clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Thursday, December 5, 2013


At left, the unique Giant's Causeway [ photo: Skytouch ] off Bushmills in Ireland. Yes, the home of the favorite whiskey has another attraction: the remains of a bridge Giants used for a fight.

I am considering how much is unique and how much is the unique combination of perspectives. By this, I'm thinking of all the literary tricks in our baskets which are comforting in some way to readers. However, it is the manner in which we assemble these tricks and slight-of-hand descriptions that marks our work as distinct when successful (and trite when unsuccessful).

Consider for the minute an attribution of action in narrative summary.

A speaks to B. B's action is described.

She looked away with her heart leaving the room to do so.  

Right there we have a continuance of description which tells us all we need to know of the state of the relationship between A and B. Yes, we could perhaps place a few more lines of dialogue between the characters to illustrate the point but in a brief summary here we've conveyed to the reader the distance that now fills divide between A and B.

Is it a slight-of-hand? Yes. It is properly a tool. We've injected our authorial voice into the narration and portrayed what we want to convey by blatantly stating it to the reader in what we pray is an acceptable fashion.

If we have too heavy-handed a voice we risk the editorial return with the comment "too much you, not enough A and B" which is a heart-breaker in itself.  I hate missing the target and so do you. If however we draw out the illustration in the continued dialogue about - oh - the dinner, then we risk losing the point and boring the reader with a meaningless interchange (seemingly) that does little to illustrate the point of the divide. It drives us in revision to inject horrid contrived devices

"Say, the doctor said I had cancer today. Have to get that taken care of," he said. 

"Or not," Mary answered. "I'm not sure I care. Whatever."

Yes - it too illustrates a break, but; did we need to give Mr. A cancer just to show the state of affairs?  Really?

I'll admit to shooting characters for sport. Giving them cancer? Maybe not.

Off to write the interview with Vixen tonight. What do you ask a reindeer? Did you kill your husband?

Write something festive, then shoot somebody. I'm going to...


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like the way you illustrate this. And it's true...readers like the comfort of a certain amount of formula/pattern. It's that spark we give it that makes the formula comforting instead of banal.

jack welling said...

Lovely to have you by. Spark dispels the banal.