The emergence of pattern

The Sleep of Reason includes the repetition of a certain “ritual” through the course of the plot. That word is a misnomer; “activity” might be better. This activity is a complex event involving a great deal of preparation by several characters but chiefly by the protagonist. The activity itself is comprised of three parts each time, and in the course of the novel, the activity will take place four times (though in the back story it had been going on much longer).

In giving the account of my protagonist’s work on preparing for the activity the first time, I wrote a spooky chapter about how he surmounted great difficulty to get one of the three parts to take place. He resorted to creative problem solving, and it made for good story. I had originally conceived this “difficulty” as a way to bring more “weirdness” into the tale. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing.

I knew all along that the third time he staged the activity, he would face a different kind of difficulty, one that would seal his ultimate fate. The creative problem solving he resorts to there solves the difficulty while creating a different one. That different one becomes the difficulty he faces in the fourth staging of the activity, and its resolution is the resolution of the story itself.

What you can probably see here is what only slowly revealed itself to me. The larger story I had to tell had a built-in, repetitive pattern. Yet each time, the protagonist faced a unique difficulty in carrying out the ritual activity; I found that I had a sort of pattern within the pattern. I knew at the start of my scribbling what the difficulty would be the fourth time; it’s the climax of the story. And I knew that the difficulty of the third time would be the key plot point that eventually resulted in the climax. Merely thinking I was being clever, I contrived a difficulty for the first activity. Which leaves the second activity.

Before consciously recognizing the subordinate pattern I had set up, I embarked on writing the chapters dealing with the second run of the ritual activity with the notion that it would be fun to make a part of that difficult for the protagonist too. The difficulty was not as creepy or fateful this time, but it was clever, and fun to write. And thus I had completed the circle of the subordinate pattern without realizing that there even was one.

I don’t attribute this seeming serendipity to some mystical creative source. I figured out the major structure of the story — the larger pattern — early on, and it was only recently that I decided to limit myself to having the ritual activity take place four times rather than many more. I will say that creating the pattern within the pattern was a subconscious creation, a gift from that part of my creative mechanism that I am too grateful for to try to figure out. It is not essential to the plot, but it sure helps with the story telling, and to my view half of a story is in the telling.

I realize all of this a more than a little cryptic, but I’m trying to be careful not to give away too much of my plot and not to dissipate the urge to tell the story in novel form by telling it in this blog instead.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Sleep of Reason

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