Sunday, 10 March 2013

Reflection on the Writing I Like Reading

As I'm now embarking on writing the narrative of Novel Number Two (the final main character's details has just slotted into place, so it's away we go!), I've been thinking about the how of transferring the story from my mind to the page; the style, language and tone. "Write what you know" is oft-touted advice but I prefer "Write what you like to read." After all, if you wouldn't be interested, intrigued and enthused in your own work, who would be?

So, in the spirit of sparking Novel Number Two narrative, what do I enjoy reading...and so should be writing?

*** Rounded (but not overlong or indulgent!) description, using imagery and a lyrical touch in the language – what I note in my Reading Journal as beautiful language and lines I love.
While a story must have more substance than just the words it drapes itself in, this expression is what draws and pleases me; what I respond to, especially in thinking about pieces being more than a mere genre entry or competently written. It’s the little bit extra, the cherry on the top...and I love it!

*** Linked closely to this is a real, authoritative sense of place, often realised through the expressive language. The details chosen, atmosphere rendered and mood developed transport me there; I become part of this world, an invisible visitor.

For me, this connection is essential; if it’s there, I invest in it. I appreciate this world in all its particular detail and sensory images; I turn on, not turn off.

*** But if the characterisation is not strong and rounded, I just. Don’t. Care. I won’t continue reading; I’ll forget all about the characters and find a picture or a photo of the place (or a likeness of it) instead!

So, characters must be real people; I must care about them, invest in them. Be surprised and impressed by them; sometimes even scared or worried by them...but more often than not, for them. They must evoke and then I will empathise...and keep reading; line after line, page after page, book after book.

Characters don’t have to be planned out to the nth degree, though; this has been a tough but liberating thing to learn. Through my papercrafting hobby, I’m discovering that an outfit or an ensemble or a photo conveying mood can tell me as much about character as a comprehensive list from which I’ll know the birthdates of their great-grandparents...but will I know them?

I respect Hemingway’s Iceberg characterisation theory – knowing everything about your character (and he means everything!) is to know the whole iceberg, but only the tip will make it into the novel, making that character authentic and real – but I’ve been prescribing to it for too long. Freeing myself up to a visual pic ‘n’ mix has helped me discover my next set of characters and unearth their personalities, quirks and (perhaps most importantly for the plot!) their paths.

*** If the characterisation and sense of place grounds me in the text, I actually don’t mind if little happens! I can drink plot-lite as  much as plot-full-sugar, but I need both to have rhythm and pace. It’s a hard effect to deconstruct and even harder to construct in the first place, but if a pieces lags or is repetitive, it drives me crazy! It pulls me out of the world, makes me doubt authorial control and makes me impatient and intolerant of what comes next.

That I’ve written work which lags and is bulky (certainly Novel Number One and perhaps some poetry) irks and irritates me – but it’s part of my writing learning curve and I’m ok with! I’m anxious that I might repeat these mistakes but I know that’s what rewriting is for. But first, I must get it on the page!

Other things I enjoy about a piece – humour, relation to the events, mystery and solving the puzzle, themes I like to explore, occurrence of fashion or objects/things I like – come after these Four Points. If I don’t have lyrical language, sense of place, rounded characterisation and rhythm and pace, I’m just not reading...or writing to my best ability, either.

So, now consideration has been made, I'd better get some words down on paper! Wish me luck...

~ ttfn ~

1 comment:

  1. Very true, and yes I see you in what you say, am so glad that your crafting has helped in such a way! And I'm glad too that you see how you tied yourself up with how the 'right' way to write was not always the best to get those characters onto the page and out of your head! Never be afraid to just write, it doesn't have to be perfect but it does have to be on that page! Take care Zo xx


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