Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bird by Bird*

“It is no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” –Mark Twain

If a gun appears on the wall in act I, it must be fired by act III.

It’s a fiction rule, like the one shoe dropping. We hear the man upstairs undressing, one shoe drops, and we wait. No fair if the guy upstairs quietly sets down his second shoe.

Suspense is created by foreshadowing.  The gun on the wall, a palmist gasps when she examines the hero’s hand, you see a torn letter stuffed into a mail box and knows it has significance, but what?

I’m contemplating my novel Song of Africa, one that has been on my shelf, in my drawer, in the computer, traveled from California, to Oregon to Hawaii to Oregon—it’s still in my computer, added to, written over, and finally an ending found. It’s a miracle.

 The problem? I have written 40,000 words and I need 75,000 by the end of the month. I read about foreshadowing, structure, plot, beginnings, middles, endings, style, technique, suspense, all of which is overwhelming. Like Real Estate study, you throw too much at a person and they become catatonic.

“Take it bird by bird,” Anne Lamont’s father told her brother. He was collecting bird names for a school project, and felt there were too many birds, he couldn’t do it. “Just take it bird by bird.” Anne uses that advice in her writing and *Bird by Bird is the title of one of her books.

Right now, after attending a concert and wondering about art, and the artist, and realizing that while they (those authority figures) tell us to “Give our gift.” “To do what you love.” “Built it and they will come.” You know the drift. “Do what you love and money will follow.”That sort of thing. I wonder, though, there is a fine line between entertaining and self-indulgence.