Friday, August 5, 2011

It's in the Air

We have an oak dining table, not one of the sandwich things made of particle board and a coating of oak veneer, but a solid slab of English oak, heavy, unyielding, and hard.  Last year, at Launchpad - that intensive astronomy course for writers in Laramie WY run by Mike Brotherton, posed the question about the source of my table's hard, heavy wood.  Was it made of dirt sucked from the bones of the earth by the Oak's deep roots, dust transported to deposit on the leaves from distant realms, or something else?

The answer, of course, is that only some of the above comes from the earth: the oak table is mostly carbon that its leaves extracted from the carbon dioxide of the air and stored, atom by atom, molecule on molecule in the tree's heartwood, transforming a gas into something solid and real.

The writer's research is often thought to be at the center of building a good story: Getting the facts as right as rain; getting the pace and timbre of dialogue to ring true; and getting the sense of place and time properly set.  Talent, that indescribable something that differentiates a writer from a journalist or casual diarist, provides the art for a good story, but training and experience also play a part. Sheer perseverance can also produce something worth reading.  How this is accomplished is explained elsewhere in great detail, supported by pages upon pages of explanation.  All of these contain biases and suppositions that support their particular theory of what makes a story a story.  And all of them have some validity, varied only by the methodology espoused, but don't mention the one key fact behind all writing.

We're not talking about the content of a story, nor even its structure, plot line, or anything that appears on the page.  This is about the story's essence, the idea behind the idea. A writer takes it in with every breath of air, every sound, and everything they eat/read/touch/smell. It's the heartbeat of life, the love of family and friends that infuse and illuminates every word put on the page, that helps frame the sentences, and informs the plots.  It is all about life, all of the time.

It's in the air.

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