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Tag: communicate

Too much bling?

Bling Can you have too much bling in creative writing? By bling I mean the twinkling words, the sparkling similes and the glittering metaphors that adorn many simple stories. Recently, I’ve been to a couple of readings of work in progress, short stories, novels and monologues. There was lots of bling on show and it was usually commented upon positively by the audience (admittedly an audience biased towards other writerly types). Initially, I was intimidated (the natural response of the irritatingly insecure). Then I began to wonder. Is more really more? Individual phrases sounded gorgeous, but where they weren’t a natural part of the whole, or there were just too many of them, the effect was to render the piece …what? Ephemeral? Meaningless? All pudding and no main course, leaving you a little bit sicky and unsatisfied (and sometimes plain confused).
My literary heroine, Angela Carter, could conjure magic with words, but without using words for words’ sake. Take those wonderful introductions to the short stories. The curlicue descriptions create atmosphere, feeling that breathes life into the story. They are not optional decoration. Every word is just the right word. Every image just the right one. Just as a great cook can add a pinch of spice that adds depth. However, another heroine, Maggie Gee, writes clean, simple prose that sings with meaning.
The words and the images need to be part of the story. Lovely metaphors might be lovely, but they have no place in a monologue from a character who would not use such language. Should I get so tangled up in a description of something that I lose sight of what is happening, what the meaning is, what the story is? Our words need to communicate something, in a compelling and precise way. They are tools not decoration.
Of course, the reason this struck me in other people’s writing is that I am conscious that I can have a tendency to over-egg my own prose. Sometimes phrases are just so gorgeous that you can’t bear to let them go. Sometimes you have an urge to ‘go literary’ and (mistakenly I think) turn up the poetic to achieve this. I love words but I need to remember to maintain mastery over them and not let them run rampant and get all show-offy. When contemplating that box of bling, I need to ask: ‘Would Coco Chanel do it?’

From the gloom

Blood leaves Something is emerging through the gloom. And it’s a surprise. I was expecting, looking for, words. In fact, it’s pictures. And now I remember. Writing involves pictures in my head. I don’t make up the sentences, I simply write about what I see in my head and what I feel about what I see. That’s what makes the writing part easy and that’s what’s been missing. I think it started when we went for a walk in the woods. Have you noticed how what you’re thinking about makes you not just see things differently, but see different things. Clearly my mood was dark because a scattering of red leaves among green looked like splashes of blood and the roots of trees seemed to reach out like coils of pythons. The gloom I remembered a story I started once. It involved a boy watching a couple out on a walk in the woods. He lurks in the darkness of the trees in the car park watching them argue. Of course something bad happens. The story came from that darkness and spooled into my head like a film. I didn’t look for a character and a motivation. I had to work those out based on what I saw. It wasn’t about finding the words that would sound good, but about finding the ones that would communicate what was in my head. Perhaps I should finish that story and see what other pictures come to take its place.