“Friend, Gromepurkå?” Rotcher asked for the second time. Elenin use the epithet ‘friend’ among themselves without thinking on it much. Humans employ it as a reminder or plea. Rotcher might have said, “Please don’t kill me, Gromepurkå.” Gromepurkå would have translated each the same.
Our begrudging leader paused his slogging and turned. The pouring snow seemed to relent momentarily to swirl and hover around our guide rather than to rain down. From my third position in the line, in Rotcher’s lee, I noted the incongruity between the lacy crystals accumulating and the abrupt tusks on which they accumulated. Our training taught us soldiers to look first to the distance between an elenin’s nostrils and brow line for mood. Close was bad; farther, less bad. Our aboriginal trainer menacingly pointed out the only good distance was the one from which us humans could not see an elenin at all. I thought on this each and every time that idiot, Rotcher, opened his mouth. Gromepurkå’s lowered brow but unflared nostrils put us in the middle trending toward bad.
“Friend, Gromepurkå, you are truly a great bull to be leading we cows. I beg your forgiveness, but my men and I must stop to find shelter if we are to live through the night.” Gromepurkå’s brows raised.
“This? I am amazed. No. I am amused,” he stopped speaking and did nothing for a moment. I was sure he expected something from Rotcher. I wasn’t sure if Rotcher knew or not. “Which is it? Am I amazed or amused?”
“We feel both appropriate. If you’ll forgive us our impertinence suggesting we are coming to understand our bull-guide more closely, we believe you meant amused in this case.”
I ran across a bit of artwork recently that put me over the edge on understanding what it is that appeals to me about pieces like that one. They posses so much depth and richness that even in the shadowy unseen parts of the painting you know there is detail. In most art I don’t feel like I could dive into the landscape to discover the reverse side of the subject. These paintings that intrigue me convince me that I could. Could enter the painting and find more flowers among the shadows of the trees; find beetles crawling in the cool grimy shade; find the fox that just ducked behind the barn as the artist brought out her easel.
Ok. So, great.
Some paintings bring out an emotion through lack of detail. Or through condensing that detail to iconic representation. These paintings I have in mind go to the other end. They amplify the detail—appropriately. I’m not sure this is good practice in writing. Or I’m not sure I’d be able to pull it off they way I’d like.
The trouble I see is that I’d feel like I was cataloging the landscape not incorporating it. I do something similar to put my kids to bed sometimes. Starting in one corner of the room I verbally tour the items in their room in monotonous sleepy detail.
But I’m reminded that I’ve seen this pulled off well by others. I’ve got no examples because that’s not how my mind works, but I can imagine reading the description of a fantastical market. The author plumbing the origin of each bizarre fruit or meat or trinket. Infusing the reader with the characters’ experience. Sure she overstuffs the reader with non-essential storyline, but she pulls it off. We like it—I want to recreate it.
I’m thinking it’s often about timing in the story. Knowing when you can slow the reader down. Let them soak up the atmosphere and just coast for a bit. But I’m also thinking that it has to do with technique. In the faster parts of a story you need to capture the quintessential ‘thing’. Show the reader the absolute canonical object or action. Once you set that up you need to torque it just a little by marring the canon a bit.
Well that’s enough talking about writing for today.
The lighting, color, and texture sings dramatically so I’m tempted to do a concrete and descriptive info dump on this piece. The subject has a story built right in: bridges and a trail of people approaching nearly natural stone towers, arches, and gates. That would be fun I think—particularly because I’d like to roll back to yesterday’s line about ‘titan fists’.
Instead I’ll try to write about what’s happening here. I’m going to entirely disregard the artist’s text. Not that I don’t think they are fine (or technically correct), but I got a instinctive reaction to the piece before I read his words. I’d like to expand on that instead.
From yesterday and from here. Specifically the figure highlighted in the picture.
Old hands with pale papery skin griped the worn rail of the bridge’s balustrade. Grainmaster Holan held tight to avoid collapsing onto the walkway not to avoid falling the great distance to the floor. His legs trembled with age. They did not tremble for fear of the height.
“Myan!” A mother’s voice and tone called out. The Grainmaster perked from his drifting thoughts to answer the command of his name. He smiled gently when he realized it was not his mother’s voice, but a coincidence of the vent’s shape that brought the sounds of far below directly to his ear. Myan was a name popular for boys as well as girls these days.
The Grainmaster snorted amusement softly and spoke to an audience of only himself, “No gratitude to you old Myan Holan. No gratitude whatsoever.”
Word count: 248
This may not look like much right now, but it’s got legs in my head.