Form and Function

I have found myself lately fascinated with the epistolary form. As a form of narrative it has few pretenses, being a natural evolution of the use of language to relay information from one person to another when oral language is not an option or isn’t as convenient. Subconsciously, I think my approach to keeping this journal is informed by that form as well. It could well be interpreted as a letter to a person I know well but seldom see, a way of communicating and preserving my daily mundane thoughts.

I also like the dialogue format for similar reasons – a simple transcription of oral transaction. Again, it’s a very natural way to use language as a method of preserving a moment. I wonder then, why I don’t incorporate these forms more into my own fiction. Instead, I tend more toward methods that attempt to contrive narrative without much structure, like trying to make buildings out of wind.

This question has been a tension for as long as I have had any ambition to be a serious writer and one of the reasons that I virtually stopped writing for a few years. There is a sense of alchemy about making a story come to life from the void of an empty page, which I think adds to the desire to remove any semblance of “form” from the story. Break it down to the essential symbols that create the characters, the setting and the action. But when you do that, you have before you the virtually impossible task of making something recognizable from things that are unfamiliar.

There is an aspect of this same attempted alchemy in some of the music I was composing a few years ago, things I was recording at home with primitive instruments and substandard recording equipment. I was trying to create soundscapes using only what I happened to have lying around the house. I had ambient microphones placed around a room, plugged into various effects – delay loops, pitch shifters, distortion pedals. I now have the means to make this experiment a lot more interesting.


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