Fiction for the Spoken Word
His preface tells us that the idea for A Tale of Two Cities came upon Dickens as he was doing something other than writing. He instantly understood a method. Dickens would make this idea concrete by binding it to his own sense of self.
Dickens says that he traced in his imagination that particular state of mind necessary to recall this epiphany, time after time, throughout the writing of this novel. In this way the emotions of the story would return to Dickens freshly, time after time, to take complete possession of him. These feelings, and Carlyle’s history of those times, are what he says informed his telling of the story.
So powerful was this method, that, at the end, Dickens claimed actions done within the story, were those that he had done. Dickens claimed that what was suffered within the story, he had suffered. Such was Dickens’ rich inner life and mother of invention.
Fiction is a five-step process from its appearance in the writer’s mind, to encoding, to media, to decoding, until finally its appearance in the reader’s mind. We assume that if a story does not first live in the writer’s mind, the inventions that make it lifelike will not be made. The result appearing in the reader’s mind will not be vivid, and, loosing energy, it will slow the reader to stall speed, when the story must be pitched overboard, like ballast.
This novel was the most modern of Charles Dickens’ work. He practiced what he called “condensation,” reducing word burden to maintain urgency at that breakneck pace at which his characters saw events carrying all before them.
I ride booted and spurred, soaked by the torrent, with mud bespattered by the hooves of Jerry Cruncher’s horse. We gallop together through the midnight after the Dover Mail Coach, struggling up Shooter’s Hill. We catch the Coachman at the top, when the Guard next to him unlimbers his chest of horse pistols and shouts, “Stand and deliver.” It is then I hear Jerry Cruncher’s message to the director of the bank, “Recalled to life,” and the story begins for me once more.