Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm a maniac

I just did draft #9 of DL and finally think it's close to being complete...short of choosing just the right word for just the right reaction at just the right moment. Currently it's at 4000 words, exactly...and seems to like that number, no matter what I do. When the story becomes that precise it's probably best to leave it alone...only I can't help but go over it and over it to polish the diamond to the point it blinds whomever it allows in. Hence the reference to my maniacal nature. Somehow I know I'll stop buffing when the time is right. I sense it coming close...but still need to do one more pass, at least. Just to make sure the style is consistent and the tone is perfect.

I just remembered a class I took in grad school, for creative writing. It was headed by a published poet whose attitude was, "You're not a writer unless you can write poetry." Well...I have no tolerance for poems. There are some I like...some I like parts of...but to me poetry has always been a little too full of itself to carry any true meaning. Oh, I've had arguments with people who swear the true essence of literature stems from the poets. Browning. Keats. Whitman. Ginsburg. Angelou. But in poetry I sense people trying to say something without saying it and expecting the reader to work to find out what it is they're trying to say, and that's not really for me, I can be obscure enough without the help of nothing symbolism.

However, I do find myself liking lines that are not locked into the poetic form....descriptive phrases that could just as easily be found in a work of fiction. I think the one line in a classic poem that caught my attention -- and I no longer know the name of the piece, just that it was written a good 250 years ago -- was from a widow's lament for her murdered husband (he was Irish, his killer British gentry). To show the depth of his love for her, she noted he had "walls painted white for me." Those five words carried an entire novel of depth to my mind while the rest of the poem fell into typical stuff.

That's what I'm trying to do with "Desert Land." Have lines sear themselves into the reader's mind and build a world so real and deep to them, they can never forget it. I know some people will say I'm trying to write a form of poetry -- would that be like prose-poems? -- but I'm not trying to obscure the point I want to make by being cute with words. Or using them to dance with and show off my cleverness or facility. My words are solely at the service of my characters...and sometimes those words are harsh and brutal and cruel and prurient, but I fight to keep from letting them become the end-game for my story. They have to mesh with the reality of the world my people inhabit.

Rant, rant, rave...and back to that writing teacher and his attitude. I responded by writing a long poem about a boy taking out the garbage and set it to the cadence of "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree." And started it with "Oft." He HATED it. Mission accomplished. To an extent. I'd always gotten "A's" in my writing courses; he gave me a "B"...which hurt my GPA. My first lesson in "No pain, no gain, and what the hell is wrong with you for wanting it to hurt? Idiot."

But that's just one more aspect of my maniacal nature.

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