Special k has this remarkable ability to see narrative. I think it’s part of his assurance that things are as he understands them; if a story doesn’t match up to what he thinks it is, he can say quite clearly, “This is why it isn’t working.”
It’s pretty remarkable, and entirely enviable, though I suspect it’s the natural instinct we ruin when we study writing in-depth. We gain other skills, obviously, but that gut instinct, that surety, we lose. Er, I lose. I should stop generalising my own experience as the experience of all writers everywhere.
Last night we were watching the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. This is a tiny bit spoilery, so skip to the next paragraph if you watch the show. Arya, an important political hostage, is hiding in plain sight as the cup-bearer for her family’s enemy, Tywin. Another powerful political figure, Littlefinger, comes to take wine with Tywin. He has met Arya before, and might recognise her, but she is made to serve him wine while he and Tywin talk about the war and political machinations.
Special k paused the show when the scene ended (I don’t think I could watch normal TV anymore – we’re constantly pausing what we watch to chat about it. Especially when it’s a murder mystery.) and said, “That was a really tense scene.”
Well, yes. Obviously it was a tense scene – she might have been recognised AT ANY MOMENT.
But then he said, “It was tense, because I wanted to concentrate on what they were saying, and I couldn’t.” See? Uninterrupted narrative sense.
Of course that’s why it was tense. It wasn’t only working on the one level of Oh no, she might be found out. There was also an important, intricate political conversation going on that, as the viewer, we really need to pay attention to. But there’s this background static – this other layer of the scene happening with no dialogue at all – that makes it impossible to concentrate.
*tucks away for future use*