Conciseness, Regardless

As a gift from a flatmate, I got this magazine called “First Edition”, with 18 amateur Short Stories, and some poems too. While some of the stories were awful in their own individual ways, it’s a real treat to read through something imperfect and see the flaws, and learn from them. That said, I have found one short story that totally surprised me (called “Time Line” by Peter Marshall), so I shouldn’t go into reading these stories with an automatic superior sneer.

I also found a poem that shall remain nameless, for fear of Google Searches. It was a poem about a river, and here is a sample verse:

Down I trickle softly and gently

Rippling and darting during my flow

On cold dark days I travel fast and wild

Shadows of trees cast by the glistening sun

In summer and spring stillness affects my current

Cold winds brush against my surface water.

a

brook

I may as well mention that the whole poem is 6 verses  of the same and similar, and that there’s no rhyme scheme, but it’s designed so the final word of each line, “gently, flow, wild, sun, current, water” is repeated in each verse in a different order.   No wonder it sounded repetitive.

This actually brings out what I consider one of my biggest weaknesses – piling adjective upon adjective (upon descriptive noun). Even in that extract I posted Mid-Week, the line I considered powerful was “your slow, tedious ascent” – two adjectives together, and the “slow” is pretty well explained in the “tedious” anyway.

So why do I do it? Partly so it fits some kind of internal rhythm known only to me. And partly because I believe that sometimes a piling up of adjectives is more powerful. In spoken conversation, it would be like thrnking of an adjective, then thinking of a better one, which multiplies the first. Which is usually how I come up with them.

Anyway, my writing task for my Midweek post is to take the complete and unwieldy poem above and trim it to something better.

In the meantime, here’s another river-related poem – and one of the first poems I wrote.

Regardless

The stream rolled on regardless

Bending, burbling on

Under the shelter of the bare sycamore.

It ran, full to the grassy banks

Glistening in the dying blush of day.

Even with that little light

You can still see cool pebbles at the bottom,

And the shadows dancing over them.

a

A score of yards upstream, its path is stark

And wedged tight by tall concrete pillars

Over which the motorway runs.

There, constant carbon wilts the brookside flower,

And it is never dark, for when sunlight fades,

Two new rivers appear each night

Crawling against each opposite course,

One blinding white, one warning red,

The streams roll on, regardless.

Regardless
Regardless

Clarity and My Own Voice

Today, I am sorry to say, I have no new work for you. But that’s okay, because I feel like I’ve learned a few things about writing this week anyway, and that’s kind of the point of this blog.

blue-carpet

My Voice

This week, I’ve been working on an old poem of mine, confusingly called “Shark”, about my Grandmother’s ocean-blue carpeted staircase. I’ve been updating it, taking that old poem and putting a twist on the end – that we are getting a stairlift put in after her stroke.

While this is progressing quite well, I came up with this image for the final lines –

“….. in the construction of your slow, tedious ascent.”

This is causing me problems, because I like the image, and think it’s powerful, but with the heavenly connotations of “ascent”, calling it “tedious” in respect to my own grandmother’s health is callous and not what I truly feel.

So what do I do? Do I sacrifice an image because it’s not my voice, or keep it for its strength and feel bad about the sentiment it portrays?

I’ve decided, for now, to keep it. Hopefully the controversial interpretation will shock people into a positive reaction from this poem, and learn from it. But your input is appreciated. I’m still wrestling with this one.

Clarity

Gathering dust on my computer is a novel that I started to write years and years ago, that I really need to settle down and GET DONE, just so I can go back through it and fix it. I don’t want to tinker and tinker with an unfinished work – it needs the plot, on the page, so it can get messed with. Every now and again, I get little ideas connected with it. This lesson is actualy one my mother tried to teach me years ago, and I partially disregarded it because I thought “she just doesn’t get Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.

A key ingredient of Fantasy, and to a lesser degree Sci-Fi, is escapism You are reading to enter another world, not your own. A key ingrediant of Sci-Fi, and to a lesser degree Fantasy, is to reflect our world, by providing a different one and making a point about our world through it.

Here is an extract from the start of a chapter of “Matter”, by Iain M. Banks, a gift from my brother. It’s four chapters in, but it-s a total swtich in scene, and style from everything to this point

“Utaltifuhl, the Grand Zamerin of Sursamen-Nariscene, in charge of all Nariscene interests on the planet and its accompanying solar systerm and therefore – by the terms of the mandate the Nariscene held under the auspices of the Galactic General Council – as close as one might get to overall ruler of both, was just beginning the long journey to the 3044th Great Spawning of the Everlasting Queen on the far-distant home planet of his kind when he met the director general of the Morthanveld Strategic Mission to the Tertiary Hulian Spine – paying a courtesy call to the modest but of course influential Morthanveld embassy on Sursamen – in the Third Equatorial Transit Facility high above Sursamen-s dark, green-blue pocked Surface.”

Holy moley, that’s one sentence. At this point of the story, none of these words meant anything to me. This is the kind of passage that would put off someone new to Modern Science Fiction – like me (I read H.G Wells and Jules Verne and utterly devour them). The whole chapter was a blur, but for those who are interested, let me explain:planet-plum

Sursamen – planet of the story (didn’t know it’s name before this)

Nariscene and Morthanveld – two freaky-deaky alien races that don’t much care about the planet, but are in charge.

I’m many chapters further into the story now, and that’s all the relevant information in that terrifying first sentence.

My mother’s lesson was this – “don’t overload on the names”. Names are thought to be the lifeblood of Sci-Fi and Fantasy and THAT IS TOTALLY WRONG. Sure, you might want it to sound official, but there’s no real need to. It almost made me put this book down, and Iain M. Banks is internationally recognised as an excellent storyteller with masses of well-known books. So why the total alienation of the reader?

So when I do go back to my story, I’m going to keep it simple. Sure, there’ll be titles and place names, but too many places and you’re lost (maps can almost fix this), too many names and you’re confused, and too much politican-speak, and the reader will lose interest.

If you want to see lots of names and places done well, I recommend you look at Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide”.

And that’s all from me for this Mid-Week post.