I do a workshop about rewriting in which I tell students to check every scene for Action, Conflict, Surprise, Emotional Shift, and the Five Senses. Well, here's a surprise. The last couple of days, I've been re-reading one of my favorite autobiographies. It's called Dancing Naked in the Mind Fields, and it was written by Kary Mullis who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1993 for inventing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that revolutionized DNA chemistry. Mullis is a wild man, a surfer, astrologer, a maybe-alien-abductee, LSD taking, legendary goofball and first-class brain. And what he told me in his book is that there are actually seven senses, not five. Perhaps you knew this? I didn't, and I had forgotten it from the first five times I read his book. Hey, I am NOT a legendary brain, heh.
Kary says the 7 senses--our physical windows of perception--are the usual five, plus two he calls "the dubious senses," which are weightlessness, and a sense of the passage of time.
I read that and had an epiphany about my rewriting class, namely that what I call "surprise" is a fictional equivalent of weightlessness, and what I call "emotional shift" is a fictional equivalent of the sense of the passage of time. In the future, because of this, I will talk about putting 7 senses in each scene, and not just five. This will be helpful in getting people to grasp what I mean by "surprise" and "emotional shift," and it will be a wonderful help to me in my own rewriting.
I won't go into detail about the rewriting stuff--it's Friday, for god's sake, and people shouldn't have to think too hard!--but I will say this book seemed to insist on being re-read by me this week. A writer friend of mine received an email from Kary Mullis a couple of days ago, out of the blue. When she told me about it, I got all excited and then sad because I had given his book away the last time I moved. Only, I hadn't. After telling her that I wished I still owned his book, I went down to the basement to watch tv. When the show was over, I got up and looked behind me. The book was under a table, propped up against other books, and facing me so I couldn't miss it. I would have sworn--sworn, I tell you--that I had never seen that book before in this house.
The Mind Field is an interesting place to dance. Oh, and did I mention the show I was watching was "So You Think You Can Dance"? Yep. Hee.