Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I've come up against my usual stumping misnomer - of overwriting my work. I'm back into the YA novel - now entitled The Library Book (at least my proposed series is called that) - and I've been employing those wonderous new tools I think I've about mastered. It's all aimed at presenting a focused narrative that doesn't idle in description, but brings along plot (the only problem is my overwriting - I've employed certain words that go beyond the reach of common language in my quest to find the most succinct words to keep that flow). Here's where I get it right:

The command slithered through the humid air like a python through underbrush, carving a trail towards its intended victim. The words hissed hypnotically across the counter, eased into sleepy ears by the heat rising to the vaulted ceiling.

Here's where it goes slightly above and beyond the needs:

The rotunda with the revolving door, the DVD and CD stacks: all were empty. Only dust motes sifted through the selections. They flitted in and out of the sunlight streaming through the large clerestory windows on either side of the entrance. Rodan gripped Mrs Bailey’s last two books like daggers as his stomach twisted into a knot.

But, what I'm trying to do is bring together non-cliched metaphors that also share a common theme. I've got to be wary of mixing my metaphors and not overdoing it, but I think I'm succeeding there also. Looking at my lead antagonist, Penthera Discordia. I've already used similies to liken her spoken words - a cast spell - to a snake. So, we have that sinister aspect already. When we see her, our point-of-view takes in her full decrepid splendour, but moves away from the animal analogies, shifting for sight into a grander set of descriptions:

Penthera Discordia... towered above the counter like a birch tree in a black and violet dress... her willowy figure planted between the desks...

Penthera’s violaceous dress began at her tall throat and swept downwards in tight curves that arced out from her feet and spilled from her arms... the tails hanging from her three-quarter length sleeves billowed like the boughs of an ancient tree playing in the first winds of a storm... her long fingers were outstretched upon the branch of her left arm, grey and rotten as if the bark had been stripped back to the trunk.

My immediate worry is that this too is beyond the call of a young adult novel... perhaps even more unnecessary description than an adult needs. Could I just say, she stood before him like a great oak, dark and sinister, just beyond the reach of the sunlight?

I don't know! I like the idea of developing major characters into these styles of menace. Certainly I do it again when we meet Penthera's raven Raork. But what do I lost by skipping it? My worry is that we lose everything that distinguishes my work from the others on the market. I want to flit these moments of - dare I say it - descriptive brilliance, not to remind the reader that it is I the author making these 'overtly' wonderous descriptions, but because I want to give them something powerful to hold in their minds.

This, I believe, is the skillset and tools I've built up for use. This is how I wish to write, but at what price? Do I lose sight of the narrative? Is the reader bored by my self-indulgence? Can I have tension in these long descriptive passages? I try these days to describe as something happens, but I can't be sure at the moment. I'm too close to it. Too blind.

... and what's happened to Spoiling Virtue, the other book I was working so diligently to solve? Erm... fallen by the way side! Perhaps I'll pick it up again in a month or so. What's the rush?

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