Saturday, April 2, 2011

Vivid and Continuous

I'm reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamot. A friend loaned it to me, and I'm enjoying it. I've been a fan of Lamot's Shitty First Drafts since I clapped eyes on it (it's a chapter from this book). This passage re: plot caught my attention; though there aren't what you'd consider traditional plotlines in archaeological reporting, her process of the characters speaking to the author and of the story revealing itself in fits and starts really resonated (substitute data for characters and narrative for story).

And wouldn't it be grand if archaeological writing were vivid and continuous?

Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other. You'll see them influence each other's lives, you'll see what they are capable of up and doing, and you'll see them come to various ends. And this process of discovering the story will often take place in fits and starts. Don't worry about it. Keep trying to move your story forward. There will be time later to render it in a smooth and seamless way. John Gardner wrote that the writer is creating a dream into which he or she invites the reader, and that the dream must be vivid and continuous. I tell my students to write this down --that the dream must be vivid and continuous -- because it is so crucial. Outside the classroom, you don't get to sit next to your readers and explain little things you left out, or fill in details that would have made the action more interesting or believable. The material has got to work on its own, and the dream must be vivid and continuous (pp. 56-57).


Clio Bluestocking said...

After 10 hours in nineteenth century Baltimore with Anna Murray, I am feeling this post.

Digger said...

Fits and starts are the first steps to vivid and continuous!

Squadrato~ also recently wrote "Impatience is the enemy of good work." I hear that. Oy, do I hear that. (