Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dinner Conversation

I recently had dinner with my parents, during which my mother and I began discussing the screenplay that she's writing. I had the unpleasant task of explaining to her all the reasons why her story was being structured wrong.

My father, an accountant who reads Jonathan Kellerman novels, was sadly lost during most of this, though when I touched on points where the story would just be boring he was able to offer his support to my argument by saying "he's right, I'd be bored by that."

It was a strange experience. My mother was the one who first helped me develop my voice as a writer, learn to focus what skills I had, and is my biggest fan--just ask her. She's the reason I learned to indulge in my imaginings, no matter how dark they got. I would not have the ability to stop a "what if" in my brain and catch it before it flees, learning to turn it over in my hands and examine it for the nugget of story contained within the layers of "what if." Suddenly having to explain to her about story structure, point of view characters, narrative arcs, and all these things that I know she knows was more than a little surreal.

This is not to say that my mother is suddenly dumb, far from it. She just embodied that moment in all of our story development where we wrap our arms around our stories in a protective embrace and scream "NO! It's mine and it's perfect just the way it is!" It's a part of the process, and it's very helpful at this point in the process to have somebody whom you trust and who will know how to break your story apart without tearing you down in the process. Friends, editors, colleagues, whatever or whoever you have, use them and trust them when they tell you that you've got the world set properly but you haven't found the right story yet.

My father bore witness to this for at least an hour over dinner, my mother defending her choices and me explaining why they were the wrong ones.

At the end, I'd said all I could say and had begun to repeat myself, and my mother's arguments had grown shorter and shorter until she saw that, while I might not be right, I was at least on the right track. (Maybe that's another post I should put up, how to listen to your critics...) I got up and cleared the plates off of the table.

From the kitchen, I heard my parents speaking in low voices and then laugh. I called to them asking what was so funny.

"You're going to make a wonderful professor," my father replied.

This is not the first, second, or even tenth time somebody has told me something about me being a professor using "when," and not "if," in the statement.

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