I have this title that came to me from somewhere some time ago. I associate it with a scene from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator movie in which the gladiators walk through dripping red strands of cloth. The scene is handled ambiguously enough that I’ve never been sure if I should recognize this event as some traditional blessing of the gladiators or just a bit of scenery dipicting life in Rome not having anything to do with the arena—just a shortcut passageway to the fight. Maybe I should know. I don’t though. I’ve not bothered to research it as I’d rather not know.
Why this scene and this title are linked in my thoughts escapes me. The one overt linkage between the two is the most tenuous. That connection is the spark but not the flame. Ambiguity fires my title.
My title is not ambiguous. My title is susinct and specific. My title is the kind which immediately tells you all about the story. Except it hasn’t told me all about the story. The story is the part I can’t figure out.
In an expansive 100-character high fantasy trilogy this story would be the subplot not incorporated. It’s the novella or short story collected posthumously in a poorly sold compendium—if it were written at all. Lately I’m wanting to write the commoner’s story: not the princess, not the foundling, not the dragon killer. I want to know how the nobody baker, the unattractive barmaid, or the sallow footman contribute to the dismisal of the ultimate evil. And not in the heroic caught up in the whirlwind of important people way, but in the quiet unspoken almost uninteresting way.
This Dyemaker’s Conjecture.
Using WriteRoom on the phone to get some 1000 Days work done while the computer reboots. I don’t find the WP app compelling enough to use I guess or I just wanted to figure out how to share docs in the app all over again. I really do need a day to consolidate my tools.
I ought to get in a better habit of signing out of all my work apps on the laptop before ending the day. I hate waking up to being hung. Maybe invest in a good VNC app on the phone too.
I’ve previously written about how well the art director for Blade Runner populated that world. I’m finding Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl to be written with a similar enthusiasm for environmental chotchkies. I can’t decide if I like it or not.
I like the attention to detail and the robustness of his world I just haven’t decided if he’s crossing over to the territory my imagination once roamed while reading. As soon as my mind wanders to fill in some scenery I find Paolo there with a Southeast Asian trinket, custom, word, or shrub saying, “Here. Take one if mine.” No shrubs really to be fair.
As much as I don’t know if I like it or not I’ve been trying to write with such effluence all week. I’m no good at it. My attempt to sprinkle environmentals all over an alley fair almost immediately devolved into characterizations and then yesterday dialog. I just can’t put monkies, spices, hovercars, and ten other things all in one place at one time–or spell monkeys. I wouldn’t mind so much except this is where I feel my writing lacks. I feel like I shortchange the reader on descriptions of things in favor of descriptions of actions. This is where I wish I could travel if I needed to when I wanted to. I need to practice.
I’ve been better able to notice the writing of others. This is an accomplishment for me others may find astounding for two reasons: it isn’t all that hard and I’ve had more than the regular share of literature training.
Let me scratch that second one off the list first with a the broad broom stroke of time. I could have had a minor in English lit if I’d only filled out the paperwork, but that reading was done in college nearly half my life ago. I forget things easily. Nor did those classes focus on the writing as a demonstration of how to become an author only how to critique what others had written.
Paying attention to the writing isn’t hard but it isn’t easy either. I don’t buy books so that I might learn to write better. I buy them so that I might spend time in a different world enjoying the imaginations of others. An author who makes the reading effortless lulls me into absorbing that experience rather than analysing it. (Maybe there is a simple lesson to learn right there.)
I recently completed a book that walked too close to the edge of bad. Usually keeping it’s balance fine, but sometimes wobbling on cliche and patterned dialog for noticable stretches. Given all the writing advice regarding eradicating cliche I was surprised this book made into publication. As for the dialog, the two male leads talked so much like women I thought the twist was going to be them turning out gay.
The very last bit of book I read—only the prologue from a book I’m re-reading—teaches me that if you have a plan for your story and goals for your characters you can get them to say and do things on target for that arc. That prologue is a throw-away bit of writing that does little more than fully introduce the world, establish back story for the birth of the main character we don’t see again until she graduates high school, and outline the rules of magic. Little more than that. Such understood direction derived from characters who know what they want gives heft to the reading in a way that just flouncing imagination cannot. Character sheets for writing always have a space to fill for goals or needs. I’ve never felt any way but hokey about these sections though I’ve felt the same way about the sections for eye color and weight. I think I can see now why I should stop feeeling that way.
Where do the last several days of work leave me? I’ve never created this many real pieces of a story. So I’m not certain what happens next.
I’m going to resist the urge to throw down and try some writing. This wiser authorial voice tells me my pile of scattered scenes needs to be riffled and tapped into a crisp deck for proper dealing. I’m going to first finish the scene fattening. Then I’ll return to the book on story structure I bought and match up the scenes to the structure that book advises. I expect I’ll come up both short and long and wrong, but I’ll be closer than I have been before. It’s not hard to add or remove or improve. (sorry)
However, none of that qualifies for writing on 1000 Days.
Dammit. So close.
I’ve been working on an exercise suggested by a writing website. Make generalized notes summarizing the actions of each scene in a movie: Introduction of Bad Guy; Main Character discovers Evil Plan; Main Character set back by Bad Guy Henchmen. The notations should be non-specific enough that another reader couldn’t easily identify the movie you’d reviewed. Which presumably makes them generic enough to be used as an outline for your original story.
I can see how the notes I’ve made would be useful to another writer or a better writer than I am. If I used them as an outline not recalling the movie to mind would be difficult. It’s a few more scenes before I can get to that point anyhow.
What I am discovering is the volume of information conveyed in each scene of a well made story like the one I’m using. My expectations going in were that I’d be using phrases as succinct as the examples above. I’m not. Objectifying the factors inherent in the story is easier on a per scene basis than it is when you then have to string those scenes together. One object that started off as New Partner soon evolved into Other Main because New Partner implied too much. Even using Henchmen, which could be interpreted loosely if one chose, likely conveys too much so I re-termed them Bad Guy Proxy. I suspect Bad Guy could even carry descriptive conotations that would direct a writer’s hand more than I’d intended.
I do like that I described the arrival of Police as “Story Appropriate Environmental Factors”.
Another aspect of story telling I’m uncovering is the bulk of story in a story. Before as I’d laid out parts of my aborted NaNoWriMo I’d not put in nearly the amount of action in each outlined scene as I’m decanting from this effort.