Overnight I’ve been challenged to write in a particular manner. I’m not above taking requests—or demands—for certain types of writing. I had not expected my armchair quaterbacking to take on such an obscure angle. However, I not ready to go there just yet. Later this week you’ll discover me rocking the subjunctive.
Wikipedia’s entry on that mood is rather helpful despite being linguistically dry.
Today I’m going to throw out some warm exercises since my time is short. Instead of the water sketches I’ve done in the past I’ll move on to another elemental: air.
Fall arrived among the Ponderosas of Northern New Mexico yesterday afternoon. The leaves haven’t changed because conifers don’t and aspens go late. The calendars haven’t called the earth to it’s autumnal equinox. The thermometers haven’t trended down or widened the gap between their day and night markings. The low to the ground, blustery, and often still Summer winds have risen—altitude and pitch—to the treetops and a near hissing rush. I can’t touch them nor them me, but we hear each other and heed.
A demi-god of open fields snatched the diamond of paper and sticks from Thomas’ frail grip. The boy’s heart surged into the heavens with the kite like a dragon on a string. His heart hiccoughed to a halt then sagged limply. The slain kite bled joy into the grass and twitched like a broken thing.
“Hold still. Don’t close your eys all the way but let them relax.” Mela told her then leaned close. She could sense his substance, feel his bodies heat, like her eyes were open and she was seeing him. Never had her other senses been as robust as they were with him near. His scent was raw and moist and lush like freshly turned soil resting in the shade. His was not a sophisticated smell. It was decidedly base.
She gripped his warm hands tighter with her cold, but wanted to melt. She wanted not to be who she knew she was. He smoothed the cool skin of her palms with his thumbs without looking and breathed a puff of air into her eye to catch up the strayed lash.
His warmth spread from the friction of his thumbs to the blush of his breath on her face.
Think I’ll wrap there instead of going to the other two. Air/wind is tough.
I haven’t done a water study in a while. Feels like a good morning for a bunch of unconnected sketches.
The finger of water roved over the hard packed dirt like an ant scout looking for the lowest path. In places it paused for orders—or more volume—then ranged forward enthusiastically.
The refraction of the plexiglass merged effortlessly with that of the water. Not only did this bulldozer-sized vat of water defy sharp focus it also held a sand shark.
Yesterday the dr fence boards felt like hundreds of razor blades packed tightly—unable to cut, but still unappealing to the touch. Today, wet with rain, they feel like damp hard sponges.
Water lay below us. Rain fell on the land. The land soaked the rain in. The wetness sank through the sand, the soil, the clay, and the rock. It collected slowly and deeply like the thoughts of a god in the subterranean spaces. Soon, our well would uncover It’s thoughts.
Wet soles. Wet surface. Broken wrist.
Four inches of rain turned my unmown Gulf Texas lawn into a marshland. Two more into a residential lake. “Ah shit. There go the tomatoes.”
“It’s a fountain. Not magic,” she reassured him. “The walkway is a grate and hidden jets spurt water as you walk by.”
A gray mass of atomized water rose from the lower end of the valley. Tendrils wriggled in the cattails at its fringe. A graceful and subtle heave swelled at its center then receded less than it had grown. This misty bellows engulfed the low-down reeds, the edge-of-the-meadow aspens, and finally the way-back-in-the-woods pines.
Yesterday was not what I’d planned. I meant to write about the dialogue of Coupling. Watching Star Wars: Episode II last night reminded me. It turns out that no matter how much glamor you throw up on the screen to dazzle the audience, you can still fail big because you can’t get the right words into an actor’s mouth. Hell, in some case back out. In some cases those three movies were like a high school musical with a sixty million dollar budget.
Coupling’s conversations remind me of a writing trope: an essay should be like a skirt; long enough to cover the subject, short enough to maintain interest. In the case of this program I’d say they were cutting the hemline to something more like a thong and a pair of pasties. Or maybe more accurately in the style of Benny Hill simply having a naked person walk through a scene and be strategically and timely covered up with fitting props. However one might try to imagine the dialogue it’s good.
I hear many writers complain that they can’t write speech well. Maybe they agonize over making men sound like men and women like women. Or maybe they miss the mark when it comes to teen slang. Or maybe all their Elizabethans sound like Valley Girls–or worse Victorians. It’s a common sticking place for many writers.
Any book about writing creatively contains a chapter on dialogue. Listen to speech in the wild. Record and transcribe a conversation. Go to the mall or the park. Read good dialogue. Don’t clutter your speech with stage direction or clumsy backstory, but still propel the story forward.
I’ve never thought much about my dialogue. I suspect I should. It stands to reason that not having written it much, I don’t know how to it well.
A brief exchange on a recent episode of New Amsterdam on Fox made me realize how much you could put into a scene with just the spoken word. An exchange in the servants’ quarters between the master and the coachman quickly uncovers a history of rape and a hint of coming justice. It wasn’t the first scene in the series of flashbacks, but it could have stood alone with very little more added.
Next time I will be employing the Five Times technique to some dialogue to explore what I can come up with.
Word count: 932