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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Essence of the Experience

Essence of the experience rather than specifics.

That thought came to me while I was contemplating writing character bios and scenes for my novel. I was thinking about how it is an effort for me to focus upon the specifics of what's happening around me--from conversation to appearance to action--and I realized that I seem to absorb the essence of the experience rather than the specifics, or at least in recall mode that is what happens. And it may account for my poor memory of past events and people in my personal life, too, because unless something is to trigger the sense or es-sense of the detail of whatever it happens to be, my recall can be anywhere from hazy to non-existent. My mother despairs of me because she easily and accurately recalls enormous amounts of detail from over the course of seven decades!

For writing novels, it is repeated, in nearly all of the instructional books I've read, that one needs to be a good observer of the details of speech and action and all the other facets of real life. I am willing to exert myself in this if it means a more realistic presentation of the story that allows the reader to be drawn in, in fact, encourages it. But also what about imagination? If one can imagine the story can we not imagine the entire manuscript to create from essence rather than specifics? I wonder. I have to since I am currently deficient in specifics!

But if I am to also encourage recall and therefore allow transference of details, then I need to focus. Maybe these can be 'dates' with myself, with my memory tissues, to set into prints upon my mind the sights and sounds of experiences? To sit quietly for a while along a street or sidewalk or inside a mall or museum, and listen...watch... I find when I am participating in the experience actively it is quite difficult to recall specifics, partly because of the speed at which life moves these days--fast talk, quick movements. Even slower movements are without pause, without stillness to take in the segments and photograph them into mind, and so are still challenging.

It's like when life becomes too hectic, I withdraw my senses back into my self, including memory, and life bounces off like a ball against a wall. An invisible wall that moves along with me, bending and reshaping itself to the outer edges of the me that is form. So all I receive is the essence of what is happening around me. Did I erect this wall? Or is it simply part of who I am? I know the scattered thoughts of my own busy mind and when I feel additional scurrying of the outside stimulus become too much, up comes the bubble wrap like a Star Trek captain, somewhere inside comes the directive "raise shields!"

When I sit down to write, I feel a scene arise more than see the specifics, and then I find I dig up the remnants like I am on an archeological journey of discovery, finding bits and pieces fitting them together like a puzzle. A fragment from childhood here, a shard from a first relationship there. It seems that there is plenty there to recover, but they don't arise easily on their own. I have to look for them. On hands and knees. Sometimes with a magnifying glass, nose in the dirt, and hope the bit isn't prickly...

They definitely aren't recalled like Mom's where she recalls stories instantly in all their former glory, darting back and forth, past to present and back again, all the names and faces and dates and experiences. Story is an integral part of her--she lives those events again in an instant, repeatedly, yet doesn't struggle to find them. For me, the past--last week or two decades ago--is gone and it is effort to recall it.The present moment has always been more here for me.

So where do they come together, the essence and the specifics of an experience, and how do they mesh. How do they affect the end result of a novel? Could this be an aspect that determines whether one person creates a 'realistic' version of a story? Is a 'literary' novel or a mostly narrative novel easier for an essence person to write as compared to so-called 'popular' fiction with all its dialogue? I enjoy reading all kinds, but what is mine to write?

This writing process is a journey, even aside from the story that is being written! LOL


  1. Deficient in specifics, rich in imagery and metaphor. Write from a place of fullness and love, and you will never regret it.


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