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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Style on a Macro Level

I should be working, but I'm thinking.

Some of my writer friends are really powerful worldbuilders. I'm specifically thinking of truepenny and meritahut (C. Scavella Burrell: you can read her glorious little story "The Book of Things Which Must Not Be Remembered" here).

They both write very detailed, very richly realized worlds in which their characters interact, complete, and define the settings through which they move. The setting, the world, becomes a character in their work. Their stories move forward very linearly, and every detail is fascinating: the BNA who comes to mind in comparison is Richard Adams, who can make the details of a fisherman knotting ropes and mending nets utterly real and utterly necessarily to the story.

It's good stuff.

I realized from talking with truepenny recently that I don't do this. I'm an impressionist: I hit the high points, the change points, the moments when things happen, and move on. My work tends to be very fast passed, almost a little rough-and-tumble. Things happen, or fail to happen, and there's very little breathing space between in which the everyday goes on. It's the momentum of a landslide rather than the momentum of a long-distance runner.

And that's not a bad thing either.

And it's one of those things that defines an author's feel, on a macro level. Defines her voice and her power to move and shape a reality, evoke a world and a feeling. I dunno, maybe this is just me, but this feels like an epiphany on a small scale, and something really, really cool and important lurking just underneath it that maybe can't quite go into words.

I bet most writers fall somewhere between the two extremes.


I hope that's not fascinating in an "Oh, my God, this woman is so utterly self-absorbed!" kind of way.


No, not at all, welcome and come on in and pull up a chair. The comments sections are often the best part.
It's nice to know that other writers is crazy too, isn't it? Makes the whole thing feel not so lonely and forlorn.
The funny thing about this is that I don't consider world-building one of my great skills. But I think that's because it's so integral to the way I write that I don't even think of it as "world-building." I don't set out to world-build; the world just accretes around the story. Story and setting are, apparently, completely indistinguishable, and inextricable from one another, in my brain. It's a little disconcerting to discover it doesn't have to be that way, not because I think my way is "best," but just because I can't imagine any other way of working.

Writers, as you so sagely remarked, is weird.

On a completely unrelated note, has your email gone wonky again?

On a completely unrelated note, has your email gone wonky again? Quite possibly. Try the alternate addy. :-P

For me, it's story and character. World is something that happens around my characters, to give them something to push against and justify their choices.

I like me a neat world as much as anybody, but I tend to trust the reader to fill in a lot between the--aha.

That's it. My work has a hell of a lot of negative space. Yours has a great deal more of the detail filled in. Not just in terms of the worldbuilding, but in terms of the narrative and in explaining *why* characters, exactly, make the choices they do and things fuction as they do.

I think.

How about this as a model: the difference between the historian and the archaeologist?

Because I like to dig, down through the layers, to find out what's underneath and beside, to put the potsherds back together. Whereas you're more--and I'm totally making shit up here, so call me on it if I'm wrong--following the drive of the story, the history. I tell the story, sure, but I'm also perfectly happy to get distracted and go off on a tangent about the prose romances of the particular culture, or their theatrical tradition, or the weird things they sacrifice to their gods.

Does that make sense?
It does. Specifically, I think your style lends itself to a more linear, coherent, connected narrative, and supports a kind of richness that mine doesn't. But I get a really fantastic compression of story: I can get a hell of a lot of plot ground covered in 100K.

So I think there's strengths to both approaches. And I wouldn't know how to tackle your style and make it *interesting.*
Oh, goodness knows I wouldn't try to argue for my process being better than anyone else's. It isn't. It's just the only way I can make things work.

And, yeah, compression not my strong point. *g*
And yet you are fabulous.
Personally, in the two novels I've actually finished, I've been aiming for opposite directions in this; Rays in Diamond was meant to have everything of relevance about the world filled in, modulo the limits of what those characters would actually notice, and Hands of Smoke and Steel was supposed to be all about moments of transition and let the incluing do the rest. I think the lesson from that is that I tend towards being a filling-in-all-the-gaps writer, or at least implying what goes in them. I hope.
Have I mentioned that I love your titles?

Weird how I never managed to answer this comment when you posted it: I don't remember seeing it at all. Damned email.