Last night the writerchat was talking about poetry and its density of image, the layering of meaning and contrameaning, the conflict between what a poem may say, on one level, and what it may demonstrate in contravention of what it's saying. It was a good conversation, and it left me thinking about prose.
And specifically, that I want many of the same things from a good novel that I want from a good poem, on a prose level. I want the writer to have been aware of connotation and denotation and cognates when he was writing, and puns. I want him to really think about his words and use them such that the sound of the language tells you something in addition to the language itself. Among and amongst are different words, and which one the writer chooses is important.
There are no synonyms.
At the end of Refining Fire, for example, there's a sentence in which Falkner's coat droops in her hand. That coat is symbolically important, and coffeeem and I went through any number of verbs to find the right one. But wings droop, and ears droop, and spirits droop. So the coat had to droop too, and not dangle or hang or swing or cascade or trail. Well, you know, it could have trailed, maybe. Because banners trail. It also might have sagged. Maybe. But the drooping won out, and it was important.
Likewise, there's a scene in Ink and Steel wherein I used every English word derived from the Latin raptus* that I could manage. (Yes, it's that scene. You know the one.) Rapture, rape, raptor, rapt, rapine--
Why did I do it? Because these associations work not in the forebrain, necessarily, but in the back of your head, the place where you process connotation and emotion and feel things, where your gut emotions live. Because it makes a difference, whether or not the reader notices it. Perhaps especially if the reader does not notice it. Because this is part of the craft and attention to detail that makes good writing.
Now, having written that down, I shall now go do these other things I need to do. Though I am a slow-moving life form this morning, and not very focused. But at least I have tea and raspberries, and the starter is fed so I can make bread for tomorrow morning.
And of course in no wise can I work without a cat upon my knee.
* raptus, meaning, “seized and taken, kidnapped by force, snatched hold of and then taken hostage, carried off or away.”