|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
THE NOISE GOES ON
Let's hear from one of the women of Askew Poetry Journal, #14. Glenna Luschei presents a series of poems based on readings of the Syrian diplomat, poet and publisher, Nizar Qabanni's works. Her piece, "GRATITUDE FOR MY CAMEL" appears here.
Photo by D.F. Baylis
Gratitude for my Camel
Thank you, Nizar, for my camel Ma Bouche.
I rode him to the watering hole
an oasis of salt cedar and palm trees.
I know the meaning of his name: my mouth
laughs while my eyes weep
and in Arabic:
the soul laughs while the heart
He knelt to drink
while I swam.
You and Ma Bouche understand me,
how I can laugh and weep at the same time.
FIRST, LEARN TO WRITE
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it. But too many writers start off by taking creative writing classes. This is like someone who wants to learn to be a mountain climber going out and buying a ton of equipment and heading for El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. They may survive the experience but their likelihood of success and enjoyment are the same as tiger hunting with a lasso.
My earliest exposure to writing was as a student journalist. I started my own paper in high school to counter the sanctioned monthly that contained little more than prom, sports, and graduation features. I recruited a group of malcontents and we stumbled through the first couple of issues. Lucky for us, one of our rank was the son of a Boston Globe editor who taught us the rudiments of journalism.
Your story is always about the who, what, where, and when, and occasionally the why. If you can distill an article on a local politician down to who they are, who they are involved with, what they are after (and what they are willing to trade for it), where they were when you interview them (or they screwed up!), and how it is you managed to be there, you have a story.
These are the same things you need to get down if you are to relate a quality bit of fiction. Who are your characters? What are they doing? Where is all this taking place? When is it occurring? The question of why is answered in the things you bring to light that motivate your characters and drive your plot. Do you need to beat me over the head with why? No. Just like with reportage, your character's actions will reveal their motives. Who stands to gain? How will they gain? What makes this possible?
The trick is not to tell me the why. Show it to me by what the characters do and how they interact with one another. Do I need every grimy little detail? If I do, then I'm not much of a reader. It's the missing pieces that the reader gets to fill in on their own that involves them in the story. This is what compels them to keep reading. You don't have to drown their participation in floods of adjectives, adverbs, and modifiers. You need to find a way of imparting what you want known and felt without saying it.
This has been the backbone of journalism from the beginning. Let the story speak and keep your two friggin' cents out of it. Equally in fiction, if you have taken the time to create believable characters that you enjoy and understand, then you will have the pieces on the board to maneuver and use in creating all the tension and entertainment necessary. If, on the other hand, you don't understand and appreciate the facts of your story, then you are going to create a thin fantasy of mist and echo with little for a reader to grasp and contemplate.
Oh, and learn to accept that this is a rough climb. Like the granite walls of Yosemite, you learn to conquer them in small steps. There will be days when you will doubt you've made any progress. There will be some when you wonder if the trip's worth it. Each manuscript out is another opportunity to fail. Each failure is an occasion to learn. That's the difference between the writer's and the students. Writers can fall on their asses this morning and be back at the challenge by this afternoon. Students are never sure if they should even get out of the tent and make breakfast.
Just a helpful hint from your Uncle Dane.
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis