story arc = life.

that’s my bookmark sticking out. my bookmark is the stub of a movie ticket. and i only use bookmarks because sometimes i dog-ear the pages of books with meaningful parts to me. after about 10 dog ears, it gets confusing where i left off. (because sometimes i dog-ear right, sometimes left.) i have no system.

I’m reading a book by Amy Tan right now called The Valley of Amazement (thank you, dear Becky–if you’re reading this–for recommending it to me).  It’s taken me a lot longer to get through than I thought it would–I’m reading with a pen in hand, underlining every little thing that speaks to me, that connects to me personally. This is a book about trust and loss, love and shame. “Resist much, obey little.” A little over half-way through the book…summarizes the entire point of the story. (Disclosure: I could be wrong; I’m not quite done with it yet.)

It started out a little slow, but I connected to the inner workings of the life of a turn-of-the-century Chinese courtesan. I like tales from a time before there was the Internet, before there was 24/7 mass media, constant information, constant ideas being whispered and shouted and muttered and chattered all around. I like stories about secret worlds that on the surface are seductively charming, but hide darker, hidden skeletons that make human beings have to fight to find the light. (Seriously, I do need to get out more.)

you should make notes in the margins of stories you love/are falling in love with. think as you read.

Two things I love about Amy Tan’s writing (as a writer): one, she’s the perfect person to study how to infuse using sensory details to show not tell as well as how to communicate who a character is via dialogue; and two, is how I can see where she’s building and falling–I keep starring moments in the story where it starts to feel idyllic. There’s a part where the story’s protagonist (Violet) finally finds the love she’s been longing for, the life she’s always wanted. This happens half-way through the book, so you know it’s not going to/can’t last, right? I mean, there are like 250 more pages.

Stories are about rising and falling action, plot twists. No good story arc starts out with an exposition, then rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, done, the end. Good story arcs start with exposition, rising action, climax, falling action…then another rise, another climax, another fall, then rise again. So on and so forth til you’re good and done with that character’s story. (Maybe. Because I also think good stories go on, in our hearts and minds and wishful thinking, long after the last page has been read and the book closed.)

I’m just writing about this today because as I was reading this morning, making my notes in the margins and underlining and etc., I just thought: well, this is just a bit like Life, isn’t it? Exposition (birth), rising actions, climaxes, falling actions, etc and so forth…until resolution (death). Great storytelling literally rocks my world, on occasion, when I can pull my head out of my butt to really see things and take a good look around me.

That’s all I have for Sunday. I see I’ve written a blog post that’s under 700 words. That’s a good thing, because I need to go to the grocery store, finish laundry, and find a good lesson plan template for ESOL. There doesn’t seem to be any secret world-building or rising action/climax to any of that, and so maybe that’s why I’d rather read books and watch movies.

this is vladmir nabokov, who wrote LOLITA, which was another story that had hidden skeletons of darkness for readers. (confession: i just like that he says stories ought to entertain, teach, and bewitch us, and that’s because I ONLY like stories that do this to me.)