Care e povestea pe care o spui?

Una dintre cele mai frumoase poveşti personale pe care le-am citit recent este My Mother’s Lover, o încercare a unui fiu de a afla cine a fost marea dragoste a vieţii mamei lui, cel lângă care a vrut să fie înmormântată, deşi nu-l văzuse de 60 de ani. (Costă $3 pentru iPhone şi iPad; $2 pentru Kindle).

Povestea e frumoasă, dar la fel de frumos e şi acest interviu cu autorul, David Dobbs, în care povesteşte cum a scris-o. În fragmentul de mai jos vorbeşte despre cum, fără editori, ar fi scris o poveste care încerca să facă prea multe lucruri. E unul dintre cele mai importante sfaturi pe care le dau reporterilor şi cursanţilor mei: scrie despre un singur lucru. Dacă nu l-ai identificat, n-o să iasă. Dac[ vrei să araţi câte ştii şi scrii despre tot, o să iasă un terci.

Uneori, ca să înţelegi acel singur lucru despre care e povestea ta, ai nevoie de editori. Iar aici, din păcate, te-a luat dracu în România.

What were the most challenging parts of the writing process?

The hardest part was figuring out which, of the many stories within this saga, I should use as the main thread. Looking back, I can see that all through the years I messed with this story, I was struggling with this question. This saga contained, at minimum, a mystery; a manhunt; a love story; a family history; a detective story; and a story of a son reckoning with his mother’s hidden life. I see now that I had to find, among all those options, the one that would best carry implicitly the others—because it was death to try to do two of them in full. But it took me a while to realize that, because I’m stupid and I’m greedy and wanted to tell them all.

What brought me up was sending what I thought was a finished version of the piece—15,000 words, which I’d slaved on for weeks—to Steve Silberman and Adam Rogers and Maryn McKenna. To my horror and benefit, they actually did what you’re supposed do in such instances, which is be brutally frank. Steve sent back a sharp-eyed, granular edit that smoothed about a hundred rough seams and stumblers. (His best comment began, “Oh God, no!”) Adam and Maryn attacked the structure. For this I owe them—well, you’ll see.

Adam called me and said, “I don’t know memoirs that well, but I know mysteries. You’re trying to do both. And you’re fucking them both up.” He was right. He pointed out that if I set a story up as a mystery up front, then the reader, his mystery hunger aroused, will feel cheated if that mystery doesn’t prove central. And I had done that: There was a genuine mystery, early on in both my mother’s life and in my own investigation, as to whether my mother’s lover had actually died or just snuck home after the war. My mother’s cousin, Betty Lou, had wondered about this for 60 years. This raised the question of whether my mother might have wondered about it all that time too—a pretty intriguing possibility.

So near the opening of that early version I had one short paragraph quoting Betty Lou, raising that question. As it happened, I solved that particular mystery fairly soon in my investigation, and undramatically, so it was valuable mainly for how alarmingly stimulative it was when I first encountered it. It wasn’t central to the story. Yet as Adam pointed out, the mystery genre’s cues are so powerful they gave this briefly raised mystery a Pavlovian power, one that demands that it be central to the story. Absent that, I had sold the reader a mystery—and then taken it away.

So Adam, a mystery nut, says, “Dump the mystery.” I think, “What an ass!” About an hour later I get Maryn McKenna’s email saying, “I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but you don’t have the right structure.” Great! And when I dig into what she’s saying I realize that they’re both right: the mystery cue has warped everything up front so bad, the structure didn’t work—it couldn’t, because the story was trying to be two things at once. You can’t do both The Maltese Falcon and Gone with the Wind.

So I dumped The Maltese Falcon. Then all I had to do was figure out how to structure Gone with the Wind.

Comments

One Response to “Care e povestea pe care o spui?”

  1. Bogdan Vasilescu on October 24th, 2011 6:30 pm

    De editori atunci când vrei să ai succes. Dacă vrei numai să îţi împlineşti o idee ai nevoie de foarte multă răbdare. În felul ăsta, după, o vreme, îţi vei da seama că nu are sens să scrii despre orice. Iar după un alt interval de timp vei pricepe şi cam despre ce ar merita să scrii :) (sau nu – si in general este nu…)

Leave a Reply