need padding first, and then layers.

There’s a long list beside me, getting longer by the minute. I leave the desk, and five new items for the list occur to me, and five more, which will layer nicely on those bones.

But for now, I plan to let them hang around unbothered for a couple of weeks, so they can get used to their assembly, settle in to their identity.

Bones like that.

Yes, they do.

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