Charlie Crider enjoyed reading the subtleties of every ship he boarded so he expected the boatswain’s whistle before he saw it.
I was going somewhere with this a week or so ago.
Sedge Street is the the oldest, longest, widest, and straightest street in [city]. Sedge remains the most obvious, but not only, symbol of an ancient time. The historians told the architects who told me there was no reason for its length, no reason other than the seduction of space and the greed to consume it. I think maybe the builders and craftsmen who constructed the first shops and stables along SSN wanted to market their wares in a primary spot—not one wanting to be even a convenient step or two off the main way. Everyone wanted to be first so they lined up next to each other like children neatly arranging blocks for counting.
The width they know with a certainty to derive from the need to turn a horse team around on itself to exit town after dropping off goods. The side streets have always been barely more than cart paths.
Its straightness is a cartographers joke or mistake. The original planners listed shops, dwellings, liveries, stables, government buildings, and the like on a scroll of butcher’s paper. Next to each entry, like a bulleted list, lay a large square.
Eesh, gonna have to let this idea simmer down in my head before I proceed. Guess my week off left my brains weak and flabby.
Three corners of that square hold a number: upper left for the order of construction, upper right for the family, lower left for the type of building. Each of these three is conspicuously indicated on the scroll in a legend or note. The fourth corner, the lower right corner, holds a glyph.
Lolanonashee sunk to one knee and one hand. She watched the iridescent beetle trundle into her palm. Initially green-purple, the bite-size bug glitteringly transitioned to purple-gold during the climb. When it stopped in her palm, seemingly aware it was no longer among the grit and shade near the base of the flower bench, nor concealed on the wide glossy blade of a nameless plant—no doubt imported from the jungles of Sind—and not even warming itself in the sun on a cut stone in the Chatda Dan Gardens behind Grawn House—the hereditary refuge of the Ashee family—it reflected gold and yellow.
Introduce another character here.
Have a strangely tension building conversation here.
Part with the plot already rolling to the first encounter.
I really need to work out when to use parentheticals and when to use dashes and when to use commas. Pretty sure I’m just making this shit up.
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.