Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Keeping Our Distance

After my harsh (but honest) words last night about flowers, which I dislike largely because of their allergic properties, a representative of a species I'm extremely allergic to turned up this morning as I headed off to work. It's possible that there's something in the world I'm more allergic to than cats, but if so I've yet to see definitive evidence of it.

This particular cat, however, had no interest in doing anything that would give me an asthma attack. We both kept our distance, pretty much. I spoke kindly to it and took two pictures, but when I took a step forward (after all, I needed to get to my car), the cat dashed under the old Dodge van. I don't think there's a single cat out and about in our neighborhood that isn't at least half feral. Not one of them has ever come closer to me than this cutie, as far as I can remember.

My attitude toward cats is pretty similar to my attitude toward flowers. I recognize that they bring joy to lots of people, including most of my friends. They're kind of pretty, and kind of interesting, but they're just not for me. I rejoice that there are cats in the world, but only for the sake of the cats, and the people who care about them. They should live and be well, far away from me. This neighborhood cat, and all the cats on Calle Mumble, have that last part covered. At least this one, who reminded me slightly of a certain cat who famously had bacon briefly attached to him, was willing to stick around long enough to be photographed, for which I'm grateful.

And I'm sitting here now thinking about the cat and me this morning, and wondering whether I can get away with using the encounter as a metaphor. I have similar encounters every day, with many of you folks. The rather unreliable Blog Patrol hit counter ticks up, telling me of your visit, but like the neighborhood cats, I seldom see you directly. I must settle for being happy that you've stopped by at all, and guess at whether I have anything to offer you to make you want to stay. It's a case of intermittent reinforcement. Sometimes I write something I'm rather proud of, and the only response is the sound of metaphorical crickets. Other times I post something cursory, and it gets four or five comments. And so I wonder whether there are certain things I write about too often, and other things I should write about more. I mean, I could ask you right now to delurk and give your opinion, whether I mention my novels or Wikipedia too often, whether this blog needs more sunsets or more pictures of Tuffy, or more serious essays about something or other. I could drive myself crazy trying to work out what you want and try to give it to you, only to see you slip off down my driveway.

Feel free to give me your opinion or all that; I'd be delighted to read it. Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter if L wants to read more about my writing and submitting, M likes the most heavily edited digital photos, and S is just checking what I did for the Weekend Assignment. The truth is, I'm going to write, photograph and post according to what my brain happens to be doing that day, not on the basis of market research. Based on some figures Journals Editor Joe threw around a week or two ago, there are always going to be lots of people who read and don't comment. And that's all perfectly fine and lovely. Even if you keep your distance, I'm glad you're out there. At least you're not giving me asthma! But I can't begin to guess what you like about the Outpost, and what you'd like more of (or less of). Nor can I change what I write about on the basis of such a guess. All I can do is try to write on a variety of subjects based on my interests of the moment, and hope you like the result.

For example, I mentioned a week ago, and again a couple of nights ago, that I was stuck on a scene in Chapter 6 of An Adept in Mâvarin:

[Darsuma experiments with magic to try to find out what’s wrong. When she empties her backpack, Fayubi suggests that she resume wearing the mindclear necklace. It helps a little, for a while. Need some big impressive spell, and eventual destruction of the necklace.]

Last night and tonight I went with the "just let the characters figure it out" method to get unstuck. Rather than try to come up with "some big impressive spell," I let Darsuma work out what steps to take. She starts with a spell that turns up fairly often in the books, and then does a variant, and then:

The next step was to examine the known magic, such as it was, for any changes, either something added or something altered in aura or nature. Since nearly everything magical in the room was in her pack, she dumped it out on the bed. This time the result was a positive one. There was indeed something that had not been there before.

No, not something. Someone.
It's not hugely dramatic, but it works. It's logical, and it gets Darsuma talking with Fayubi's aura, which is where the scene needs to go. I'll take it!


1 comment:

Sarah said...

Hooray for letting the characters figure it out!

And hooray for kitties that look pretty but don't give you asthma.