The Obvious

Roses are red*, yes, and though I do love the deep, dark color red, truth is, I do not at all like red roses. If a certain someone came to me on certain holidays with a certain number of long-stemmed, thorny red roses wrapped in plastic, I would feel…

Probably a little let down.

Red roses are just so obvious.

I also don’t like the obvious in the books I read. I like the surprise ending, the twist of events, the character changed. I like the end of a story that must be mulled over for days, weeks, the end that is the perfect stop and yet at the same time not really a stop at all. I like to imagine beyond what’s there on the page.

I’m the same way with movies.

I’m a little hung up on this idea of what’s too obvious as I write in fits and starts** my current project. Sometimes I think my original plot is too obvious—though it was never, ever meant to be anything close to a whodunit, or even a mystery at all, unless you think humans themselves are the ultimate mysteries, so then, yes, I suppose it would be. Other times I think my original plot is too opaque. I think I’ve had comments saying both things. Now, as my story becomes another thing entirely, as I sit here, letting it slip and slide in different directions throughout my already slippy-slidey head, I am trying to let the story progress naturally without being so obvious. I don’t want someone reading it (even if that reader turns out to only be E) to feel like they already know will happen before even reaching page 100. A delicate balance, this.

For some reason this time I am not afraid to let go—not of plot points, not of favorite lines, not even of an entire character’s narration. So, I wonder: was this obvious from the beginning? That I would write the book the way I did the first time, be told it wasn’t ready, then revise it as I did at the writers colony, be told it still wasn’t ready, fall deep into that depression, realize the book was artificial, realize it wasn’t close to my heart, realize I could shove it out the window and be done with it for good and then… inexplicably… just before doing so… suddenly know exactly what to do to make it mine? Was this obvious to everyone else but me?

What’s not obvious to me right now is what will happen—to me, to this, to anything. I feel blindfolded. But I’m going to take another step forward. Let’s hope I don’t trip over the couch. Not again.

* That was for you, Heather. Check out her meme if anyone wants to play along. I’m supposed to pick three and I broke the rules. Volunteers?

** Fits and starts because I spent the weekend, yes the whole entire weekend, ugh, working on that copyediting freelance project, and it needs a ton more work—including finishing the style sheet, doing the timeline, fact-checking things from historical names circa the founding of New York City (once called New Amsterdam) to the Bowery Boys to wondering if it is possible to take one bus from Inwood all the way down to the Lower East Side plus is Times Square really the busiest intersection in the whole world, like what about Bangkok? You get the idea… Oh, and I have to read it again to make sure I didn’t miss any typos. Next weekend will be busy, too.

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7 comments

  1. Although the genre may be outside of your tastes (I don’t know), have you ever read anything by Philip K. Dick? He wrote science fiction, and many of his stories have been later turned into feature length movies (unfortunately, “Blade Runner” is the only one that seems to have maintained his dark style). My favorite aspect of his stories is that you never see the end coming.

    Not being afraid to “shoot your dogs” (let go of poor plotlines and such) is very hard, so if you can do that, it’s a plus.

  2. TheFirm: I have never read Philip K. Dick (is that possible?). I am not usually a fan of science fiction, but who doesn’t love Blade Runner??

  3. Not read Philip K. Dick? [insert look of mock horror here]

    I highly recommend his short stories. The ones I really like are “Second Variety” (much better as a short story than the movie adaptation known as “Screamers”), “Paycheck” (ditto for the story/movie), “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (ditto story/movie aka “Total Recall”), and “Minority Report” (see previous story/movie comment). “Blade Runner” was largely based on the story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” and Dick seemed largely happy with it.

    Virtually every Dick story presents a compelling situation, makes you care about the characters, and then throws in a twist at the end that completely inverts your “reality map.” I could read his stuff all day.

  4. By the way, to the best of my knowledge, this Dick will not “make you slap somebody.” However, I’ve never read his work in large groups, or when being sexually intimate. Given the way his stories tend to have a (really bad) surprise ending, the bedroom is probably the wrong place for those plotlines.

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