"Often while reading a book, one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors."
~ PABLO PICASSO
Steampunk, by its very nature, is a very visually oriented medium. The painting above is one of my very favorite works of art, and has been from the moment I first saw it. I'm sure you can see why. But, here's the problem that I feel in my writing every time I touch a keyboard: How do I describe a scene like that?
See, we live in this world, and if I tell you that my hero (or villain) is a passenger on a 747, you have a clear picture of what that means, from the double aisles to the circular staircase. But what if I want to tell you that he's in that mechanical octopus in the picture? How many words does it take to get that impression across? I could write a whole book describing what's going on in that painting, the billowing smoke, the coppery sky, the articulated bronze arms, the patrol boat's gun desperately trying to get on target in the rolling swells... And then there are all the emotions of the participants and observers to be captured, and when I think of it in this fashion, it becomes virtually overwhelming.
Reviewers of Beyond the Rails have almost uniformly given me high marks, which I greatly appreciate, but the fact is that I keep BtR simple in its machinery, and close to history in its timeline. Could I write a coherent story about that octopus without it devolving into a technical manual? I don't know. It's intimidating to think about.
The point is that I was schooled (self-schooled, but nonetheless...) in a very minimalist writing style. I write like a Japanese master paints; a few brush strokes go on the canvas, and suddenly you are seeing a samurai riding across a river into a village in the shadow of a mountain... Or a flight of cranes passing over a school of fish. Okay, I'm not that good, but I write enough description for the reader's mind to form a scene, and leave it to his imagination to develop the details. You won't see me taking six pages to describe the history of the lace pattern around the ingenue's bodice, or the layout of the brass and copper pipes in the engine room.
How would that technique work, though, if I had to convey that octopus? I need to figure this out, as I have a story plot cooking for the next book after BtR that involves a fantastic machine. I guess what I'm getting at is to ask for suggestions, if you use a good technique, or recommendations for books where this is accomplished well. You'd be doing yourselves a favor, as I have an excellent story to tell, but need to polish the technique for telling it. Maybe I should just forget it, and it may come to that if I can't find the answer to this, but that's really the choice of last resort. I want to tell this story, not just because it's a plot that interests me, but because it will be set in, and showcase, my home town with all its Victorian trappings and a historical personage or two, so if you have anything at all to pass along, I'd dearly appreciate it.
In other news, you may be wondering why I come before you on Tuesday. This is an adjustment to the changing work schedules of two of my adult children, both of whose days off have shifted giving my daughter a different schedule of presence here at Chez Ty. I could stubbornly cling to my Thursday posting schedule, but that would be inconvenient for both of us, and as I've always prided myself on flexibility, Tuesdays it shall be until something else changes.
On the writing front, nothing has been going on the page this last week. I made a change at the end of the last chapter I posted for my reading group, which is just after the halfway point of the book. It's a good change, improving the dramatic quality considerably, but of course it changes much of the action that comes after, and as I'm a detailed planner, the outline has to be rewritten. That is moving well, and I should be back to writing within the next few days.
Let's see, what else? Oh, the Punk Fiction Writers' Guild seems to be dying a slow death, as according to the counter, it has been a week since anyone has even visited, let alone commented. That's all right I guess, every idea can't be great, but I really thought that as hungry as writers always are for publicity, there would be a lot more action over there. Well, one less demand on my time, that's for sure.
Finally, speaking of demands on my time, I have, through a long period of trial and error, found the right combination of position of lips, gums, tongue, and palate that enable me to play harmonica with my denture out, so there will be a great deal of annoying practice as I work to regain what I had, and move beyond it. My favored style was blues, which is perfect, because if "Toothless Jack Tyler" isn't a classic blues name, I don't know what is! Plus, the instant gratification of producing a riff, a melody, a background wail is far more satisfying than sweating blood for a year until a book appears on the page, so we'll have to see what comes of this.
So, Tuesdays it is for the foreseeable future. I'll be back on the 30th with something about something. Until then, play nice, watch out for one another, and above all else, read well, and write better!