Writing Non-Fiction posted August 7, 2022


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A Word about the Struggles and Rewards of Writing the Play

Written For the Friends of Fanny

by Jay Squires


With the end of The Incomparable Fanny Barnwarmer almost upon us, I think it’s time to set a few things straight.

Some of you say you grew to love Fanny once you got a handle on her dialect. Others, though always kind to me, were not so kind to Fanny, herself, or the confounded way she talked. Both camps were right, of course, and I've always been thrilled, and not just a little amazed, that anyone would labor through the minefield of each scene and weigh in.

Most everyone, I think, in their heart of hearts, felt the play was too long. It was like a dog, plopped in the middle of the stage, scratching fleas, while its tail kept growing and growing. There was nothing I could do, as its author, to slow or stop its tail’s (can be read as “tale’s), growth, save to lop it off. I did such a lopping off of two other plays I posted here: The Challenge (about the Priest-to-be) and Eavesdroppers Are We All (A play in search of a playwright). Both wilted on the vine. And there’s a reason, my friends.

That reason is also my motivation for writing this:

You see, there's something unique about the week-by-week method of posting plays and novels here on FanStory.

As long as the playwright or author is creating a scene or chapter serially—that is, a fresh, new installment each week—there inevitably comes a time when the writer realizes he/she should have written an earlier chapter differently in order to make the present chapter better or truer. For example, in my present play, how I wish I had had Fanny also attend the funeral with Juniper and Aunt Pikki. Why didn’t I? I didn’t because I figured, at the time of writing, that it would have left Elizabeth alone and near death. If I’d thought it through, an invented neighbor, or perhaps Aunt Pikki’s son or daughter, who I'd have to invent as well, could have stayed with Elizabeth.

The point is, having Fanny at the funeral, though, would have made the last few chapters of the serial so much easier to write. Fanny would have witnessed directly (albeit even if eavesdropping), Peter's “conversatin’” with Juniper, right down to Peter’s alleged “pulling of a nose-hair” to induce tears. (Oops! Spoiler alert!)

Even if one did go back and change an earlier chapter to make a present chapter more congruent, it doesn’t change what had been deposited in the brain of the reader of that earlier chapter.

But you know … this is the takeaway.

It’s all part and parcel of learning the craft of writing (which is a lifelong process, you’ll agree) … so that we are obliged to anguish over and wrestle with all such paradoxes and stumbling blocks. It makes us stronger along our writing journeys.

Now, I believe it was Kurt Vonnegut who described the writer who doesn’t follow a rigid outlinemade in advance and never to be deviated fromas one of those unanointed slobs who drives only at night, on winding and circling roads, and can see only as far as the end of his headlight’s beam. That is the recipe for raising a dog with a growing tail.

Well, I’ve always been one of those nighttime drivers. And though I drive painfully slow, and watch left and right for obstacles, I still never ever can see past my headlight’s beam.

But you know what?

In the final analysis, isn’t that what the second, third, and twentieth drafts are for?

So … as I watch the hound’s tail continue to grow from one week to the next, and I resist mightily lopping it off, I am enheartened to see there are a few of you hangers-on determined to see it to its end. You claim you love Fanny and I want to think you’d follow her to the end of the earth. I hold high my glass of Sunny-D to toast you!

For all of you who have fallen out of love with Fanny, we both forgive you. Your previous reviews, though, have helped boost Fanny’s fanny up into the ATB, where the air is mighty sweet and rarified y’all. Don’t think for a minute that I don’t appreciate every one of you. 

Well, dang-git! It’s dark again. It's midnight on the Eastern seaboard that FanStory calls home—nine o'clock here in California. It’s time I climb back into my car and turn on the headlights. I have work to do.

Love to y'all,

Jay




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2022
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