I know that’s obvious but it’s confirmed by the search terms that lead people here. There was me thinking it’s my charisma, charm and all those other qualities I have in such abundance but, mostly, it’s people googling ‘what makes a good novel?’ That’s the title I gave to a posting in September 2009, and it’s the one which crops up most frequently (by a very long way) in the stats. Don’t ask me what I said in it because if I wrote another one with the same title now I’d probably list completely different things.
So, that’s the first point. The second (and I’ll bring the two together in a moment) is that I was thinking of writing a blog about how ideas, stories, blog postings can be triggered just by linking two ideas which don’t belong together. You’ll probably think I need to get out more when I tell you that I thought of that when I was watching some blackbirds clinging onto very bendy stems of pyracantha plants in our garden and reaching for the berries. And I wondered what it would be like to be a blackbird with vertigo.
I know, I know – stupid idea because any branch of the blackbird family with vertigo would have died out, either from natural selection or from plummeting out of trees. But already, I’ve got 64 words out of that and you can see how just thinking of the impossibility of the conjunction of those two things already sets the mind off on a thread it would never have conceived of ordinarily. And you’d have to look at the nature and consequences of vertigo as well as the preferred lifestyle of the blackbird (or any bird) in a fresh way.
It’s like when I wrote that blog a while back about wondering what communities of pills and tablets do in their jars while they’re waiting for you to open them for your daily dose of whatever it is. The juxtaposition there is inanimate objects and consciousness. And it’s easy to do. Think of a relatively rare and/or specific adjective – say, bewildering or existential – and link it with a noun it would never normally qualify. A bewildering cauliflower. An existential flea. You see, you’ve got two things there which need thinking about, which get the creative juices flowing. (Actually ‘creative’ and ‘juices’ is a strange combination, too, and could produce some interesting wee stories.)
Now, to bring the two points together, back in August one of the blogs had a question for its title – ‘What does the dog mean?’ And one visitor was led to that because he or she had searched for ‘What does a dog signify?’ Think about it. What does a dog signify? I can write that owning a dog signifies something about the owner or his/her society. I can say it depends on the dog. Does each dog signify something different? Does the significance of an Airedale match that of a Shih Tzu? (Yes, of course, I chose that one deliberately.) It’s a legitimate question but the actual wording of it is interesting.
As an absurdist, I don’t think anything signifies anything. For me, everything is accidental, contingent. Remember what Macbeth came to realise – that even life itself ‘is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. So what hope is there for a mere dog? But it’s great fun playing with words in this way and I’d love to hear your answers to the question.
So, what does a dog signify?