November 17th, 2011


Unpacking More Omni Thoughts

I spent the majority of the day awaiting word from a courtroom (not, thank goodness, in a case that involves me directly).  Then, I spent some time thinking, "Y'know, if you're in court to try gaining more time with your kids, you probably shouldn't repeatedly plead the Fifth under cross."  (Okay--so I spent some time chuckling about it, too.  I mean, really.)

After my griping yesterday, I made myself justify writing omni.  The easy answer is that it just feels right.  A cop out.  Kinda like pleading the Fifth.  The better answer is that the story would be a very different one if told in third, and that different story isn't the one I want to tell.  That's more like "I don't recall."  The real reason has something to do with an observation made by someone at VP, and Johnson's warning before the Six Day War.*

My VP submission included the opening chapters of Chant.  At the group critique session, one person said my repeated use of "rumor" led her to wonder if it named a magical power.  Her view made complete sense.  While rumor isn't a magic force in Chant, it is indeed a power of its own.  Rumor is stronger than fact.  Facts provide certainty; rumors embolden dread that makes the very pursuit of certainty anxiety-provoking.

Now.   One facet of the Six Day War (as well as most conflicts) that fascinates me is the number of times action is taken based upon false, exaggerated, conflicting or missing information, or upon assumptions and interpretations of others' actions.  At the time President Johnson said the danger, "lies in some miscalculation arising from a misunderstanding of the intentions and actions of others."  That sort of atmosphere--filled with misunderstanding, miscalculation, faulty interpretation and rumor-induced anxiety is interesting.

And that's where the omni comes in.  The macro story is a strong character, a moving force, in its own right.  Stripping out the omni--and thus the macro story--would be to deny its fundamental nature.  I didn't plot the novel by determining what the main characters would do, but by what the other characters thought about what the main characters did.

Frankly, I think life works that way far more often than we'd like to admit.  We like to consider ourselves the Great Movers of our own lives, and so view our stories from that perspective; it's all about what the protagonist and antagonist choose to do.  But, really, what drives events more often than not are collective reactions, not individual actions.  Though a single act of good or evil has its own intrinsic value or cost, nothing outside the individual really changes until the reaction happens.

(Yes, yes, I understand the chicken-egg nature of the above.  I'm not trying to be right or wrong.  I'm simply choosing a perspective.)

So Chant has a triple burden I'm trying to weave into a tale.  The perspective of the narrator, the intimacy of individual characters (who cannot escape the narrator's perspective), and the macro story that influences and constrains them all.

Yesterday I just wanted to say, "Fuck it!  Who wants pie?"  Today...  Well, I've had cherry pie, and I'm ready to work.

*I didn't mention the Six Day War to decide and/or confirm which side acted with evil intent, so I would appreciate it if those inclined to have that discussion would have it elsewhere.  Thanks!