Friday, February 1, 2008

Guest Feb. 7, Ron Samul

Ron will talk about:

* Creating a web presence.

* His personal blog.

* Professional work, creative work, reading lists, etc.

* His writing journal where he fosters ideas and post items such the essay below.

* Postings of images and videos.

"On the technical side - I think I will discuss writing styles for different blogs and new media. And how to protect your work, when to close a blog to users, how to get the most out your blogs and driving traffic.

"Of course this won't be strictly lecture, it will be conversation where people can jump in and discuss their own experience and work on the web.

"Below is a recent journal article I ran on a blog for ideas and reference material."

In Agreement With Poe

by Ron Samul

In April 1846, Edgar Allan Poe published The Philosophy of Composition in Graham's Magazine. And in the first paragraph is the idea that I think is important for writing long fiction. That knowing the ending or at least the moment of truth - is critical in understanding the novel and its current construction.

"Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its denouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only the denouement constantly in view that we an give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention."

So, what do we know of denouement in plot? Let's lay it out here for reference in the future. This concept by Poe falls into line with my own thinking so exactly, that it must be expanded to show others its importance. Denouement in simple terms is the resolution of a literary work. However, as it is suggested by Poe and in other resources, novels fail when the beginning is not directly connected to the end, and therefore the end directly related to the beginning.

In the article The Problematic of Ending in Narrative by J. Hillis Miller (Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 33, No. 1, Special Issue: Narrative Endings. (Jun., 1978), pp. 3-7.) To write without an understanding of the ending is almost impossible to arc the connection and the disconnection of the plot and the denouement.

By a strange but entirely necessary paradox, the problem of the ending here becomes displaced to the problem of the beginning. The whole drama is ending and beginning at once, a beginning/ending which must always presuppose something outside of itself, something anterior or ulterior, in order either to begin or to end, in order to begin ending. The moment of reversal, when tying becomes untying, can never be shown as such or identified as such because the two motions are inextricably the same, as in the double antithetical word "articulate," which means simultaneously putting together and taking apart. The tying and untying, the turning point, is diffused throughout the whole action. Any point the spectator focuses on is a turning which both ties and unties…. This ending must, however, it seems, simultaneously be thought of as a tying up, a neat knotting leaving no loose threads hanging out, no characters unaccounted for, and at the same time as an untying, as the combing out of the tangled narrative threads so that they may be clearly seen, shining side by side, all mystery or complexity revealed."

Perhaps this is the place for another essay, but why does death seem like the right answer to end a novel? This is an interesting idea.

"Death is the most enigmatic, the most open-ended ending of all. It is the best dramatization of the way an ending, in the sense of a clarifying telos, law or ground of the whole story, always recedes, escapes, vanishes. The best one can have, writer or reader, is what Frank Kermode, in his admirable phrase, calls "the sense of an ending."

To me successful endings don't have to end in death, but it is the ultimate change. In thinking of the writing I've done in the novel, they all end in death. However, there is always the survivor, the one who remains to live on, or to live without. If we take that into the circular idea of undoing the knot while we are sewing it up, then did these characters live without from the beginning of the novel. In The Staff, the answer is yes. Taska has been denied things all her life. By living with Cain, she has been denied her right to live alone and peacefully. In Hinterland, the survivors are the three people that moved around Kushter. If Kushter's knot is to pull apart and come back together, is that what's happening with the other characters. Elizabeth is clearly fits and Maribel still holds in the idea that you have to fall apart to become whole. The Barnacle Girl might not fit as well into that model. While I think death is ending, not all books need to have it. Some of

The great books I've read, push that idea off. In the Giant's House (McCracken) is a good example of love and living without the tragic death. A Gracious Plenty (Reynolds) is a unique book that shares the stage with ghosts from the beginning and her control over the voices bring about her change into a life beyond the dead. Novelists always ask, what's at stake! And if it isn't life changing - then who give a shit? As we think about how we know our novels and our endings before any writing is "attempted with the pen," we have to consider the ultimate loss. And perhaps it is a sign that we are all facing that idea and the condition of living.

In the two novel ideas that are being developed, death or the risk of death is important. Yet, it The Vile (as a concept) it isn't the main characters death, but his fight to stave it off in a twisted version of hope. In Night Blind, Silas spends much of the book preparing to kill someone. He realizes he has to live it, understand it, and believe it is his only course of action. As he evolves into this killer, everything shifts when he sees the girl go back to the arms of the man that raped her. That is the moment of truth.

The moment of truth is the big "aha" moment of the big twist that everything hinges on. Denouement is the resolution - but the moment of truth is where we have the final twist of fate. Does this occur at the end of novels? Does it have a specific place in a novel? Sometimes that moment of truth is a suspended moment in time, like Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes. Everything moves around that first time he sees her. It is that idea of significant impression. (See coming entry for that.) In No Country for Old Men, if he didn't go back and try to help a man who was already dead, he wouldn't have been caught in the killers cross-hairs. I suppose in just explaining that, the irony of that statement makes the story line bound from beginning to end. He marked himself as a dead man by trying to help a man who was already dead. Moment of truth, or the big revelation is an important piece for the plot. Perhaps it is at the apex of the plot line. From then on, does the denouement seal that fates of all until it is complete? I think that is a fair interpretation.

If anything, this entry proves that by understanding the relevance and importance of the ending, only then can you safely go forward and drive the characters with purpose, insight, and focus to the known end. We all should have a known end.

Without it, we wander and worry all the time.

Ron Samul
MFA Professional Writing

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