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Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Life as a Novel

Lately, I cannot help but feel as if I've become a character in a novel.  Having written novels myself, I know the basics of plot construction and, darn it all, if it doesn't seem as our life has turned into the typical plot found in the typical novel.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, pretty much every movie you watch, or novel you read, follows this basic plot outline:

A. Start with a change and introduce the hero/heroine. Start with the minute, the day, the month that everything changes for our plucky, though slightly flawed, hero/heroine and propels him/her on a journey.

B. Give our hero/heroine a goal to accomplish.

C. Throw obstacles in the pathway.

D. Let our plucky, though slightly flawed, hero/heroine triumph over obstacles, then, after a brief respite, throw new obstacles in his/her path.

E. Keep our hero/heroine struggling, make it look as if he/she will reach their goal, let him/her triumph again and then, finally, throw one last seemingly insurmountable obstacle at them which brings our hero/heroine to their knees---and us to the climax where the audience will grip their seats...

F. Then let the hero/heroine triumph. Or not. It's the author's call here. But be sure our hero/heroine is somehow changed from the experience.

So that's it, the basic bones of a plot. And once you know that, it's kind of irksome because you begin to see it in every form of entertainment out there--be it a love story or a murder mystery.

One of my favorite movies is Stranger Than Fiction which stars Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffman. In the movie, Ferrell plays a plucky, though slightly flawed, hero who discovers that he is a character in a novel with an unseen author narrating his every move. Then he realizes (through foreshadowing) that the author is planning kill him, so he must find her before she does. One of the best scenes is when he asks a professor of literature (Dustin Hoffman) for help, and the professor tells him that before they can find the author, they must figure out if the novel is a comedy or a tragedy.

I find that scene quite funny because really there is such a fine line between comedy and tragedy. People often ask me how I can keep my sense of humor through all Bob and I have been through. But really, it's all about perspective, i.e.:

Comedy: Someone slips on a banana peel.
Tragedy: YOU slip on a banana peel.*
(*Though in a week/month/year you will tell this story and be laughing your head off...)

Now, of course, you know our story. The novel plot which I feel rather trapped in. Which starts with a "change" -- a stroke. And propels us on a journey with a goal to accomplish (recovery) and to continually confront many obstacles along the way.

Lately, it seems,  I have reached E. in the above outline. Where a seemingly insurmountable obstacle has been thrown in the path. This being the "brachial plexus injury" causing Bob's head to drop and his whole body to sort of lean to the left.  And I tell you, it has pretty much brought me to my knees...

Today, it's raining for the third day in a row. The rain is slow, steady, unceasing. The sky is dark with every imaginable shade of gray. The palm tree outside my window bows its head in the wind. A tropical storm is whirling out there, somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to turn toward land. This is what Edgar Allan Poe called "the single effect theory": which is to make the environment match the mood of the hero/heroine. It's a nice touch.

The other night, when Bob was asleep, I went to the back porch to watch the rain. Then I stepped outside. Let the rain beat down on me. Literally, beat down on me. Until I was drenched. I don't know why I did this, I do know: it felt good.

A bit melodramatic all of that. But that would certainly make a good scene in a novel.

So the question comes down to this:

Is this a comedy or a tragedy?


Will our plucky, though slightly flawed, heroine triumph? Or not?

Stay tuned...


Jenn said...

I love his plucky little heroine <3
She's one sensitive yet tough cookie.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, both the hero and heroine will triumph. Their strength, dedication, and persistance will prevail. No one knows how the story will end, but we who are following the story already know the hero and heroine are true winners. Hugs, Dan

Barb Polan said...

Yes, yes, yes - you WILL triumph.

Rebecca Dutton said...

Martha Graham was a choreographer who faced constant scorn because she was a woman invading a man's world and wanted to add modern dance to the world of ballet. Martha said "It isn't my business to determine if what I do is good enough." I think she was talking about people who just keep doing everything they can think of despite enormous stress. No matter what happens, you and Bob have left no stone unturned. This is not a small thing.

Anonymous said...

Ah Diane - I can see you in my mind's eye standing on the back porch with the rain coming down and the tears on your cheeks. But always know that one day when you are looking back you'll know that you got to let go of the stress somehow and do what works for you girl - always in awe of you.