One Moment

Lately I have been working on a book that I wrote four years ago, trying to fix it. It had taken me four years to write, during which time my writing was interrupted by major changes in my life, surviving the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, moving to Canada, etc… Even though I have edited the book before, I am still not happy with the end result. For the past few weeks I have been trying to find the problem only to realize that I have jammed the book with so many unnecessary events and happenings. Thus I have created a character who, instead of focusing on her own problems, focuses on ideological problems and causes of humanity. In order to find a solution I went back to my book of excerpts and quotes and read:

“We need to follow E.B. White’s advice and not write about humanity, but about a man.”

Friedrich Nietzsche once tried to describe the inability of writing to capture it all.
“Think of all the great books ever written. Now close your eyes and think about one moment in real life.”

I have to write about that one moment in my character’s life, the most important moment, and concentrate on her problems rather than her concerns for humanity.

I continued to read from my notes.

Albert Payson Terhune describes an incident with Brandon Matthews, his tutor at Columbia University.

“One day, as Brandon and I stood at the window of his study he pointed to a drably smug-looking middle-aged man in the street below.
“If I could write that man’s life story,” said he. “if I could set it down just as it happened, from his childhood to this day- I would have written a greater book than any in all the literature of the world, except only the Bible. I don’t know who he is. I don’t know anything about him. I never saw him before. I just picked him out as an example, because he seemed to be most typical commonplace. Here’s what I am driving at:
“There is no man or woman whose life story, if honestly and completely told, would not make a far greater drama than any ever written. But that drama can never be penned. Nobody has the perfectly correct vision of his or her own life and the episodes and angles of it which are great drama. The struggle on the cliff and the rescuing of beauty in distress are not truly dramatic moments in any life. Sublime drama consists of everyday happenings and reactions, greatly described.””

Now that’s a start!


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2 Responses to One Moment

  1. ChK –

    You’ve got it! I would say that you have discovered the wisdom inherent in any meaningful conveyance of story. It’s not so much about the subject’s environment or condition, but the subject itself.

    Great post!


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