Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Iliad of Inconvenience

This is not strictly a nod to MOV's Curse of Inconvenient Things, but I figured this was still a good excuse to reference it.

Anyway, "Iliad of Inconvenience" is just one of the many memorable phrases I came across while reading Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, and I figured it was as good a description of the way I write (and live) as any I've come across.  Big Dramatic Developments are the bread and butter of fiction (and the only way the news knows how to report anything), but it's not really the way life works.  Though I do tend to include Big Dramatic Developments in my stories, they're not ultimately the point.  It's really how inconvenience affects my characters (and again, my life).

I don't know about you, but I obsess over inconvenience.  I think a lot more people do, too, even if they don't admit or realize it.  It's about things not generally going our way in small and subtle ways, how our lives end up being defined by the paths we end up taking because of the choices we make (or sometimes simply from the available limited options).  I say I obsess over it because this matter of inconvenience is a matter of perspective.  By all accounts I have a much better life than a lot of other people.  I'm writing this on a blog, on a laptop (yes, I still use a laptop), any number of elements in that being entirely unavailable or inconceivable to those who would consider my life the veritable lap of luxury.

When I write a story, I don't particularly care to write about people who are the best of anything, or the worst of anything.  Some of them may be in important positions, are be considered important, but I don't approach them that way.  They're just people, and their problems are matters of inconvenience that they have to work around.  I don't believe in writing the Big Dramatic Developments that place someone in peril, possibly because I don't live that kind of life myself, and I don't particularly want to manipulate my reader that way.  If they have a response it's because hopefully I've helped them have a sense of my character's relatability.

The famous axiom is "show don't tell," by which it's basically meant that you must present your reader with a vicarious experience, something they end up feeling like they've shared rather been told.  I tend to get bored with that kind of writing, because we happen to live in an age where the visual medium is not only extremely vivid but pointedly more popular.  Why should I care to compete with that?  The visual medium is all about Big Dramatic Moments.  A story is a chance to explore something else, an Iliad of Inconvenience.  Small Dramatic Moments, if you will.


  1. My life isn't big dramatic moments either. However, I do like to read and write them. There's probably a balance of both, as inconvenience was a major factor in my second book.
    My biggest inconvenience in life is slow drivers.

  2. I like that expression. Never heard it before. I do like big dramatic events in my stories as well. But the small inconveniences can make interesting stories


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