Friday, October 24, 2014

Lyrical or Taut Fiction (Which style do you write, or prefer to read?)

I was struck by something English author, Mary Stewart, said in an interview conducted not long before her death this year. She states that she had once spent a week laboring over a particular (descriptive) paragraph to get it just right.

This, I can well believe. Her writing is lyrical and lovely—it was her Merlin Trilogy that I first discovered back in the 80’s, and have since re-read many times, that made me sit back and say to myself, I want to be able to write like that…
  
On the other hand there are those whose writing style is taut, crisp and even minimalist. (I’m in awe of, and respect this, but can’t/wouldn’t enjoy writing it).

I want to believe there is still readership for both styles…or is the more lyrical style now archaic, belonging back in the age of “reading by firelight,” whereas today, everyone reads in nano-bites off their smart phones between bus stops, on coffee breaks and during the kid’s dance class.

Another author I read, Anne Rice, (Vampire Chronicles especially) favours a “lush” prose style, and certainly has a huge following. (Of course she has well-developed and intriguing characters as well.)

Every writer learns early that writing evocative prose does not mean adding in endless adverbs—we’re discussing a poetic style—poetry being the minimal amount of words needed, that with sound and imagery, create an emotional response.

OK. So I threw this question out to writer friends at SF Canada, and it started a lively discussion.

Most confirmed that they can and do enjoy reading stories written in either style, providing the style suits the story.

For author, Eileen Kernaghan, “the setting, the time period and the voice of the character who is telling the story, all help to determine the style.”

Susan Forest , speculative fiction author, reminds us that, “a single work can have both— A Song of Fire and Ice, by George RR Martin gets on with the story, but he also takes the time to place you in his world, with the people. The writing is very lyrical, but he doesn’t sacrifice story.”

Dave Duncan, author of more than forty novels, expresses his opinion that, “…your own style is so much a part of you that anything else will seem faked…if your story flows so smoothly that no reader notices what your style is, well, that’s pretty magical too!”

Matt Hughes, on the other hand (ever ambidextrous :) states that he can suit his style of writing to the material, and the effect he’s trying to create—whether a moody “Bradbury” piece, or hardboiled 1950’s pulp-voiced style.

Noah Chinn, author and “adventurer”, writes that he is,“ a fan of both styles, it depends in part on the intent of the author.” He remarks that he would classify Ray Bradbury as lyrical. “Passages of his just wash over me, evoke images and chills…but sometimes the story is the thing and being more bare-bones is exactly what you need.”

Ira Nayman, humorist extraordinaire, says “Most of my favourite authors use language in wildly entertaining ways” and he adds, “The great thing about the multiplicity of books is that we can enjoy (and learn from) a wide variety of styles of writing…There really are no rules in artistic creation, only what works to entertain.”

Barbara Geiger, who describes herself as, “Writer of dark, redemptive, snarky smut” came up with one of those Aha! insights she’d acquired from colleague Susan Forest after a writer’s session Susan had attended, “The sooner the writer puts their narration in the character’s skull and has the character filtering everything, the reader will be pulled along from start to finish:

There is no description, there is only Point of View.”



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Muse on Holiday...

Home again.

I smiled to see familiar crows fluffed and grumpy on their cold branches. Not so very different, after all, from the bold and curious grackle birds of Yucatan,  who called me to feed them with high pitched shrieks—a sound exactly like the rapid release of air squeezed from a child’s balloon.

Yup. We’ve traded the sight of the high-soaring frigate birds over the Gulf of Mexico, for our beloved bald eagles—the humid air wafting from jungle and marsh, for the cool, clean scent of our northern ocean.

As we pulled in the driveway at home, I saw our heather in its full amethyst bloom and sighed.

 Did being on unfamiliar earth challenge me when it came to my writing? Am I so very rooted to home? When the El Norte wind blew around the sharp, stone angles of the beach casa—I heard voices unlike the forest songs at home and I stumbled in my thoughts. I am an intruder here—I struggle not only with the language, but its alien earth.

Perhaps because my WIP is based in the land I have always known, whose voices are those of  evergreen rainforest giants and the northern Pacific Ocean. 

I think perhaps I should have started to write something new—about the ancient Maiya, the land of underground rivers and sonatas, where the jungle trees trail their roots thirty feet downward to the surface of the water. 

I will be better prepared, next time.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I love Gerard Butler (Actor), but this movie....


Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Oh my.
 I love the actors who were cast in this film…Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman amongst others, however I spent much of it in irritation, or cringing, at the heavy-handed symbolisms and obvious tweaks of sensitive (particularly American) nerve ends.

The foreshadowing: a shot of the White House taken along the barrel of a static display cannon; the Washington Monument is grazed by the enemy aircraft, and then smoke billows and the structure collapses in a visual flash-back to the 9/11 tower. The inevitable symbolic image of a torn and battered American flag drifting to the ground.

I dislike being so obviously manipulated into “feeling” certain emotions.

And plausibility…I’m no military strategist and have no knowledge of how these things are organized, however, I was jolted by the apparent fact that an alien, unidentified bomber-type aircraft managed to get so close to Washington before the interceptors arrived to challenge it—and were promptly shot down by the invader, I may add.

The invasion force of 40 or so, had killed every FBI and marine guard at the white house in a matter of 13 minutes (strangely, only our hero thought to dive for cover behind a column—the other agents poured out the door and stood firing their hand guns at the enemy until they were all mowed down)…and long before any additional military support could arrive.

Then we have our hero…Gerard Butler in his character of FBI agent, Mike Banning, proceeding alone in the increasingly ruined White House, rescuing the president’s young son and killing off the baddies as he works his way to where the president is held captive. Almost I could hear him saying to chief bad guy, xxxxxx, “yippee-kai-yeah, Mother F----r”.

There is excitement, however, and with certain misgiving I’d rate it a 3/5—if you can just roll with it and overlook the things that almost drop it to the comic book “superhero vs. bad guys” genre.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

WHY WRITE HORROR OR DARK FANTASY...

How is it that an upbeat, naturally optimistic person like myself, sometimes chooses to write Dark Fantasy or even Horror—where do these thoughts and images come from.

I believe we draw from our own fears. Fears we think we've hidden so well, because we're grown-ups after all, and we're pretty good at repressing/ignoring these terrors in the bright light of day until something makes us feel vulnerable—goes scrabbling across the floor in the dark...

When creating fiction, we tap into the shadowy depth of our psyche when writing on the Dark Side.


Stories can take us to scary places, be it physically or psychically. Since the times of myths and legends,  it’s been human nature to desire to shuffle forward and spit into the abyss, never knowing what we’ll arouse…all the better, though, if we can live the experience vicariously from our favourite reading chair. 



Anything I write has a speculative element in it—epic fantasy, magic realism or paranormal—I love to stretch boundaries that way—does that makes my darker pieces more “dark fantasy” than horror? That precise boundary is always blurred... My own stories tend toward female protagonists struggling against the constraints or conditions around them, who become empowered by either the revelation of an alternate side of their psyche or an actual channeling of some potent force/ entity. The victims in these stories are usually characters that I, and I expect my readers also, will little mourn. There’s something cathartic about doing them in…who hasn’t imagined themselves strangling that obnoxious petty bureaucrat, or arrogant and insufferable boss?


So what dark thoughts do scare me...Possession by Evil. The thought of being compelled/driven against one’s will (or possessed by evil) horrifies me. I’ve toyed with the theme of possession more than once. The antagonist in my novel is a Mage who uses mind control for his own ends; my protagonist has some defences against this and is horrified that one would so abuse their power, their gift. She sees the evil that can be done. There’s types of imprisonment beyond physical confinement. Perhaps that’s why I find circus’ disturbing too…bears in tutus, etc—the distortion of a creature’s natural behaviour.