Sunday, 23 June 2013

Thinking outside the box...

A couple of months ago I blogged about identifying literary fiction as opposed to commercial /mainstream. Since then I’ve been thinking about both forms of fiction and whether it's possible -- assuming you are not this way inclined at the start -- to turn yourself into a writer who produces literary works.

I think it is.

But I think it involves a great deal of work.

This may seem a simplistic thing to say. Any piece of (good) writing involves a great deal of work, but what I'm getting at is that for a work to be literary you have to say something that makes readers sit up and take notice, or you have to say it in a way that makes them sit up and take notice. It's not enough to simply tell a story - that's commercial fiction.

One way of becoming more literary is to work at the words. To look at how you use words, and whether you can improve by changing the way you describe things.

I've done a little experimenting along these lines. I looked at literary work that I love or admire in an effort to see what it was about that work that grabbed me. Mostly it wasn't big ideas or topical subjects, mostly it was a certain lyricism or a way of saying something that caught me and held me.

For instance, in Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone, which I blogged about recently, there's a sentence on the last page that got me: "The birds had so much to say at dusk and said it all together." Do you see what I mean about saying something in a different way?

I had a go at seeing if I could do this myself. In the story I'm working on at the moment, the main character goes outside with his dog last thing at night for the dog to pee.

At about ten he let the dog out for his ablutions. He stood on the veranda’s lip with his hands tucked in his armpits. The dog rummaged in the ragged grass. Overhead the sky, thick and deep as the bottom of the ocean, sparkled with phosphorus. The pine trees sighed. Ebbed and flowed like kelp. He closed his eyes. He was fathoms underwater. Mute and deaf. Adrift. Untouchable. 


To get to this I put myself in the man's shoes, closed my eyes and imagined I was outside under a night sky, and I thought, what does this remind me of? Then I came up with the idea of the ocean. Obviously it took a bit of work. Do you think it's worth it?

Monday, 10 June 2013

How To Be Dutiful, Part xvii

You'll have noticed I've been sharing my work of late...I feel surprisingly good about this although I'm not sure how my readers feel. (My readers seem a little shy.) Writers, unlike other creators -- artists, musicians, dancers -- have little or no opportunity to share their work, and that topic's a whole other post. In the meantime, here's more: a random, short piece inspired by writings at

How To Be Dutiful, Part xvii
©Kathy George

Offer to pick up the boy up from the party. The party that might as well be in Whoop-Whoop. Stay sober. This is harder than it sounds; it’s Saturday night, for God’s sake. And don’t annoy him by texting every half hour. Go to bed. Awake with a sickening gasp an hour later to claw your way out of a molasses-filled hole. Check your texts. Nothing. Well, duh, of course nothing. Succumb to sleep again and come to when your phone shrieks. Finger-comb your hair. Don’t change out of your floral jammy pants – I promise you no-one will notice.

And avoid judging your reflection. Rinse your mouth out with whisky. Like a good boy scout add a dash of lippie. In other words, be prepared.
Coast down the road where the party’s at. Avoid the bodies, both prone and upright. Park somewhere less than obvious. Don’t stare and don’t give in to envy. Sit quietly and wait for further instructions, if any. When the boy and his five mates – Five! – well, what did you expect? weave their way toward you don’t flinch when they call you Mrs. 

Select a CD that’s raunchy and wild. Led Zeppelin or The Doors. Or, better still, The Black Keys. Turn up the volume. When you think it’s too loud turn the dial further...Further still...Now you’ve got it. Remember the effects of alcohol fumes and testosterone and wind down the window. Gently floor the gas pedal.   
Be prepared to stop when the boy rolling loose in the back wants to throw up. Be tolerant when the only girl forgets where she lives. Or how to get there. Above all be prepared to find you might like driving in the forest dark at some ungodly hour with the music way up loud and the headlights frightening the tinny letterboxes and the stars like stickers on black cardboard. Be prepared to forget you are married. Be prepared to catch your son looking at you.
(And be mindful that just for a little while the boy has let you into his life. And be grateful.)  

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Day of the Triffid...

This creepy-looking plant is growing outside my laundry door.

Its head looks like that of a small dragon.  Those things on its stem are thorns.  I reckon it's growing at a rate of 10cm a day. I asked The Loved One for his opinion.  He said it will keep growing until its head taps against the upstairs bathroom window. It will knock to be let in.  Louder. Then it will break the glass...

And I thought I was the one with the active imagination. 

This whole scenario reminds me of a particularly wonderful book I haven't read in years: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. 

Stunning Cover!

The novel is about some plants that try to take over the world. They get about by walking on their roots; they seem to be able to communicate with one another, and can sting you with a concoction that causes blindness. The scene I remember most vividly is the protagonist going to the front door, and these things being on the threshold, chattering to each other, demanding to be let in. The Day of the Triffids was first published in 1951 and established John Wyndham as a writer of some merit. He had written other novels, but it was TDOTT that put him on the map. It remains his most important work. The narrative is seen through the eyes of its protagonist Bill Masen (ironic since Bill has been blinded) and is an account of mankind's survival. If you've never read it, you should.

I'm going to the library today to hunt down a copy to see what it is I have to do - just in case. I suggest you do the same. I have a creepy feeling I'm being watched. I should've locked the laundry door. I think - Arghhhh...