Sunday, September 05, 2010

Connect the dots

August was a very social month for me.  It started with a wonderful group of online friends who came to visit for an extended weekend. I never thought I could fit ten people in my living room but we did it. Yoda was a fairly quiet bird during that time. I think he was soaking up all the conversation because once the company left he chattered for days. 

One of the recurring conversations we had that weekend was about storytelling versus craft. While not all of my friends are writers, they are all big readers who know what they like and why.   There are some big name highly successful writers out there who are a lacking in the craft department but can tell a tale like nobody's business. We are all willing to forgive many flaws if we're entertained.

Last weekend I was visiting Miz Elen and had a similar conversation.  We're both of the opinion that good writing only improves good storytelling.  She introduced me to season one of Mad Men.  It's sharp, witty, has great dialogue and is a tad less paranoid than my beloved MI5.

Stashaholic came for a visit on the last day of the month. Because we started our viewing with MI5 we expected a character on Mad Men to resolve a conflict with a gun.  Not the most relaxing way to wait out a tropical storm.  We switched to a  WKRP in Cincinnati marathon.  There were moments of sheer hysteria. I couldn't catch my breath from laughing so hard. Perhaps it's the fact that Stash and I met at broadcasting college or the fact that we knew a few Herb Tarleks and Les Nessmans or maybe the writing is that good but we laughed til our sides hurt. It was a touch disturbing when Yoda laughed through the Turkey Drop episode.

What those televisions shows had in common with wonderful visits with good friends was stimulating dialogue. On all three weekends I had the opportunity to take part in conversations that ranged from how to save the world ( mandatory naps) to the price of yarn in Jordan (who cares! it's gorgeous, take two) and all points in between.  It's interesting to see how a variety of disparate political views can be heard and respected when there's affection between all the parties.  I lay in bed one morning after an interesting evening discussing the state of the world with Elen.  My mind alternated between how to resolve the holy wars and designing a shawl.  Somehow I don't think knitting prayer shawls for the religious leaders would do it yet it's fascinating how our minds connect the dots sometimes.

As a writer we do that all the time - take random events and connect them.  It's a big rule - if it shows up in one part of the work, it better show up somewhere else. I think that blows the punchline sometimes.  The world is random and full of coincidence. Life does not always make sense.  I suspect that's the appeal of MI5 for me.  Characters die, disappear or are fired as would happen in real life.  While most fiction is an escape, and I want such over-the-top silliness as WKRP provides, there needs to be an element of realism.  I recognize those characters.  Every radio station has a Dr. Johnny Fever, and Andy Travis and a Mr. Carlson.  The world of advertising is creative and cut-throat. You never know when the Intelligence Services have done their jobs and kept the public safe.  Good storytelling breaks a few rules.

The only rule when it comes to great conversations is to listen to each other and see where that takes you.  If you're blessed with friends like mine, they will make you laugh, tilt your head in confusion and most of all consider another angle entirely. Prayer shawls for everyone.

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