While making an Indian style pulau for breakfast I savored the fragrance of the spices toasting together on the hot pan. In the mix were: cardamom seeds, cinnamon bark, clove, coriander and cumin. It struck me then that the bouquet from the heating spices was a form of alchemy. The catalyst was the flame. It allowed for the spices to release their unique essences and blend with the others. I like to call it: Greet and Meet.
How can I apply this magic to my writing? What is the magic that good writing needs to be fulfilling? I think it’s simple, but so hard to get at. And this simple magic is truth.
Have you ever gone to a comedy show and the material and delivery just isn’t funny? What makes a joke funny I wondered? Analysing it, I came up with – it’s the exposure of the subtexts beyond the words. It’s identifying the moment that resonates in each one of us, and transforming this moment to words and action. To the writer it is the transformation in the story and also what change happens to the story teller in going through it.
Last night I was reworking a situation, one which I’ve been laboring on for quite sometime. It’s an important situation in which the key players are together. In rewriting this situation I felt there was not any flavor and substance to the dialogue. It was flat. What’s the matter? I asked. What am I hiding? And what should I do to get unstuck? I stepped back and got busy with nervous habits – eating and drinking lots of caffeine. Well this is not going to help me get unstuck. Get back in there and face the situation. What do these people really want to say?
Now, the mystery in the process started to unravel. I, as the writer, needed to check-in my ego at the door and leave it behind with its agenda and my idea of the story. Though I have the omniscient point of view, I am not the god creating this situation. I am the channel for these people trying to tell each other something important to them. Trust Analyn. Learn to trust the players in the game. Know that they know what they want to say.
So the magic was ignited when I learned to express some compassion towards my players. I stopped dictating what I think he should say, and how she should respond. I just let them express, and I got further along in the story. The alchemy of the story was happening at many levels: in the story, in my players, and in me. It was liberating.
“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.”
– Anais Nin