I haven’t written a word of fiction in about three weeks, discounting in-class exercises. I think I’m failing to see stories. This is all Walt Disney’s fault, probably. Or no, it’s Shakespeare.
If you aren’t familiar, a typical Shakespearean comedy ends with about six weddings and then an old man gets a pie in the face for causing all that trouble. Also cross-dressing. But mostly it’s the marriages that signify the story is at an end. Like Cinderella, and the Beauty and her Beast, swing-assing around a ballroom under a chandelier clearly only ever meant to be lit once: on a wedding day.
Well time doesn’t stop at wedding day, does it? I’ve just read Dryden’s play Marriage á la Mode, which is less than a century removed from Shakespeare but is also heavily post-Cromwellian and Puritanism therein. So basically it’s a bunch of sex jokes. See also: The Country Wife, which Wikipedia says has a sex joke in the title (country? really, British people? really?). If like most things this marriage bug comes and goes in cycles, Dryden’s play is the fossil record: all the married folks can’t stand each other. Everyone is preoccupied with finding a great mistress or mister (?) to bang on the side. The play starts with a dude arriving in town to marry someone but immediately falling in “love” (horniness) with someone else upon first sight of her, who turns out to be his friend’s wife, and his friend is currently trying like hell to bang the girl the original guy is supposed to marry. Everyone figures out exactly what’s going on by act II, and for a while they keep up appearances in front of one another, insinuating that no, a seething frothy foursome would NOT be exactly what I crave, thank you very much kind sir. They do almost agree to all living together, though, and at the end the gentlemen pretty much agree that each will stay faithful to his wife (knowing, now, how desired she is) until (not if, until) the wife gets bored with the husband and seeks out the other dude. Then it’s orgy time. Which is most certainly going to happen in six months, eight at the most. They will have their cake and cunniling it, too.
I’m struggling to extract myself from the post-Disney era. Even Dryden had all the marriages work out, I think, at least during the scope of the play. And there was one “true love” angle, too, that almost fell apart but eventually they became prince and princess in the end. Which I think he had to do, if he wanted to get his play on the stage. No wedding at the end of a comedie would be like a Michael Bay movie without an explosion. You’ve got to move tickets.
I, though, don’t. I can write whatever I want, because nobody’s reading it anyway, and I don’t see a wedding as an ending anymore, and I don’t see marriages as a plot anymore. I don’t see the plot anymore. Romance is turning into backstory for me– if that– so where does the story start, and where does it end, and what the hell happens in the middle that matters. I don’t know. I can’t see it.
Which is a problem, because that’s, like, the only requirement of my ostensible job. To be a fiction writer, all you really have to do is see the story. The forest for the trees.
I can’t see any trees.