Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The why of stories, via royal weddings, traffic, and pets

Writing commercial fiction isn’t the same as, say, crafting Viking swords. With the latter, you want to make sure you apprentice with someone who completely knows his or her art, and you want to pay attention. Lots and lots of fervid, note-taking attention. However, with the former, although some basics of craft are good to know, the goal of your art is to illuminate the human condition, and let’s face it, none of us on this planet have a clue what we’re doing. Or why. Anybody else’s guess is as good as mine.

So that’s who I learn from: anybody. Everybody. All the time.

From my kids, who get weird messaging that we should all be leaders, but also we should all work in groups…where not everybody is going to be, you know, leading. So is being second-in-command undesirable, then? But what if the wolf-shifter pack alpha is a craptastic leader and it’s the get-shit-done somewhere-in-the-middle-of-the-hierarchy canid who actually deserves my attention? (And my heroine’s…)

From the rush hour traffic ballet, where the several-decades-old American muscle car with the heavy metal band bumper sticker brakes to let in a SmartCar with an Infowars bumper sticker, and suddenly I’m wondering about the drivers’ genders and demographics and politics and dreams and fears, and how this whole faceless highway social structure might change if, say, we all used driverless cars.

From my news feed, which is filled with clashing stories about the upcoming Royal Wedding (and the new Prince Louis and his oh-yeah-she-is big sis, Princess Charlotte) and Elon Musk, and now I’m wondering how something old and crumbly like monarchy will fare in a future of Mars vacations and cyborg dragons.

From my tiny dogs, who are hosting my mother-in-law’s pets while she is out of town, and are learning to live with a cat. Lily has responded with curiosity and an adorable desire to get to know the newcomer; Tahiti clearly thinks his space is being invaded by something not-dog and is super anxious as a result. Which feels a little like immigration? Invasion? Integration? So many human behavioral stencils can be laid over this burgeoning pet relationship, each yielding story fodder.

Oh, and here’s a pic of the dogs, all together on one chair (Lily, the super friendly gal, is that one in the middle). Notice no cat. OreoKitty is on the stairs nearby, watching, maybe wanting to be part of the fuzzy blanket club. Or maybe just thinking how sad it is that all those pups can’t jump up to the lofty place where she is.

Human condition, right? The lessons are everywhere, and I can never learn enough. Also, each time we interact, you teach me a little more. So, I learn from you, too. Thank you.

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