Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Trouble in the New World

When I began writing Tethered Light, I was pretty clear in my head that I wanted to create a new Alice.
As I return to my ms, I am a little concerned that this might be working against me.
Why? All the transitional stuff and expanse of locations.
So I'll sift through my fluttering thoughts and see what dribbles out the other end.

I have created a world. Penpa travels across this world, essentially beginning each new chapter in transition before arriving upon the stage where the next leg of the adventure will be performed.
It's worth observing how JKR has dealt with this stuff, either deliberately or accidentally.
First, she reuses locations. Want to put Harry in peril? Send him (back) into the forbidden forest.
Second, her uninspired imagination continually works in her favour (Don't hit me! It's true. I'm not anti JKR: I'm just as open to investigating her strengths as I am her weaknesses, which is no more or less than I would any author). Give the reader a forbidden forest, and there is little work to do in describing the scene.
Forbidden forest: Easy to picture!
The See Mounds: Well, now you're lost. I have to thread in reality anchors - descriptions that draw upon real-world environments and mould them into my unique vision.
(If you're interested, here is the Hogwart's layout.)

The principle here is simple: The shorter the leash, the more ready the acceptance.
In developing imaginative locations - long leashes (many steps away from a first-consciousness, expected idea) - I have given myself more work to do to immerse my readers.
It's not difficult to see how a wildly imaginative work would require much skill from the author in order to make it appear cohesive, believable, and acceptable.

In creating Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry was all too aware of the effects of transitions upon pace. So he created the transporters. Pull a lever and you're there. Genius!

There are benefits however.
I have given over the transitory parts to Penpa - to her thoughts, feelings, character insights, etc.
As she wanders through a labyrinth of tunnels, she begins to long for the sanctuary of her lighthouse (the very sanctuary that she had come to resent!). As she descends with Sera into the bowels of the See Mounds, the girls are silent and Penpa contemplates all of the lives she has touched and is responsible for.
In this way, it is absolutely not dead time.

With each new location comes the necessity of a paragraph describing the scene. There are a number of such descriptions that I will need to tidy up - maximum effect from minimum wordage. I guess this is worrying me a little. But I can also see how I have designed each location to serve as a mood compass - to match the mood to the plot.
(Observe the mood created in Yves Tanguy's Fear [above]. I've loved his work since being introduced to him in my early uni days. He hits subliminally with his soft, organic pebble shapes juxtaposed with sharp, angular shapes that might be blades or shards of bone. Fear is a remarkable example of Tanguy's compositional skills.)
What I do not have a true grasp of yet, and what seems to be a requisite for the fantasy, is the mechanics of the society. I have given it some thought, but I would feel happier if I knew this more intimately.
Penpa grows her own fruit and veg. Does she eat meat? Does she hunt? What does she drink?
How many items of clothing does she have? Where did she get these from? How does she wash them?
Furthermore, having created disparate characters, families and groups across the world, these questions apply beyond Penpa.
More often than not, it might be prudent to simply ignore these questions: that is, they do not need to enter the narrative (and my feeling is that the current swift pace of the novel is one of its strengths). But I do feel that I should explore these questions: often, the addition of a short sentence can make a big difference. Indeed, as I read through this ms again for the first time in ages, there are lots of questions jittering in my head. I don't expect answers to them all, but I would like to know a little more ...
Whilst the mind does fill in all the holes, perhaps the trick is not to give it reason to doubt; perhaps it is better to omit than to fill in with something that might, itself, raise more questions or draw attention to itself. Perhaps the reader is far more likely to notice something that jars than something that has been skimmed over. Perhaps the adventure and the pace that describes it are more valuable than any extended background.

Thoughts are ongoing.

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