Formula for Waking Dreams

Mix a bag of unbleached flour,
water still milky from the tap
and brittle, yellow pages
that slip their binding.

Daub the mixture thick
on a wire frame tangled
as a snarl of hair.
When it hardens, this will be

your altar. Spill wine
along its scabby backbone.
Scatter seed at its misshapen
feet, and as the earth slips from under
the sun’s oppressive eye, you’ll see

why no face is many,
and your form is not dry at all

but molten.

The Reader as Screenwriter, Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Casting Director, Costume Designer and Actor (Part III)

(The results of an experiment, described in the first and second parts of this series about the writerly reader. A condensed version of this study appears in my book Narrative Madness, which you can acquire at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon. I have sometimes altered spelling, punctuation and capitalization in the responses to make them more accessible.)

The Conflict

Twenty respondents (71%) gave their longest answers to the question “What happened?”, sometimes two, three, four and five times longer. Obviously, this is the part of the story that matters.

Continue reading “The Reader as Screenwriter, Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Casting Director, Costume Designer and Actor (Part III)”

The Reader as Screenwriter, Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Casting Director, Costume Designer and Actor (Part II)

(The results of an experiment, described in the first part  of this series about the writerly reader. A condensed version of this study appears in my book Narrative Madness, which you can acquire at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon. I have sometimes altered spelling, punctuation and capitalization in the responses to make them more accessible.)

The Setting

When we read a story others have read, we assume everyone has had a similar experience. However, the range of responses in this experiment demonstrates how differently readers envision a narrative. The amount and specificity of detail shows how thoroughly readers inhabit a scene, even one that is brief. As you read the rich responses below, feel free to reimagine these reanimations of my story. After all, it is your birthday!

Continue reading “The Reader as Screenwriter, Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Casting Director, Costume Designer and Actor (Part II)”

The Reader as Screenwriter, Producer, Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Casting Director, Costume Designer and Actor (Part I)

(A condensed version of this study appears in my book Narrative Madness, which you can acquire at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon.)

I know a very talented individual who adapts literary works, produces and directs them, designs staging, lighting and costumes, casts the characters, plays every last one of them and sometimes adds music and special effects. This whirlwind artist accomplishes all this effortlessly, while sitting around the house in underwear and a t-shirt. That genius, my friend, is you!

When a writer walks away from a text, she vanishes. Roland Barthes calls this “The death of the author.” The death of the author, however, is the birth of the reader! So, let me be the first to congratulate you as you step in for the author and rewrite everything, animate the work and perform the text. A piece of writing, like a music score, is a set of mute symbols until it is played. Only then does it come alive.

Continue reading “The Reader as Screenwriter, Producer, Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Casting Director, Costume Designer and Actor (Part I)”

Trapped in Narrative Language

Our stories have driven us mad.

All of us. You, me and Don Quixote all suffer from narrative madness. Alas, I can not cure you, but I can treat the symptoms with a gloppy plaster of metafiction.

Like the ingenious man of La Mancha, we wander lost through clouds of story, never directly experiencing our surroundings, others, or events. On the day he sallied forth, the self-christened Don Quixote encountered an inn:

“And as whatever our adventurer thought, saw, or imagined, seemed to him to be done and transacted in the manner he had read of, immediately, at sight of the inn, he fancied it to be a castle, with four turrets and battlements of refulgent silver, together with its drawbridge, deep moat, and all the appurtenances with which such castles are usually described” (Cervantes 28).

Gustave Doré

Continue reading “Trapped in Narrative Language”