mmoa_writes: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 10:08pm on 12/05/2009 under , , , ,
Sometimes I wish I studied the arts for a degree, because there are all sorts of things you don't realise until someone points them out to you.

For instance, in the latest Newsnight Review, during an interview with Colm Toibin about his new book, he mentioned how he wanted to write the novel in a linear, pared down style similar to Jane Austen's - no flashbacks, very few descriptions of people's expressions etc.

In the case of facial descriptions, one result is that it becomes clear to the reader that people may not be saying precisely what they mean, that they may be concealing their personal thoughts and opinions as they outwardly proclaim another.

Now obviously there are many techniques that arrive at the same effect, but I found this very interesting because of it's simplicity (and also because I hadn't noticed this before, even though I'd read most of Austen's output and paid - by my reckoning - a lot of attention to them). This was so interesting that I began to think how I could implement this technique when writing from certain characters povs.

For example, Aritin, who is a professional musician and a sort of 'kept man', comes from a class (the haremii) whose basic purpose is to provide entertainment and beauty etc etc. To be where he is now, he would have learnt how to behave for different patrons/fellow haremii/Uchim/etc, and the same would be true for other haremii, particularly the very famous/successful. As it happens, there are more than a few flashbacks in his chapters already. However, as none of them have any real contribution to the story (that can't be alluded to elsewhere), the solution is simple. Out with 'em!

Why write that someone's face is 'expressionless', or that they're 'hard to read'? Out with it! Don't mention their expression and if needs be, just mention Aritin's discomfort in their presence. Easy.

I suppose I could do the same - to a lesser degree - for the politicians and scholars; otoh, more so for the warriors (Nnadu, Golchi and Chundwu).

Then I began paying more attention to my Crisselti characters. It makes more sense for their chapters to be wordier, their perspectives to have more flashbacks and so on. This is especially true for Irillis who has spent most of her life in what is practically a cloister (albeit one in the family home) and thus learnt to amuse herself by daydreaming. As a professional day-dreamer myself, it will be all too easy to go overboard with Irillis. In her/Iltus' case, as I'm trying to cut the word count down and tend to be wordy anyway, I doubt I'll add anything more to her/Iltus' chapters.

Even though the Egbajum way of speaking is based on the Igbo - which is famously stuffed full of proverbs and extended metaphors - and Crisselti on [Renaissance] Italian, there is a difference in the way language is utilised in contrast to cultural perspective. The Egbajum may well be circumlocutory, but their perspective on life et al is pragmatic and realistic, very much based on the present and the future. The Crisselti tongue may be less so - saving embroidered language for the written/sung word - but they have a more 'romantic' perspective on the world around them, one that is based more on the [personal] past.

The Austen approach will certainly help in expressing this without a load of anthropologist's notes Afterword.

So post-exam season is going to be a lot of fun, I can tell!


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