Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Ruin a Reveal

There’s a person I know who has a reputation for ruining stories—a certain father of mine. He can’t hear very well and so he’s often afraid he missed something. Not only that, but he has a unique mind, a specific and original way of thinking. This makes communicating with him awful because while seeing things in a different light, he’s also interpreting something you’re saying in the strangest of ways, and then responding in kind.

Last Mother’s Day, my whole family went out on a trip in the RV. Now trying to tell a story to four whole people without getting interrupted is a problem in itself, but I feel a personal specialness that allows me to say with my family it is even worse. Because it happens to me.

So we’re driving home and I start talking about a man and professional conflict. The good part is it comes from our mutual insecurities in knowing what the hell we’re doing. I have a point, and I have a plan. I began the story.

Before this time, I never realized how much I am glad people can’t ask questions while reading.

When being edited, I have one specific wonderful friend who I can turn to who actually gives feedback. And, you know, read it. While doing so, however, one of the interesting things I find about her methods is she does not enjoy figuring anything out. She wants to be told an answer immediately and tends to shy against any sort of mystery and enigma. I know this; I’ve seen her do it with official movies and books just as much as any manuscript. But the problem is that I also know I tend to be confusing. I’m not much for description, I leave stuff out, and, in all honesty, I tend to just assume people know as much about certain topics that I do—including worlds I made up.

While I feel this is a positive aspect of my writing, it does lead to some deep confusion when getting her responses. When she is baffled, and perturbed by it, is it because of her personal issues or mine? And, like I said, she is wonderful because she is the one person I can count on, so the option of getting other people’s opinion isn’t always an option at all.

In any case, I begin to tell my story, starting with my first impression of this man who I want to bitch about. I state, in the beginning, I just assumed the director knew what he was doing and I would never have questioned it until he went to such lengths to prove it.

My dad starts in on his first typical question, “Wait. Who is this?”

So I tell him. He doesn’t hear, and I tell him again. He doesn’t hear again, and my brother finally shouts at him the response.

“Isn’t he like, well educated or something?” my dad says.

“Yes, but not in the field he’s in.”

I was saving this for later. But, since he brought it up, I begin to explain about his many degrees in many random things and how the one degree that correlates to the subject at hand isn’t enough of a relation to really be considered a great form of experience. He had a degree in dramaturgy, which would be akin to an literary degree that focuses on plays. His job, however, is directing. This is like assuming an English teacher would be great at writing. It kind of makes sense to someone who hasn’t witnessed the transition, but it’s not necessarily true. They’re two separate skill sets.

Meanwhile, my mother has to get out to go to the bathroom. So she says, “Wait a minute,” and I stop my story. But then my dad still keeps acting.

“How long has he been out of school?”

I said I didn’t know—I’m a bad gauge of age—but, while he looked to be probably midlife, he also seemed to be a professional student, having at least four degrees in completely unrelated subjects. I guessed an age and my father said, “I thought he was a young guy!”

So we talked about the three people he could possibly be from the play my father would have seen him in, and after what seemed like 20 minutes later, we came to the conclusion that Dad did not remember him at all.

Then he says, “Well, if he has a degree in it, he has some sort of experience.”

My point is that this is not the case. Which is why I was saving it for later. I was saving it for after I had hinted what the “correct” opinion had been, for after I had proved my opinion. But it’s out in the air now, so I go into a diatribe about this moral of the story, which was actually forcing me to bring my point to the middle of the story instead of the end. I tell my father that while speaking with a member of the tech crew, we got into talking about why the director was so hard to deal with. My coworker decided that though our enemy was an “experienced genius,” he needed to express more gratitude for the effort other people were putting in. I asked him why he thought our dear friend was such an intellectual and he admitted it had everything to do with the reputation of the degree.

Then the car goes quiet. My father waits. He turns around in his seat.

“And?” he asked.

I shrugged, replying, “Well, this is where I’d talk about the foolishness of thinking that someone with a vaguely related degree would be good at something, but I guess we already have covered that.”

There was silence, so I added, “I really don’t have an ending anymore.”

Then my mom got back in the car and wanted me to start over.

Authors want readers asking questions, but this is because they don’t have to stop to answer them.