Wed 30 Sep 2009
Many of you reading this probably have no idea who Ed Sullivan was.
Sullivan was a New York City newspaper columnist and host of a long-running television variety show. It was a Sunday night must-see in most American homes all through the sixties and seventies.
A staple on the program was the plate juggler. Maybe it was a string of jugglers from show to show; maybe it was the same fellow. I don’t recall. But the setup was always the same.
There would be twelve or fifteen head-high flexible poles arranged in a line and the juggler would begin at one end, setting a plate to spinning atop the pole. He then moved from pole to pole, starting new plates, scurrying back to the wobbling one to keep them moving, until all were twirling.
It was nerve-wracking, watching the plates wobble and the juggler run from pole to pole, and by the end you couldn’t help but applaud the fellow’s nimbleness and his quick fingers.
I’ve always thought that writing was like that.
There are so many things to remember, to keep spinning, as you put a story together. As the author, you’ve got to keep all of the elements in balance. Got to scamper from pole to pole making sure that plot unwinds smoothly, that the setting is made real with just the right amount of sensory input, that characters are as fleshed out and rounded as you can make them. All while striking the proper balance between clear language and distinctive voice.
It’s a juggling act and even a talented writer can drop a plate. More than one sometimes. But when you do get the right spin on it all, when everything is up and rotating, what a marvelous thing to behold.
K. C. Ball grew up in Ohio, with her nose in a book, and now lives in Seattle, a stone’s throw from Puget Sound.
Her flash fiction has appeared on-line at Flash Fiction Online, Every Day Fiction, Boston Literary Magazine, Fear & Trembling, Every Day Weirdness, Flashshot and Moon Drenched Fables, as well as in print in Murky Depths #8 and the 2008 Best of Every Day Fiction anthology.
One of her longer pieces, Coward’s Steel, won 3rd place in the Hubbard Foundation’s 1st Quarter, 2009, Writers of the Future competition.