Thursday, July 19, 2007

Artfully Delaying the Inevitable


In a way, writing is nothing more than artfully delaying the inevitable. This may explain why writers are such fantastic procrastinators.

Take me, for instance. I should be finishing up my final draft of Torrid Affaire; instead, I'm writing a blog entry -- long hand -- with my battered and red-ink stained copy of TA sitting beside me. I literally have maybe two or three pages to write. That's sick! Why don't I just finish it already?!

So we all know where most stories are heading as we read them. Harry Potter, in spite of Jo Rowling's coy statements, is not going to end with our favorite bespectacled wizard riding his Nimbus 2000 to that Great Hall in the sky. It's pretty inevitable that Harry will live, and I'm banking what little reputation I have as a plot-smith on that prediction.

However, when I pick up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday morning, I will no doubt grit my teeth through every page, fearing the worse. All because the art of writing is the artful delaying of the inevitable.

We all know how easy it would be to short-circuit the situations our favorite protagonists find themselves in. We all know that telling the truth or opening the mysterious door or refusing to get one's panties in a bunch -- whatever -- would take all the fun out of it. Imagine "Three's Company" without the mandatory misunderstood eaves-dropping! Story over before the first commercial break.

The trick is to delay the inevitable -- the discovery, the outing, the explanation that sets all back to normal (or at least a new "normal.") The further trick is to do so without getting caught by the audience. That's where the artistry really comes into play.

This hypothesis would explain why the revelation of a "deus ex machina" is such a groaner. The writer has done a lousy job putting off the inevitable, and has wandered off to Delaware rather than a sound third act.

I hope this has been enlightening. If you will excuse me, I need to finish my play!

[Note: upon returning home, I was sure to blog this before typing up my corrections for Torrid Affaire.]