Monday, 26 October 2015

Steering the Craft - The Sound of Your Writing

This is the first in my exercises for Steering the Craft. It was actually really enjoyable, an opportunity to play with language in a way I normally forget to do when I'm writing. What you can discover just by not worrying about the final result is remarkable. There's still progress to make, but I'm pretty pleased with the results. Hopefully you'll enjoy them too, and I highly recommend giving these exercises a go yourself: the discovery alone will make it worth it.

Exercise One: Being Gorgeous

"Part One: Write a paragraph to a page of narrative that's meant to be read aloud. Use onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects, made-up words or names, dialect - any kinds of sound effect you like - but NOT rhyme or meter."

When the day is swallowed by the sneaking dark and shadows stretch their arms to share their cloak, that's when the Ingrilin come out. No one sees them, that's their gift, their curse, but they see all. The long fingers slide over the ground ahead, scraping away the soil in the days when forests ruled the land. Now they simply slither over the concrete, their sleekit forms sliding over the tacky tarmac, past the cars careening to their destinations. Around the people bobbing along under their umbrellas, oblivious to the pitch black shadows by their feet.
Ingrilin do not know wherefor they go, only that they must. Each night they depart, only to be concealed in their lairs by the time the first rays of the sun kiss the ground. No one knows what they do in the between time, but even people in the enlightened age shiver and hurry past the black alley, avoid the street where the lamps are off. The shadow, with its languorous stretch across the uneven paving stones, is stepped over quickly. The mind remembers, even if the person does not.
What of those who forget completely? Those who step off the luminous path and into the unlit nook? Mostly, they are safe to trot away, continue their life of oblivion. But some are not so fortunate. And the Ingrilin are always waiting.

"Part Two: In a paragraph or so, describe an action, or a person feeling strong emotion - joy, fear, grief. Try to make the rhythm and movement of the sentences embody or represent the physical reality you're writing about."

There are some who enjoy speaking in public. Those people are mad. Most feel their insides quiver, their tongue retreat to their throat, as though to escape via the oesophagus. Sweat breaks out in all the worst places, and before they know it their nails are nibbled and turned to stubs. The notes so carefully taken are made damp, crushed under the pressure of what's to come. All this before the performance itself when the many eyes stare, expectant.
The voice croaks, the words all trying to beat the others to be heard. The tumbling oratory is matched by the rolling gut, just waiting for it to be over. The many eyes glaze, lost to inner thoughts. But still the vernacular somersaults must go on until, by a miracle of time and space, the notes are read, the words are said. The polite applause releases the speaker to their freedom. As they sit, a rush of comfort settles. And they hope next time will be easier.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Forcing the Muse

Three weeks since returning from my holiday, I'm making myself post something as it's safe to say the writing bug has not been with me lately. It's not that I don't want to write but I'm finding the words are stuck; I need a plumber to remove the blockage with one of those amusingly shaped plungers. Though I have just realised how much I like the word "plunger".

To combat the lack of words I've decided I need to approach this like I do going to the gym; make myself do it at set times, on set days, no matter how I feel. When exercise is the activity this often leads to a lot of internal whinging and negotiation with my inner self; bargains are proposed and regrettably rejected. Wails of "but I can't" are met with "but you must". So far I haven't had a routine for the writing to allow this fun dialogue to happen in my head, but here we are. Now I have two activities in which to explore the depths of my insanity.

I tried to do a bit of writing on holiday but was never that optimistic it would lead to much. In Magaluf there are lots of distractions of the sun, pool, drinks and dancing variety. And as it turned out food poisoning, when me and my man made the mistake of having the hotel's freshly cooked omelettes. I may never eat an omelette again. Couple with a decided lack of sun, grumpy neighbours, and a gym that was more a death trap then a work out area, it wasn't the smoothest of holidays, but it was still fun.

Another aid to writing I'm trying is working my way through Ursula K. Le Guin's "Steering the Craft - A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story". It's a short book on writing, with exercises to do at the end of each chapter, and I plan to post my attempts here. Alongside this I've set out my writing goals for the next three months, broken down into the actual pieces I want to have finished in that time and what should be in progress. Waiting for inspiration just isn't working, so a checklist will have to do. I'm even getting up earlier with the express purpose of writing something everyday, before I do anything else. I really like my sleep, so this is a significant step for me.

Hopefully all of this will mean more words on the page, and more posts on this ol' blog. And maybe, just maybe, some stories to show for it all.