Friday, February 10, 2012

Bigfoot Blues

Photo by Wayne Parrack.  licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Whenever I am trying to take a nap I like to put on the TV and tune in to a show about history or the paranormal.  History is good to sleep to because it already happened.  It's not like you're going to miss something if you sleep through it.  Plus the monotone narration is also soothing to the ear.

When I'm drowsy I also like to tune in to these Bigfoot hunter shows.  For one, like history shows, I am certain nothing will happen in the show that I will need to stay up for (come on, they never find anything, do they?).  I also sort of enjoy the traipses through the woods with the UV filter video and the almost juvenile attempts to leverage technology to capture the elusive "squatch".

As a writer, I never want my stories to be snooze-worthy.  And I think this can happen if a story is too reliant on the standard fantasy tropes.  But I also have this need to ground my tales in established mythology, which would seem to conflict with the notion of trying to keep a storyline fresh and innovative.

So how does an author walk the fine line between innovation and mythological resonance?  Maybe further reflection on my affection for Bigfoot shows will shed some light.  Maybe the magic of these shows is the enthusiasm the hunters display as they go about their hunt.  They treat their experience like an adventure--even though the outcome of the adventure is never in doubt.  Somehow these hunters make the viewer suspend disbelief--perhaps only for a few moments, but that's enough.  Maybe they will find a "squatch" this time!  Maybe Bigfoot IS real!

As a fantasy writer I try to suspend disbelief for readers by making sure there are no visible seams in the plot.  Plot seams are the equivalent of seeing the author running around in a cheesy Bigfoot suit.  When the plot is seamless and "organic" I think the reader starts to wonder what might happen next--and by extension feels like anything could happen.  This sense of uncertainty is what makes a novel exciting for me as a reader.  The author may be behind the curtain, but if the curtain is well concealed then the illusory narrative of the story remains seamless.

I've recently been revising the ending of my new novel, and I was feeling really down about it for several days.  I think it was because I was trying too hard to just sew up the plot seams with little regard for subtlety or prudence.  I just had to wait for the right idea to develop organically from plot circumstances instead of trying to "synthesize" something to connect the dots.  As tempting as the Bigfoot suit is for an author, it's best left in the proverbial closet.  Don't worry, the skeletons will keep it company.

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