Associating the Oblique and Ambiguous.

 

Firstly, a note:jot_a_note

It is a while since I have written a post focusing on the process of creative writing.

The reason being, I have said much about other ‘stuff’ associated with authoring and publishing. Stuff I felt important enough to warrant writing about.

However, doing so led me away from the core value of this blog, which is to give, in my usual rambling and rather haphazard way, tips, advice and suggestions on improving one’s writing skills and understanding of authorship.

Those of you who follow me will know I do not write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke one’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the messages in each of these Ramblings.

In my heart of hearts, I believe the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education.

A writer must want to write, above all else.

So, with those matters cleared away, I guess it is time to reveal what this article is about.


‘Association’

As a mass noun, the definition of this word, according to the Oxford English dictionary is, ‘The action of making a mental connection’.

Regarding fiction writing, I would take this two steps further and say it is, ‘The action of making a mental, sensory and emotional connection within one’s imagination’.

However, to create such a powerful, multi-sensory consanguinity within a reader’s mind, requires the writer’s understanding and needs them to be adept at wordsmithing.

To me, the word ‘wordsmith’ is a wondrous, self-describing noun.

Imagine standing before a blazing forge, gauntlet covered hands, leather apron, large metal tongs holding a glowing red-hot bar of iron. The other hand wielding a heavy hammer.

Smell the fire, the heat, hearing the Smithy as he pounds the almost molten metal into the shape of his choosing. Not an easy task, one which takes many re-heatings and coolings of the metal. One which takes countless strikes with the hammer against the solid block of the anvil before anything recognisable is formed from the raw metal.download

This is what I envisage when thinking of the word ‘wordsmith’.

My ‘association’ is with the hours of sweat and toil it takes to form a loose jumble of letters and scattered words into a coherent and meaningful sentence. To mould and form each word so it fits seamlessly with the next, so they all flow in a smooth, well-paced fashion to complete the paragraph.

The result of a Blacksmiths work is more than just flattened and twisted metal, it is a product purposely shaped into a functional object, decorated to enhance its appearance, creating an article of both beauty and reason.

Such should be our undertaking as writers. Our words should not only serve the functionality of revelation but create a pathway of beauty and intrigue for our readers to follow. Our tales should hold within their very form the pure essence of captivation, of fantastical fiction.

To do this we must weave that very essence, the distillate tincture of association within our words.

“That’s fine for you to say,” I hear you mutter.“But how do we do that?”

My answer is to consider the word this post is about, consider ‘association’. The association of words.

Now, many of you will be thinking ‘thesaurus’ because that is what a thesaurus is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

You see, when I talk of word association I am not merely speaking of functional words you may find within dictionaries and thesaurus. Neither am I considering which words may be grammatically correct. I am talking about creativity, of creative writing. Of breaking the rules when it lends to better or even great storytelling.

Those among you who write poetry may, or at least should, have a greater understanding of the flexibility of words, how they can be moulded to convey more than their basic meanings. Particularly when two or more are used in conjunction, oblique, ambiguous or both.

Wordsmithing in fiction writing utilises what is learnt through the poetic principle, includes and encompasses it within the whole wordsmithing process.

As a way of explanation, I’ll take an excerpt from one of my short stories, ‘The Bridge‘, taken from volume three of my short stories collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’

Out of context, I think this is a rather unremarkable excerpt. Even so, once studied while holding the concept of association in mind, its secrets are revealed.

The Humber Bridge is monumental. It is suspended by a mass of giant pythons, twisted metal cables one hundred feet above the sludge brown of the river. From tower to tower it is one mile and the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.

Yet, for all the earth destroying steel and concrete construction, the bridge has an illusion of beauty that is enhanced by nature itself. Somehow the two blend, even complement each other, an amalgamation of converse contraries.

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The Humber Bridge

Firstly, the suggested size of the bridge is stated, in an emotional way, by using the word monumental.

It is then revealed to the reader this is a suspension bridge.

Using the term ‘mass of giant pythons’ is suggestive of and leads into the next sentence ‘twisted metal cables…’

Here are the first wordsmithing associations.

Most people know what a suspension bridge looks like. The story could be told by simply stating this bridge is a vast suspension bridge.

The following words about metal cables could have been just that ‘metal cables’. But the addition of ‘twisted’ is used specifically because of its association with the commonly held image of snakes.

We have now created an image in the reader’s mind of ‘giant twisted pythons holding up a bridge’. Which is a far better read than say, “a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables”.

To continue, the height of the roadway on the bridge is given, one hundred feet, so is the fact the bridge is above a river.

So, once more, the story could read “… a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables one hundred feet above a river…’ Which factually would be correct, although it does not make a very captivating or entertaining read.

Moving on, the incorporation of the words ‘sludge brown’ is purposeful. Not only to transfer the perceived visual perception of a dark river but to almost subliminally link back to the snake imagery by suggesting colour association while taking into consideration most people visualise a river as ‘winding’ or ‘twisting’. Another correlation.

While this imagery of bridges and pythons is building in the forefront of the reader’s comprehension, there is also the fact the author is creating an atmosphere of dark foreboding; or at least the idea of something ominous germinating.

Sludge brown, twisting, python, mass, all have links with the nefarious.

The next ‘s sentences structure reinforces this unease.

The factual description of the bridge is given, but this is enhanced by a form of predicate which strengthens the sinister. “… the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.”

Reaching out, grabbing, blackened, fingers; all strong adjectives which focus on creating a sensory awareness of the underlying drama.

While a person may not be fully aware why, or what effect these words are having as they read, you can bet your bottom dollar their subconscious will. Personal and social belief, acquired by myth, legend and the silver screens of Hollywood has conditioned us to be susceptible to even the slightest of suggestive input.

It is also a long-proven fact when one reads, they absorb far more, far quicker than by any other method of communication.

The above example is a rather direct and implicit one. But there are stronger yet more oblique instances.

Like these, from my poem ‘Doorway’

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This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Simple. A wooden frame. Harsh nails, forged from iron, blood and sweat in the furnace of forgotten hopes. Spikes driven deep, driven through, splintering the flesh of being, binding into cold stone of indifference. Hanging forever, bearing the pain for an eternity.

But not so simple. A sign, a warning, a barrier. Invisible in its presence of possibilities lost, scorned, unfound, unbelieved. Open but empty, a nothingness that stops you dead in your tracks.

Division.

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Lost or gained or never had. Can you lose what was not? Can dreams die or do they fade away; decompose as out our living bodies rot with age upon our bones.

What is there, beyond the gaping opening of the way?

Future, or past repeated. Mirrored fears steeped in time, awaiting our return from where we have never been. A destination desired by myth, by greed of those who will not step this way, cowering in the shadows of mediocrity, of sallow existence, of being too far from any door to be truly known, except by repeated words, all meanings lost in the whisper of time, misinterpretations and vague comprehension.

What ifs lay as a carpet of likelihoods, a vastness of possibilities, probabilities, stretching away to the rims of risk and horizons of chance; choices to be made, taken, grasped or passed up.

Prospects scorned or lies waiting to trip the unwary traveller, to crush your skull, your hopes, your faiths until they crumble into a dust of inferiority until your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience.

Know your place.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck. Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

How long the openness. How soon the slam of too late shall shut out the light from the other side, of this side or that, or the other, and so vice-versa. Versa-vice.

Sounds vanished, diminished. New hope runs down our legs, incontinent imaginings puddling beneath our feet, wasted.

There is no return. Time flows by, constant. There is only now, just then, what was. Already you are too late, it has gone. Stealing away those possibility’s which once were yours and now belong to another. Maybe not yet born. A foetus of stardust, a twinkle of forlorn wishes.

Maybe they will be the ones who shall hesitate at the gates of option and chance. Maybe they will settle for comfort and the familiar and choose not to stumble blindly into the realm of the unknown?

Or maybe they shall pass this way, step through the door and into the future of destiny without looking backwards?

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

You choose.

..

Without getting too bogged down in technicalities, (not my thing), I will just highlight a few instances from the above, and then leave you to read and re-read the above poem and find the associated words which link together to create the stories own vibrancy.

First, ‘cowering in the shadows of mediocrity’.

One may expect to read ‘Cowering in the shadows,’ I am far from the first to write those words in that order. But then consider the use of ‘mediocrity’, it is not generally expected in this framework.

What are the shadows in your story associated with? Think of an indirect but implicit word and use that or another to suggest the ‘feeling’ you wish to create. Pair words which are oblique or ambiguous to create new meaning, to create the atmosphere you intend.

Forget about those ‘rules’. Ignore the grammar check in word or Grammarly or whatever. There is no substitution for the mind.

Secondly, take ‘your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience’.

This conveys a strong message from the initial simplicity of what may be expected until the string ‘humbleness and subservience’ appear in conjunction with the rest of the sentence. Those reading are expecting something far simpler, say ‘the castle, or maybe ‘the house’. But inserting ‘humbleness and subservience’, leads the mind to immediately think of servants kneeling on the cold stone floor.

Linked with the previous segment of the paragraph that mentions prospect, lies and faith the ambiguity is one of suggested religion and loss of belief or at least a trial of personal conviction.

Often when using oblique association, or creating one in such a way, it strengthens the powerfulness of the imagery formed.

imagesIf this includes creating your own metaphors or making new words do so. Shakespeare did not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by only using the accepted words of his time.

Using this ‘sideways’ form of association, not only in poetic context but in storytelling, can produce a weighty and influential transcript that will hook the reader both openly and subliminally.

Good storytelling is not just about style and content; it is not all about narration, it is not simply getting all your words in order, it is all of this melded cohesively and working in harmony throughout the entire structure of your manuscript.

It is about modelling the words you use, moulding and melding them to conceive something new, something uniquely yours, it is about practised and proficient wordsmithing.

When editing, read, re-write and work each individual sentence. Hone it, sharpen it, until it has its own perfect edge and then move onto the next.

Never skip a word, examine each one; examine its place in the sentence and change it, one word by one word, sentence by sentence, polishing and shaping and forming each little detail until every sentence is a magical story in itself.

Do the same time again and again, until every detail shines clearly.

Only then will your tale truly deserve to be called your ‘finished’ work.

Anything less is less.


The first excerpt in this post was taken from ‘Tales of Crime & Violence, a three-book collection.

You can get yours by following the links below.

UK http://amzn.to/2zZFWFN

USA  https://goo.gl/Q0DXRq

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A bit on Anthologies

Euphoric winner winning at home

This year I have only two stories destined for anthologies. One is for a summer anthology, due out soon, another a children’s book scheduled for Christmas.

This is the lowest number of stories I have given for inclusion into collective tomes for several years.

I know some writers stay away from this form of publication. There are many reasons.

Some do not write short fiction, others focus on just one genre, some believe these books a waste of effort, while others only give licence if the book is a charitable or fundraising edition.

I appreciate everyone’s point of view on this matter.

To give a story away, even secured by a simple first serial rights licence, is a big thing. To take time out to write a specific tale for one is a commitment. Then, there is the fact of finding the extra time to write in the first instance.

If someone does not wish to commit to an anthology, so be it.

I, however, am a sucker for these books.

Partly, it is because I am a prolific writer of short stories and flash fiction. I always have some unpublished works on hand which need a good home. Another reason is, I enjoy writing from simple, given prompts. I belong to some writer’s groups, such as ‘500 – Iron writer’s spin-off‘ who regularly exercise their quills by doing just so.

I find scribbling a short tale a fantastic writing exercise, as I do with poetry and blog writing, even this post you are reading now is teaching me something about my trade as a wordsmith.

It is called, gaining experience.

I believe we can and should always strive to become better writers and, like modern athletes and sportsmen, we should ‘cross-train’. That may mean writing poetry and short stories, trying our hand with a genre we have never approached before, writing non-fiction too. Whatever it takes, we should often step outside of our comfort zone, we should do it to improve ourselves.

For me, committing to someone as a guest blogger, or agreeing to contribute a piece to an anthology, encompasses that training; it allows me to be creative, to try something ‘new to me’, or come at a subject from an alternative perspective. It also allows me to get my work in front of readers who may not have found me otherwise.

It is not something I do for a direct reward. I have, where there have been shared royalties, had my allocation directed to charity.

Which brings me nicely to this point.

Many collections of short stories are put together as fundraisers, or for creating http://authl.it/6boawareness for worthwhile causes.Looking into the Abyss: Saving the Rhinoceros one story at a time’ an anthology designed to spread the word about the Rhino’s fight for survival, and ‘Sticks & Stones and Words that Hurt Me’ which supports anti-domestic violence, along with ‘Storybook, Individually together, Vo 1 (no longer available) are three charitable books I have close association with.

 

However, not all anthologies have to be for charitable causes.

awethologyLIGHTSMASHWORDSThe ‘Awethors’, a group of like-minded indie authors from across the globe, together we created three anthologies crammed with a wealth of wonderful tales. These books, The Awethology Dark, The Awethology Light and the December Awethology Dark & December Awethology Light, were produced for several reasons.

These books are to show what an alliance of indie authors, living in various countries around the world, can achieve when working in unison.

The Awethors collective produced not one, but Four great works, proving such co-operative action can be repeated and maintained.

These anthologies also bring the contributing authors closer together, it strengthens the collective and in some cases, creates new, long-lasting, genuine friendships.

If you have never contributed to an anthology before, I ask you to consider doing so. I am certain you will know at least one other writer who has a link with at least one. Do it for yourself, for a literary exercise, for learning, for betterment, but most of all do it for fun.

To finish, I quite fancy contributing to a Sci-Fi collection, (I don’t write Sci-Fi), or something from a female perspective perhaps?

Any offers, contact me.

 

Thank you once again for reading my Ramblings, Paul.


Looking for something different, a gift with thought? A treat for yourself?

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Why do I write in the way I do? (An answer.)

Writer Picture

I am often asked, as I am sure many authors are, “Why do I write?”.

This is not a straightforward or easy question to answer comprehensively. In fact, if I were to answer that question in full, it would be an extremely long essay.

Which is the answer I gave a few days ago.

However, that question was followed by one which made me think, a question I was, at the time, unprepared to answer constructively.

“Why do you write in the way you do?”

This question made me think, beyond the basics of ‘style’ and further than ‘narration’ alone.

So, in the regular and rambling way I use in my blog posts, I shall attempt to convey to you my thoughts on this question.

They are as follow……

I do not write a particular genre of fiction.

Romance stories generally demand detailed character descriptions, a slow build-up of intensity to climax. (Excuse the pun).

On the other hand, Horror readers want faster paced, less detailed, more action books which cut right to the core. (Sorry, I can’t help myself).

By not being a genre writer, I have not developed a style limited by the parameters of reasonable expectation of those readers.

Neither do I write for a syndicate publisher, such as Mills & Boon, who have strict plot and style guidelines and can drop any contributor in an instant, should their suggestions not be strictly adhered too.

I am a truly free, independent author.

I have written an offbeat tale of abduction and intrigue, which is also a romantic story, a AofRDVtale of finding oneself and humorous yarn all rolled into one. It is ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’. Available on Amazon, just click the link!

This book alone breaks all the genre specific boundaries it touches upon.

I did not set out to intentionally break any rules, I simply ignored them all and wrote the story I wanted to write.

I have also published two collections of poetry.

The basic premise of each is human emotion. Fear, love, hate, anger, regret and so on. I like the challenges of poetry. The differing forms, such as haiku, present wonderful opportunities to develop wordsmithing skills that can be adapted to storytelling.

That is how I like to think of myself, as a storyteller, a mythmaker; weaving tales into people’s consciousness, making them re-think and to consider life and the world around them in a way they may never have done before.

My book collection, three volumes of short stories called ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’ are designed to do just that, to make the reader reconsider their point of view, to side-swipe their general conceptions, to come at them from left field and leave their minds floundering with a myriad of questions, questions they now find they are asking themselves. (Click the link, or image)

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That is what a great story should do. It should stay with you, lingering within your mind a long time after you have closed the final pages of the book, maybe even forever?

I have also written a children’s book and non-fiction stuff. Very different disciplines than writing standard adult fiction of any sort.

I am, at the time of writing this, working on a novel about an escaped psychopath. ‘Floyd’ is out on a bloody revenge spree against those who had him committed. This book must be considered a ‘Slasher’ type of story. It is a crime thriller certainly, a horror…in parts possibly, but not really.

Once again, I am writing what I want to write, in a way I want to write it. The style and narration I am using is unique to this book. It is not one I have adopted previously.

Which, in a long winded and round-about way, brings me back to the original question of “Why do I write in the way I do?”

Taking note of the above (and remembering my independence), has allowed me to indulge in many experimentations with style, narration, pace, plot, POV’s and all the other ‘literary technical stuff’ writers put far too much emphasis on when discussing writing.

Each of my novels are written from a totally different personal perspective. Making each quite distinctive from the last. Even so, my personal mark is to keep an element of humanity, of emotion, of people’s dreams, hopes and fears running through all my fictional stories, even those involved with psychotic killers!

My short stories reflect those same values, the human passion for life, the experience of relationships, of desire and love, of living, of loss and of death.

I like to explore these areas of the human psyche, areas often forgotten or neglected by other writers and authors. I like to reveal them at a certain pace, a pace which suites the individual story being told.

In some I might come at you from the shadows, smashing into your mind like a train wreck. In another it may be an insidious creep, slowly weaving itself between your receptive neurons, until that is the only thing your mind can focus upon.

This is where the poetry and experiments with lexicon come to the fore; they allow me to use words as a basic material, melding and moulding them, twisting and forming them, until they convey to the reader, not only the description and facts, but the feeling of being there, of being within, of being part of the nether world where my story lives and, without doubt, to see, hear and feel the trauma, the worries, the excitement and passions of my characters as they stagger from one conflict to another.

You can read several my short works at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/ I always have a few stories on this blog, although I do delete and change them at random intervals.

So, in brief, that is my answer to the question – ‘Why do I write the way I do.’

I hope you can pick something useful out of this.

Thank you for reading, Paul.