I'm here in Raleigh, and it's raining cats and dogs today. Yesterday, though, I wore flip flops and a short sleeved shirt and read a book on a bench outside, with the sun warming my skin. It felt terrific.
I've seen cotton fields, which look like a thin coat of snow in November, brown and white, patchy. I've tasted sweet tea, which is much much sweeter than I expected. There are churches everywhere, and some of them are as big as high schools or auditoriums. I've been not quite to the coast, but near enough so that I met a sailor and learned where to go to get a ride on a boat or to join in a local race. Tomorrow we'll be on the coast, and next week in the mountains. I'm going to see a lot of this state.
I'm inclined to agree with Ogged that good relationships make for crap blogging, and I'm up against my own rule against telling other people's stories if I were to make this a place to write about disagreements or doubts. So I'll not dwell too much on things with me and Mr. NBT.
I'm going to a book group meeting on Monday night. They're reading The Female Brain, which I need to find a copy of and read. I'll let you know what I think of it.
I've also been thinking lately about narrative structure. That sounds really abstract and it is, I suppose, and since I haven't really figured it out I'm not ready to write about it yet. But my most recent roommate, who just moved out, was a big fan of chick lit and trashy romance novels, and from her I acquired the habit of devouring a pink-covered paperback from time to time. I read one on the plane down. And as you know I just gobbled up the first season of Lost on DVD. And both of those things made me think about storytelling: what makes a story satisfying and what creates tension or drama or a pull onward. I wonder if music theory would teach me anything, because I think we are pattern-seeking creatures and I think there are cycles or arcs or sequences that are satisfying, just as there are series of notes or patterns of sounds that build tension until you come back to an original key. Lost does a pretty good job getting that mix of backstory and forward motion and interpersonal drama right, although hearing people talk about the most recent season I hear frustration and irritation, as though they're violating some unwritten rule about the payoff and the clues a viewer deserves. And the romance novel -- Welcome To Temptation, by Jennifer Crusie, was not particularly good, but it was very satisfying, partly because the characters were archetypes and partly because of the mix of armchair psychology backstory and partly because of the plot and the interpersonal drama. And it's not fair to say that the characters are archetypes, just as they're not archetypes on Lost. I think a successful story has characters that are archetypal but have surprises that make them individual. It seems almost like a cheap formula, but it works in popular fiction and on Lost, I think -- we like to think we have someone pinned and then realize there's something more to them, and yet also feel confirmed that we've put them in the right category. There's a formula, or an optimal blend, I think, that engages people in a story, and I've been thinking about what it might be. Anyway, more on this as I sort it out.