Damage Assessment (EWP)
Note: This article is part of the EWP
The escalation of commitment can be quite a dreadful thing. Just a little more than a week ago, I set out to write a short story simply because I felt like writing fiction. Drawing inspiration from Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Against The Day’ and the names of particles in the Standard Model of particle physics (along with a working knowledge of the LHC at CERN), I first set out a simple header-plot (which is what I call the template from which I work upward). Once that was done, I checked it to see if it read well. It did.
Great! The next step was to define the characters’ personas, which, for me, doesn’t take much time because I ‘wing’ it (yes, you read that right), as I do the plot itself. The only things I decide beforehand are the only things I really enjoy deciding in the short-run: the names of the characters and the locales. Anyway, on the 7th of March, I began to write my story. (Download: session I)
Incomplete inspiration – hallucinating an abundance of opportunities – willingness to experiment – hesitation to lay out full plot
After two days or so, I realized to my horror that my narrative was going full speed ahead while the dialogue and character and plot developments were going nowhere. Back then, I had recently been criticized for indulging myself with too much prose at the risk of turning the whole endeavour pedantic and droll-like. In order to set it right, I scrolled back to the top of the page and began to edit what I’d written.
You see, I don’t edit my works much. I understand how an article or a story can be polished again and again and how there are so many techniques for that, but I’m a hesitating pacifist – and that means I get angry first and then calm down. So, if I gave myself time to calm down, I’d probably come up with something extremely blunt and literarily non-penetrating. Now, since I was editing this story, I began to have a bad feeling about it. My ideas and my intentions change so much within the same ideological bounds that there was a chance for a paragraph to turn out like a semantic singsong. (Download: session II)
Celebratory indulgence – brakes applied suddenly – improper attitude towards editing – thinking faster than writing
Battle for revival
The third challenge, and also the last one, I was left to confront now was the scripture of dialogues. I’d sucked at it in the past and had always strived to keep it at a minimum. Now, however, since the story seemed to be going good even though an indication of sunk costs was beginning to present itself, I decided to go for it.
Now, there are two kinds of dialogues that I’ve observed in stories. The first is between two people who are both active participators in the contents of the talk. This is the easiest to write because all you have to do is a conversation with yourself (which writers and philosophers do a lot) and then break it into two halves, one for each interlocutor. The second type is when two people are talking but only one of them is actually paying any heed to what’s being discussed, a type that is very important in most books written because if everyone listened to what was being spoken, there wouldn’t be a plot worth expounding for reams on. If you read the draft, you’ll be able to easily deduce that I struggled at writing the lines. (Download: session III)
Over-analysis – struggling to generate “flow” – very systematic approach
The two ensuing sections of the story were actually written in the neighbourhood of 00:00, March 13, and opened up my eyes to the mistake I was doing: it seemed that if I started to script the dialogues, I was reluctant to take up the narrative, and if I started to script the narrative, I was reluctant to take up the dialogues. This resulted in conspicuous fault lines appearing all over the text – discernible easily to the reader to the point of him being able to read my mind, to the point of my work of “fiction” becoming transparent to his eyes. Also, in order to mask my own logical proclivities – which are strong enough as it is – I took the trouble to NOT be aware of the whole plot myself. This, in turn, awarded me with the liberty to experiment with what the two characters were saying to each other. This is a risky way to go about writing anything since, with the sunk cost fallacy being a real possibility, it could drain you of your creative faculties. (Download: session IV)
Retaining the option of “killing” a project as need be – consumed by occasionally trivial fears
The last few paragraphs are what speak truly and openly of my defeat: the sentences are too long, the choice of words defer to a subconscious lack of precision, the uneven amount of attention paid to different parts of the same setting hint at the absence of decisiveness. Game over. (Download: session V)
Sunk costs – fractional kill – diminishing returns
Fog index: 16.72