Thursday, June 08, 2006

dean: 0 story: 1

Sometimes, in the process of writing, I end up wrestling with a story.

For instance, I have been problematizing about the "Princess Karnak" story. I started basically with an image of a tired-looking woman in heavy stage make-up levitating under a magician's hand. I started writing without an idea of plot and wrote a scene. It looked good and I decided to use it for the end sequence. Then I changed my mind, rewrote it as a prolepsis and put it at the start so that I could use the flashback technique. Then everything stalled.

I stepped back for some time and let the story flop around in my mind, teasing it a little bit here, poking it a little bit there. Soon, three characters came to light; two women and one man. I looked at them and found myself in conflict with one of them. I preferred to limit the story to two characters, but the third one wouldn't go away. Fine. So I started writing again, junking the initial scene I wrote a while back and crashed into the issue of POV (point of view).

Initially, I thought the story would be told in third person omniscient, but suddenly it seemed incorrect, a wrong fit. I was irritated because suddenly the character I didn't like got to "speak", in terms of being a narrator (this happens when the things are decentralized). So I stepped back again and let the story ferment.

A few days ago, in the midst of writing something else, the story came back - completed in terms of plot, narrative, tone and character. All I needed to do was to write it down and do my usual tinkering.

The problem was I didn't like the story. I didn't like the tone, I didn't like the structure, and I was still cold to the third character (I feel she's just a token character with no real function except to provide another perspective in terms of narration). Furthermore, the story had lost its magic, the very "speculative-fiction" nature of it. It was a realist thing about choice set during a magic show/performance, and apart from the cosmetics, there was no real wonder. I could approach it from a language perspective (to "wonderize" it) but it was not the story I thought it would be.

So that's the status quo. I have a story in my head but feel loathe to set it down. I feel somewhat piqued and bit disappointed (like I was expecting to taste chocolate but got a mouthfull of something savory instead).

I started to write anyway, in bursts of words, but I could feel my lack of interest in the entire thing; I could see it in my word choice, in my truncated sentences that held little adventurousness, in the less than inspired dialogue, in the lazy description, and in the way I just wanted to hurry and get it over with.

Where is the love? I don't know.

I plan to finish it anyway, exorcise it, and then see if it is something I can grow to like. If so, great. If not, I will strip it down and rewrite it until it becomes the story I intended it to be in the first place.

Sometimes though, this is a futile exercise. Certain stories get written exactly as they should be (I know, it sounds freaky, as if I subscribe to the notion that there are fully formed stories floating around the ether, waiting to be expressed - I don't), while certain stories are more agreeable to being tweaked and molded to the author's will or agenda. Some stories have a definite personality from the get-go, others do not (just like writers, haha).

It is a case of author versus story (which should make an interesting story in itself, but I'm sure it has been done before), and currently, the advantage is to the story.

So how will it all turn out? We'll see. But in the meantime, I'll write it and get to work on the other stuff on the writing totem pole.