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Feb. 19th, 2006 @ 03:00 pm how many angels could dance on the head of a pin?
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Plot is really underrated in academia. It's underrated in academia because it's overrated everywhere else, but it's underrated nonetheless. Stories with exclusive emphasis on character and theme get boring: real life isn't "artsy," it is not a triumph of style over substance, it is not a horde of wandering consciousnesses. People remember events because events are important. They like stories where people do things. And perhaps it's easy to get so wrapped up in where the story goes that a storyteller will lose sight of how to get there--but a great story misleads a reader into thinking that the plot is the most important element, that the moment when Bilbo slays Smaug is memorable in and of itself (and not the product of two hundred pages of tension). That's the difference between workshop anthologies and true fiction--workshop anthologies are great writing, true fiction is great stories.

Every now and then, I remember this, and write a story of no literary value, and discover, once again, that writing is fun.


How many angels could dance on the head of a pin?

        “Dance with me,” said the angel, and we did.
         We danced every dance I knew. We danced swing, contra, tango. We danced the Macarena and the lambada. We danced the ketchup dance, the hamster dance, the hot dog dance and the safety dance. We even tried ballroom dancing, which led to the angel dragging me through the air in death-defying leaps, the round, glossy surface of the pinhead beneath us flickering as sparks flashed between her three pairs of feathery, diaphanous wings.
         “Stop,” I protested, breathless. “No more.”
         She blinked her marble eyes at me coyly. “But Rabbi Ezra, we haven’t done the line dance yet, or the conga, or the square dance!” She leaned close to me, staring deep into my eyes. I suppressed a gasp. Her irises—they were galaxies. Literally.
         “I’m not like you,” I said. The world swirled around me in a giant blur—it was dizzying. My lungs burned. I tried to find something to hold on to—a plant or tree or rock—but then I remembered I was standing on a pinhead. “My people were born of dirt, holy one. I get tired.”
         “But there’s still so much to learn!” cried the angel. “You humans—how do you move your flimsy little bodies so gracefully? I want to understand!”
         “We stop,” I said.
         She folded her wings around her body like a cloak, and began to cry.
         My breath was starting to return to me. “Oh dear,” I said, pushing my black-rimmed spectacles up the bridge of my nose. Making an angel cry had to be a sin of some sort. “Look. I would love to dance more with you, but I am old and frail. I simply do not have the energy. Maybe you could use a younger partner?”
         “But young humans are stupid,” wailed the angel, fluttering her wings. “I want someone who knows all the dances. Not just the new ones, but the old ones, too!”
         “Calm down, litt—er, holy one,” I said. “Why don’t you ask one of your angel friends? They’ve been around much longer than I have.”
         She pouted. “They don’t know what dancing is!”
         “Well, how about this. You call some of them onto this pinhead, and I will teach you—all of you—whatever dance you like.”
         Her eyes brightened. (If that were possible, that is. Is anything brighter than a galaxy?) Orange sparks arced up the wings on her head, which fluttered like giant butterflies. “Any dance? Anything at all?”
         “Yes,” I said. The arthritis in my knees stung, throwing flowers of pain across my field of vision. “But just one. And I will explain, not demonstrate, because I really don’t have the str-”
         “Oh, thank you!” cried the angel, her wings billowing open in a shower of orange and gold lightning. “I will summon them at once.” She clasped her slender white hands together, and a hole in the sky opened above a mountain in the distance—a mountain that, adjusting my spectacles again, I identified as the pincushion on the opposite side of the desk. Hundreds of angels, male and female, spilled from it like dead ants from a jar. In their hands were flaming swords of various colors—blue, purple, green.
         Her dark brown eyebrows creased deviously—or would, if anything an angel did could be described as devious. “Teach me how to rave,” she said.
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dd2guy
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From:oddtodd
Date:February 20th, 2006 01:09 am (UTC)
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awesome.
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From:hatikvah_42
Date:February 20th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Note: Bilbo didn't slay Smaug. That dude from Laketown, (Esgaroth?) did. With the black arrow where the scale was missing.

/geekyness

And I like your story, and it's an excellent point about plot. I'm usually more interested in plot than I am in style...style without plot seems empty to me, where you can fill in style on your own (to some extent) so long as you have plot to work with. Style is a welcome addition.