I’m on a flight to Newark NJ for a National Sales Meeting. I have about five more hours to go. I’m seated by the window, typing on my 15 inch macbook pro, and I just finished reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s short story Morphine. It was a short little book, but moving, and disturbing, and inspiring.
My mother and father visited me in California for the first time this past weekend. The last time they visited me anywhere was in Nashville for Christmas in 2015, when I was living in my loft with D located downtown, the loft that my possessions still occupy, that I rent out on Airbnb for supplemental income. And before that, my parents visited for my graduation in 2012. Of course I visit them in Florida, or wherever we vacation or holiday, but there is a sense of isolation, that my life isn’t as interesting or worth the inconvenience, which I understand, but when I consider my friends and the relationships with their parents, it becomes apparent that my mother and father are less sentimental about the nature of my life, and overall less willing to invest their time and attention which would be considered an inconvenience all things considered.
I enjoyed their company. They met G, which pleased me, though G and I have been on difficult footing recently, and our future together has become increasingly unclear as we negotiate the compromises necessary to satisfy our needs. Needs which seem unassuageable.
This past year I have reverted back to my former self, the one characterizing my college years, which is possessed with visions of achievement, and a hunger to grasp the thread of hope day to day in an effort to make something of myself, and transform the pitiful life I’ve made for myself.
This former self is preoccupied. That is to say, is not occupied with temporal distractions, visceral or corporeal, the earthly or material kind that nurture fantasies of pleasure. No, this self is consumed, possessed, with visions, ideals, with no concern for the flesh and its sentimental affections.
Relationships are difficult, because my concern it no longer appeasing my significant other in order to reciprocate affection and attention. No. My significant other is relegated to the role of a convenient companion. And so, there is a distance as my daily routines preclude their consideration. I know this is insensitive, but what’s a man to do? I have no interest in kisses, romance, and whatever other drama necessitates a lively relationship. My sole interest lies in manifesting these dreams. There is a hope, and it is all I care to nurture. It provides my life with meaning, whereas my relationships, typically, do not.
I’ve thought long and hard about why this is the case. Perhaps she is not the one? It’s very possible. But I’ve done a fair job exploring the field, and dating a wide spectrum of women without discretion in the hopes that if there was a woman, a type or personality, that suited my restless imagination, I would surely find her. But, alas. After thousands of conversations, and hundreds of dates, I find that they’re all the same, more or less. Like cake. There are endless varieties, but what my soul craves isn’t the sweetness, but the substance, and no amount of cake can provide that.
Of course I’m being harsh.
I need women who are deep, who are stimulating, who know struggle, who have cultivated a stubborn will of defiant achievement, where others have acquiesced for more palatable forms of want.
That all being said, it was good to see my parents. G spent time with them on Saturday and Sunday. My parents and I managed to avoid the religious and political contention until the very last hour, when my father began to implore about truth, and its obvious nature, and suggest that many of my pains could be remedied with god, and that spiritual community would allay my feelings of isolation, and that they know a good christian guy I’d get along with, and he’s into philosophy! so surely we’ll see eye to eye.
Most religious philosophers are mere amateurs in matters of philosophy, too terrified to explore the depths of their beliefs, and peer into the dark recesses of their minds. They cling to dogma, or skirt the edge of spiritual mysticism in an effort to stay progressive, and use “philosophy” merely to rationalize their fears, rather than venture into the darkness and challenge the monsters within themselves that they’d prefer to stay ignorant of.
I can forgive my parents for breeching the subject of religion. However, the cheery gratitude of their visit was dimmed as a consequence. Why? Because the fail to respect my capacity to think, and this discounts the value of my experience and, in turn, my humanity.
I haven’t written much of my story, The Last Dream. And why? The story is a bit fuzzy. I need to emphasize plot structure. This is a theme I plan to devote more working time to. How to construct a compelling plot.
What is a plot? There are circumstantial plots and emotional plots, and both work on each other to engage to reader, to contextualize the story and make it relatable, but more than that, they provide a causal chain of events that compels the reader to read on, to turn the page, to see what’s around the corner, and discover how it all turns out.
Without a plot, it’s all poetics. Which is fine when you’re trying to capture a feeling, and inspire some transcendental response. But prose is what appeals to the “so what?”. Who cares about the feeling if its of no consequence. Why does it matter? This is where plot comes into play. It provides scaffolding for the mind to grab hold of, to rest and move about. It provides a place at any given moment. Without plot, writing is a formless ocean that stretches in every direction with no obvious shoreline.
So, what is “plot structure” after all? There are archetypes, character archetypes, story archetypes, themes, genre’s. However, for the sake of plot, and structuring the story, I think the most useful representation is Fryetag’s Pyramid. If you were to ask me the key elements of this pyramid, I’d only be able to tell you that it begins with set and setting and characters, followed by rising action and conflict and tension, peaking at climax, and concluding with falling action or resolution, and lastly denouement.
Now, the actual pyramid is actually the following:
- Exposition: Background information of the plot that includes characters and setting
- Initial Incident: The very first conflict that occurs in the plot.
- Rising action: Three major events that add suspense or tension to the plot (complications or frustrations) that lead to the climax.
- Climax: The most suspenseful part of the plot. The turning point of the plot. The turning point of the protagonist’s character.
- Falling Action: Three events (or less) that unravel the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist that lead to the resolution.
- Resolution: The conflict is resolved and then we discover whether the protagonist achieves their goal or not.
- Denouement: The “tying up the loose ends”.
I wrote two short stories with Dino last week as an exercise is plot development. We wrote for 30 minutes at a time, making up a story on the spot, and trying my best to adhere to the plot structure progression. The result was a very intentional story that did not lack creativity, but possessed an arch which was easy to read.
So, while I’m on this flight, I intend to write a short story. Perhaps 1,000 to 5,000 words. The theme is a dystopian future. My sole goal will be to illustrate these points, ensuring that they are communicated clearly, and not obscured by my desire for originality and creative which hijacks clarity.
What will the short story be about? Well, besides a dystopian future, I’m thinking American life in 10 years, perhaps an element of science fiction, as society becomes more engrained with these digital landscapes, the psychology of citizens is molded into an outrageous caricature of itself. What are the values of today, actually? Not ideally, but actually? And what would it look like if we take these to the extreme? I see the line between propaganda and news dissolve, I see echo chambers, I see advertisements, I see consumerism, I see a combination of a brave new world and 1984. I see a disconnect between simulation and reality. I see people in favor of values which manifest completely the opposite, creating an absurdity that further compounds the dissonance, and forces people cling to tribal images and symbols rather than anything concrete. Meaning ceases to exist. It’s just input and outputs, and the illusion of freedom. Consumerism and access to novelty, whatever its form, are the only barometer of civil satisfaction.
So, I’ll begin that shortly.