It’s sunny here, and the trees at the end of our garden are golden, which automatically puts me in a good mood. The light is wonderful, and it’s the sort of day that begs you to go outside – as soon as I’ve written this, I’ll go exploring for a while.
I hope everyone had a good weekend. I spent mine recovering from a heavy cold, reading a lot and doing quite a bit of baking. Yesterday, we went to the cinema to see ‘Looper’ just before it leaves; I was a bit scared to see it, because I thought it would be very similar to my WiP in some respects. Turns out it wasn’t at all like my WiP, and it was also a good movie, if a little full of unanswered questions. Somehow though these don’t seem to matter, because the film overall is entertaining and well-paced. I’m not sure what they did to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face to make him look so different, and I’m also amazed by how good a job he did in ‘impersonating’ another actor in the movie (I don’t want to give too much away in case anyone hasn’t seen it yet!), but it was pretty impressive. It made me wonder whether it’s easier to get away with unanswered questions and sticky, problematic plot holes in the media of film as opposed to in writing. Perhaps I’m wrong!
I also read some books. I’m afraid to say how many in case you think I’m a nutter. Sometimes my husband gets a bit afraid when he sees me reading; I think, secretly, he fears I may be an android. (I’m not, I swear!) One of the books I read was ‘The Poison Throne’ by Celine Kiernan, an award-winning Irish author. I absolutely loved it, and I can’t wait to read the second and third book in the Moorehawke Trilogy (‘Poison Throne’ is Book One, obviously). I’m amazed by how books have now really taken on the mantle of ‘tutorials’ for me in recent months – not only am I reading them for enjoyment, but I’m also learning from them more than ever before. I always admired things like narrative voice, structure, characterisation, imagery and so on in the books I read, but now that I’m mid-way through my own effort to create a finished book, I’m really taking note of how other people manage the things I feel I have problems with.
Celine Kiernan is a wonderful writer, and she’s deservedly award-winning. Things I learned from ‘The Poison Throne’ include:
How it’s all right, even if your book is action-driven and full of tension and serious Goings On, to have funny dialogue and very amusing scenes; it doesn’t derail the tense bits;
How to use details to make something seem real – for instance, Wynter and her father in ‘The Poison Throne’ are carpenters, and Kiernan uses just enough information about what they do to give us an authentic sense of it, without overloading us with the nitty-gritty and making us feel like we’re drowning in sawdust;
How to handle action scenes, and make them scary and real without coming across as corny;
How to create a confident, self-assured, charismatic protagonist without making her seem arrogant, and how to pitch a voice which is appropriate to a person of the age my own main character is. I really found that hard, so reading this book gave me an insight into what’s suitable.
As well as all that, it was a wonderful story which gave me such enjoyment, and it’s full of well-fleshed characters, each with their own voice. I loved how her characters hint at their hidden depths and their back stories, and I really loved the political intrigue of life in the kingdom. I really got a sense of the suffocating nature of protocol and how horrible it must be to have to do something for fear of angering the king in ‘The Poison Throne’ – the punishments for crossing ‘Good’ King Jonathon are laid out very clearly!
I still haven’t dared to revisit my own WiP; the more I leave it to settle, the more my ideas around it are becoming clear. Details I could add are occurring to me and certain plot problems are beginning to work themselves out, so I suppose leaving it to settle for another few days might be a good thing. I suppose, too, it’s good to stay away from it until I really start to miss it – that can only strengthen my desire to make it as good as I can. Here’s hoping, at least. Meanwhile, I’ll look a bit like this:
Whether you’re writing, editing, or (like me) percolating, I wish you well. Have a great day.