it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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twist of lemming, sir?

Sometimes, we bite off more than we can chew.

Generally, I'm a real proponent of the idea that the simplest effective tool for any job is the best one; if a story can be told effectively in a single-narrator past-tense third person limited omniscient POV with a linear timestream, then by gum, I'll do that.

On the other hand, I think playfulness and experimentation are essential. You don't learn if you never stretch. But I like to make my frills pull their weight. Now, as I mature as a storyteller, I find I can get more refined effects out of simpler tools--I can do with a wood chisel what I used to need a router for. But I also find that the heavy artillery also becomes even more effective as I learn to use it.

And one of the real pleasures of my life as a writer is what I like to call "stunt writing." Which is to say, playing a narrative trick that does more than serve as a narrative trick, something that really justifies its existence. But it's not just a narrative trick--there are narrative tricks in the Jenny books and in Blood & Iron that don't qualify as stunt writing, for example, because they're not really difficult enough to count. For example, the implied unreliable editorial voice of the Jenny books (these books are, after a fashion, propaganda--and constructed the way they are partially so that I could righteously kill off a first-person narrator if I needed to) and the POV shift two-thirds of the way through B&I. I mean, I think it's all terribly clever and effective (well, I think I didn't quite manage to pull off with the Jenny books what I wanted to, but hey, fail better) but neither of those things were hard to do, once I figured out that I wanted to use those tools.

Once you know how to swing a hammer and hit a nail, you can drive a nail. The art lies in driving it where it will do the most good, and not splitting the wood in the process.

The stunt writing, though--sometimes it's really subtle. The combined Charlie/Leslie POVs in Worldwired were tricky, and I'm quite pleased with them. Same trick I used at the end of the final Times Square sequence in Blood & Iron, actually, with a slightly different focus. There's a really brutal torture-scene-as-lucid-dream in The Stratford Man that I am unutterably proud of; it's told from the point of view of the victim, in simultaneous present tense and simple past (his dream-self is experiencing the torture as it happens; his conscious self remembers the actual experience and remembers how different the actual experience was from the dream). There's my short story "The Chains That You Refuse," which was written in response to a challenge to write a story in the second-person, future perfect tense. I am so proud of that little four-page story as I could be of a litter of kittens.

There was Whiskey & Water, in its entirety. 700 pages of stunt writing. My attempt at a true omniscient. Learned a lot about writing books. And kinda still tired, yanno? (I had thought about doing the rewrite of All the Windwracked Stars in first-person omniscient, because I can actually justify it, but I am just not that butch. And it's not necessary.)

And then there's my present quandary.

The scene I'm working on now involves a massive malfunction of quantum mechanics. I am not, generally speaking, a particularly good surrealist writer. This would be child's play for hal_duncan or jaylake; for me, it's an Olympic-level challenge.

But I've figured out how to pull it off, I think--true omniscient (the rest of the book has been in 3PL), and showing the cascade of uncollapsed wave states from many points of view at once. But man, the whole book hangs on my ability to pull off this scene.

And it's daunting.

And ambitious.

And some readers are going to hate it with a hate whose heat rivals the heat of the sun.

But I can't think of an easier way to handle it. So hang onto your hats; I saw this in a cartoon once.

Here we bloody go.
Tags: but that trick never works, can't sleep clowns will eat me, eat anything bigger than your head, stunt writing, try this at home, undertow, writing craft wank

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