Saturday, 18 August 2007

Open Mouthed

Jack was relieved that nobody noticed his inner dove leaving through his ear.


Am finding time to write again. Hurrah! (Really, I do mean that Hurrah!)
I think I'm forming a theory.
If I write stuff that I'm happy with, I get a buzz. That buzz tends to last for a few hours.
If I work really hard, I get a different buzz, and that buzz seems to last longer.
Yesterday, for example, I addressed lots of imperfections across the first four chapters. I seem to be in a poetic mood at the moment, not least having recently emerged from Nabokov. My favourite addition is where Penpa has woken from a fall, and it is night, and her first thoughts are of Blinky who has been snatched by a winged beast.
It's a valley moment - a breather. The action is pushed aside, along with momentum. Here, I can 'safely' dwell on thoughts and/or descriptions. However, they need to be highly emotive (captivating, entrancing, mesmerising) to warrant the lull. I have developed a fear of valleys, which surely is unfounded. I find myself aware of their necessity, but eager to press on nonetheless. If a reader is going to jump ship, they will jump in a valley. (Presumably a watery valley, much like a loch.)
So the emotion needs to be high and perfectly crafted - succinct and powerful and honest.
Over time, it becomes easier to rely on crutches. When one has described sorrow or loss or fear so many times, it becomes ever more important to push deeper and find a new and fresh truth, or essence.
I continue to refine the essence of a child. Penpa's core traits include brash and naive certainty, fearlessness, tautologies (needless repetition or redundant words: In 'really massive' the 'really' is redundant), and fluid, exaggerated movements.
Here's my extension to the valley:

She thought of Blinky and her heart ached so much that it hurt to breathe. She knew he was strong. He would certainly return to her. How could he not? He would definitely return to her because they should never be parted and because they loved each other; and because Blinky was smarter and stronger than every living thing. A shooting star blazed overhead, stitching the heavens with emerald thread, and Penpa knew it to be a message from Blinky: I am safe. I am coming.

That last line is a poetic show, and I found myself adding a number of them yesterday. They feel good. Check out the stresses in 'STITching the HEAvens with EMerald THREAD.' That part is even and symmetrical and fluid, and it skips neatly and precisely. The meter complements the surface meaning - a double hit - rounding the passage with a kind of peace and security where, previously, there was none.

Anyhoo, I worked for four hours yesterday, tidying and snipping, and the buzz didn't last that long. It hadn't felt like intensive labour (which, indeed, writing does very often feel like). And I ended up with insomnia, which maybe is tied to guilt. Must work harder.

Another highlight was converting my font to 12pt. For some inexplicable reason, I began writing in 11pt Times, and was never unfaithful to this seductive lady of the night. No idea what I mean by that.
I discovered that I, in fact, have the fifty pages needed for a profession crit (yes, I'm gonna go through a professional consultancy and get myself a real crit from a real editor. I guess I thrive on pain). I haven't resized the entire ms yet, but I'm guessing the page count is gonna balloon to way over 200 pages. Eek.

I read through these first fifty pages. (Btw, I read that, when incorporating numbers, numbers from zero to one hundred are written as words, and numbers over one hundred are written as numbers, if that makes sense [one hundred, 101, etc.].) It's fascinating to observe the emotional responses I get from the emotional topography. It's even more fascinating to determine where these responses are coming from.
Dialogue and character interaction, I will suggest, are primary components of emotive control.

Chapter one leaves me feeling sad and empty. There is minimal dialogue. The dialogue between Penpa and Blinky is predominantly non-verbal; I use touch and body language, so that Blinky coils his tail around Penpa's thigh when he is protecting her, for example. The dialogue between the king and the queen is odd and suffused with sexual inferences (all very well hidden now). It is superficially humourous, but very dark beneath the surface. The dialogue between the monarchs and Penpa is, again, one-way.
I used this effect in The Commuters. My emotional response was very clearly altered when Corus eventually engaged in conversation. The opening is filled with loneliness and solitude, almost irrespective of his perceived mood. A vast unwritten chasm alienated Corus from the rest of humanity.

In chapter two, Penpa reads through the last entry in the journal. This feels like a halfway house: it feels as though the ghost of her predecessor is communicating with her. Again, the mood is sombre and packed full of N400s, but there still seems to be an invisible bond between two characters.

The latter half of chapter two contains full on, two-way dialogue. This raises the comfort zone somehow, seemingly irrespective of what the dialogue contains or refers to; seemingly irrespective of the primary tone.

Chapter three, I confess, made me laugh out loud. It could almost have been written for the stage. The interaction between Penpa and Baste works very well. He is such a peculiar character with all manner of issues, and he serves to transform, by association, Penpa into a motherly character.

Which I fling on its head in the next chapter, when Penpa meets a mother and longs to be somebody's little girl. In the heart of a large family, dialogue bounces around like laser beams in a hall of mirrors. Fragments of personalities bombard Penpa, and I take a warm and cozy feeling from this chapter, even though it contains the most horrific and violent scene thus far into the ms.

Perhaps there is something in the nature of dialogue that lifts the mood in any situation. Perhaps there is some inate fulfillment or comfort in the interpretation of spoken word. It's impossible to walk five minutes without encountering somebody on a mobile phone. Certainly, internal monologues and musings infuse the narrative with a kind of isolated quietude (guage this for yourself in the passage I have posted above).
Perhaps it would be simpler to consider the notion of familiarity: can we imagine the distinction between having no friends and having lots of mute friends? Indeed, I think we would all prefer the latter. I understand that women get some chemical release as the result of talking - a chemical that makes them feel good. I understand, too, that this is not so for men. But I would suggest that it is not such the act of talking that warms the tone, but the idea that somebody would talk to you - the protagonist.

No comments: