During the waning hours of last evening, I read Peggy Bechko’s excellent blog, Adding That Novel Punch and when I finished it I was moved to comment on its helpful content. Now, before you race over to her blog site to test the veracity of my statement, let me head you off at the pass and tell you that you won’t find anything by me there.* But it wasn’t for want of trying. I filled the comment box three times, and though I must say the quality of each comment was better than the preceding (which went far, I suppose, in supporting the point of her blog—read it and you’ll see what I mean), the sad fact was that nary a comment got posted. The good gatekeeper systematically rejected my log on three times with words (and, I will be forgiven for not remembering them exactly) to the effect of “Log on not authorized”—and each time the content **POOF** vanished. I should say—and will—that I imagine most readers will have already thought, “a person with even a modicum of intelligence would have copied the second post after the first one failed, would certainly have copied the third one (especially as it was the best of the lot) after the second had ethereally imploded.” In my defense, though, I didn’t think of it ….
So, Peggy, this is in way of apologizing for not leaving a comment on a blog that was truly comment-worthy. I’ll try to recapture the flavor of my third comment, but you’ll have to take my word for it that the original [third] draft was a true work of genius.
Your blog appealed to the writer not to distance himself from the reader by telling the reader what the character is feeling instead of letting the character’s behavior express those feelings. Your blog contains so much more, but this is the part on which I choose to focus.
As I studied your post I reflected that when fiction is perfectly executed, little squiggly black marks on white paper move through a direct conduit from the character’s emotional response to the reader’s exactly corresponding emotional affect. No thought intervenes. It is metaphor directly injected, not simile with all its “likes” or “ases”. It allows—no, it causes!—the reader to be that character. However briefly, an alchemy of the profoundest intimacy takes place, as anyone who has experienced it can attest.
Knowing this, I asked myself: “Why do we all, as writers—knowing what is at stake—have to perennially guard against the tendency to distance ourselves from our readers? Aside from the fact that it’s easier to shovel out a dish of “tell”, I believe the roots travel to a deeper source. In order to directly transfer that level of alchemical intimacy from character to reader, the writer must first experience it in himself … And the necessary degree of intimacy with the truth of one’s emotions, along with the vulnerability that entails—laying everything out bare—can be (in keeping with the season) pretty spooky. I know it is for me.
There is a nail somewhere in my paragraph that I have failed to hit directly on the head. I know that! But, I’m going to leave it with shank bent for someone less intellectually challenged to straighten out and drive it home.
* * *
As for me, I’m going to allow that paragraph to be a segue into another blog which nudged me into its presence with the intriguing title, Happy Birthday, Mom … A Remembrance. The blog is the child of Teresa Cypher, I use the words “nudged me” advisedly. There is something serendipitous about the fact that her blog wormed its way into my awareness shortly after I had read Peggy Bechko’s posting.
Aside from the fact that two of the readers who left comments spoke directly of the transfer of emotions (“Teresa, this post made me cry,” and, this one: “I can’t see the keyboard for my tears.”), two other comments, with one of them being answered by the blogger, plumb deeper into the mystery of emotional intimacy I’ve been struggling to describe.
The first one observed, “Had to be hard and heart-soothing at the same time to write that entry.”
And, the second: “A very personal post and at first it felt a little ‘intruderish’’ to comment on that.” (Emphasis mine) … to which Teresa replied, “Looking at the post now, it does appear that I was having a conversation with myself.” (Again, Emphasis mine.)
Friends, I challenge anyone to read her post without at the very least getting a lump in your throat, or if you’re an “unliberated” man, perhaps that tickly thing in the solarplexes that warns, wordlessly, “Watch it! Watch it! Blink, take a deep breath, think of something else.”
And, now that I think about it, perhaps that unliberated-writer-man I’m talking about is one of the people Peggy Bechko is directing her suggestions to, after all, about not distancing himself from his reader.
* Interesting dilemma … after saying this, I decided to give it one more try posting a comment on Peggy Bechko’s blog. You guessed it. Now, all of paragraph one is sham!
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