Please enjoy this brief bit on the visitation shape often found in fiction writing, as well as my 25-minute practice with it afterward. Let me know what you think!
“The Visitation can show the character conquering or being conquered, transforming another or becoming transformed… The arc of the story is shaped by the visitor…The visitor must be intriguing, but as in all stories, readers must care what happens to your character.” — Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction, 38-39.
Change your actions and you’ll make milage of your life. Change your heart and you’ll make miles for your soul. Charlie read it over to himself again. He tried to grasp the words but felt them float in through his mouth and right back out through his unsatisfied exhale.
This stuff will never work anyway, he thought. Self Help? I’m gonna need a lot more than that to–
“Hey, saw you reading earlier. Thought I’d come by and poke my nose around.”
Charlie looked up. The man stood twice his height. A lollipop hung from his mouth, hands upon his hips, his brow wrinkled like a sheet.
“It’s a book my wife suggested. She’s real into self help.”
“But you’re not.”
“Let me see,” the man swiped the book up like a grapefruit and held it to his face. He peeled back the pages. “Will yourself toward your goals and success will be your only option.”
Charlie was quiet.
“You believe it?”
“I don’t really know.”
The man dropped the book on the table in front of Charlie and looked at the sky. His hands on his hips again. “Stuff never works.”
“Why? What never works?”
“Oprah psychology crap. Makes for decent community, but not change.”
Charlie thought about that. He pushed his hair away from his face and noticed the man’s clothing. “Do you work here?” Charlie said, parsing the man’s shoes and jeans before looking back at him.
“What’s it look like, partner? Think a place like this would hire a guy like me?”
“Well, I don’t know, maybe–”
“How long you work here for?”
“About a month.”
“Haven’t met many people yet have you.”
“No. Wait, how do you know that?”
The man sat. His legs wide like branches bursting from a tree. He put his hands flat across the table. “Because here you are at lunch reading a book you don’t want to be reading.”
Charlie was annoyed.
“What do you want to do?”
“What, on my lunch break?”
“In life. What’s your dream?”
“I don’t know. I don’t really think like that.”
“Oh, bullshit. Everyone’s got dreams. Where are you in two years? Who are you with? Why are you stillon the earth?”
Charlie could feel his face getting hot. He considered leaving but didn’t. “Guess I’d love to take my wife and live in the country. Raise a family there. Write a novel.”
“Now we’re talking, partner.”
“Hey who are you anyway? You don’t work here I gather, but you just show up at accounting firms at lunch time to scrutinize what people read all the time or something?”
“Easy now,” the man said. He leaned in. Charlie wanted to pull back because the man’s breath smelled like Doritos. “Just think of me as that guy that told you to get the hell out of the place you hate and to make your ideas for the great life a reality. Ain’t going to find it in a book like that, and you ain’t going to write a novel if you’re stuck crunching numbers all day.”
Charlie was quiet again. He scrunched his nose and looked away. But he knew the man was right.
“Mr. Johnson,” came a voice from behind. It was a woman. Charlie looked back and saw a thick, green day-planner in her hands and headset on her ear. She was writing while walking. “Mr. Johnson your one o’clock is waiting.”
“Burn it, man,” the man whispered with his head low. “You’ll thank me one day.” He stood, addressed the woman and walked into Charlie’s building. He turned up the stairwell and jogged to the top. Two fingers to his forehead he saluted Charlie from the railing at the second floor. Then, he turned and went through the only set of Mahogany doors at the firm. The only set, Charlie figured, fit for the boss.