Wow, talk about Signs. I’ve had a bunch of them in the last couple of days. First, my brother called and started talking about The Situation forty – forty! – years ago. I don’t want to get too far into it here, but I did something selfless back then to help my family. It radically and completely changed the entire trajectory of my life, and not necessarily for the better. (I’ll never know, will I?)
If my family had listened to even one word I’d said for the preceding eight years, The Situation wouldn’t have existed and who knows where I’d be now, but probably not Here.
And no one noticed what I did and what I lost (or possibly gained) by doing it, or acknowledged it, or even had the good grace to thank me for it.
Until my brother brought it up in a phone call yesterday. He had noticed, it turns out, and has felt bad for the past forty years that he couldn’t do anything to change the situation at the time.
Well. Ya think this is conjuring up a whole host of thoughts, memories, ‘what if’s’? My mind is in overdrive.
While noodling over this, I got a Facebook message from an old friend who remembered that thirty – thirty! – years ago I told her I’d wished I’d written the book Kinflicks.
Kinflicks? I can barely remember it, and I haven’t read anything by Lisa Alther since then, although that’s about to change. According to an Amazon review, it’s ‘a realistic warts-and-all view’ of coming of age in the ‘60’s. Since that could describe my life back in the day, fer sure I’ll catch up with it again.
The grand finale in the ‘What next?’ sweepstakes came this morning when I finally organized my office and put things into my new filing cabinet. I was putting something on the already-crammed bookshelf when a book fell to the floor.
Hmm… Steven Schoen’s The Truth About Fiction. I don’t remember buying it, let alone reading it, but there was a yellowed strip of newspaper holding my place, so I must have at least started it. I opened it to the bookmark. Ah, Chapter 4: Plot.
Here’s the first page of the chapter:
If you want to make yourself depressed, all you have to do is go to a library or one of the new superstore book vendors. Wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling books and magazines. Page after page of fiction. Obviously, everything that can be written already has been, right? What new is there left for you to do?
Take heart. The fact is, in the broad strokes, on all those pages, there are really only six plots.
First of all, there are only three basic conflicts:
a. A person at war with another person.
b. A person at war with his (sic) world.
c. A person at war with himself.
And there are only two outcomes: either the protagonist wins, or he loses.
3 possible conflicts X 2 possible endings = six plots.
I’ll let y’all know what I think of the Schoen book. I can already tell you that it’s 115 pages soaking wet and that Amazon.com is charging $44.40 for it new. Which makes me think it must be used as a text in college writing classes, where the cost of student textbooks is shameful. Which pisses me off, and is another reason I’m glad I’m not in academia full-time anymore.
So: Now I need to figure out how to connect all the dots life has presented me with in the last 48 hours. Stay tuned.