Monday, December 26, 2005

Back to Work

Up at 0600 today to 45 emails 42 deletable and then into Boot Camp to catch up on critiques and posting grids etc. Into BC and post eight flash prompts

Two Boot Camper stories to sort this morning. One is written with a very heavy hand. It's futuristic but the story hardly matters IMO because all I see is over-wrought language, the sign of one kind of beginner, the beginner who concentrates on "sounding good" and ends up turning a story into a laboured lump. The adjective and adverb count is off the scale; there is no joy in the reading, no light, no air, no fine movement. Instead we have to PLOUGH, plough through words we can't help be aware of so the fictive dream is shattered and the story dies.

A "not-posed" picture from BACCS charity panto 2005

The other story is really a cousin to the first. It appears light and airy but again it's all about ME, me the author, look how clever I am. OK this one isn't turgid and overlain with modifiers but instead it's forever "cute". Nothing can be said directly (only ordinary people write clear sentences, right?) and it's packed to the gunnels with literary allusion, "clever" takes on book titles, plays, film. Again the exercise overwhelms story and we are reading the medallion, not the man.

Writer, think STORY, think first about the message, the tale, the characters, people, life, not about fancy bollocks. How a story is told should come from the heart of the story and instinctively from the writer, right-brained, pure, unadulterated, beautiful and right.

To start with the HOW is to me the wrong way. The more we think consciously of how, the more formalised, aware, left-brained we become and the lumpier, and less naturally flowing will be the piece.

A good story, flowing form the heart or soul will naturally absorb the best of the writer's communicative skill.

Try this trick at a party. Ask someone have they ever been close to death or in a real and genuinely scary situation. A linguist called Labov did this because he discovered that when people "lose themselves" in the telling of the tale, they also lose their layered-on or "acting" accents/dialect and revert to their true, childhood-learned mode of speaking.

But listen to the FIRE and emotion in the voice. Listen to how the person changes, becomes infused with spirit, almost becomes someone else. That's the writer inside, the real person (not the mask) and that's who you have to use when YOU write.

You can be clinical, editorial, careful after you have written your first draft (if you must) but access the soul, the heart, the unconscious, the right brain when you write. Surprise yourself. Get connections you don't expect, tell truths you might otherwise suppress. Write about what matters, not trivial, superficial twist in the tale, or cheap romances, cheap SF or whodunits. Write about what it is to be human, the aches and screams in life, what engages and enrages.


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