Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Surviving the Fugue State of Writers' Block - Part 2

You see, the key to evading Writers' Block is to plan around it (or be inspired), for planning/inspiration are your only weapons - and planning doesn't necessarily mean never write anything until you've meticulously plotted what your character will have for breakfast after the next scene.

Not to big myself up then, but I received positive feedback from my short story from the critiquing workshop on the Fiction module, and my tutor for Reading into Writing (who's an author and lecturer of poetics) quite liked some of the imagery I presented him with yesterday - though I did flounder a bit in our discussion with the innate sense that I was an inferior intellect with regard to knowledge of what I was talking about (a lot of mine seems like popcorn knowledge - I never even finished Tolkein). But, good a positive feedback all the same - here's hoping I can live up to it.

Nevertheless, how did I keep myself on the ball with this new piece, and avoid writer's block?

  1. Decide upon the scene - it's located at the Green Chapel, so will require relevant descriptions of the feel of the place (not my usual overwrite - which funnily enough, my tutor suggested was the staple of some fantasy fiction and might be a thought)
  2. Decide upon the characters and what they're doing there, what they hope to achieve (together or personally) - I've discussed this in my previous post; it's Morgana and Bertilack, mid-way through the Gawain text (and not covered in that volume), discussing their agreement and what occured.
  3. Conflict - this comes in the disagreement between the two, and their religions, and Morgana using Bertilack
  4. Desciptions - this, I've found is most important, and has helped me particularly in this instance. By securing a big list of descriptive words relevant to the setting and the people, I could dip in and out of them, dropping them into the narrative, rather than pausing as I thought I needed to concoct an explanation/description, which, for me, usually destroys the pace. Here I think it works.
So, in more depth, I took those descriptions directly from the Gawain text. I wanted to rely on it for its language (and tried to mimic also that semi-mythological speak they might use, or at least we might associate with them). So:

Get a sense of the place from the description:
No snow falls. No flowers. No birds or animals. Silent. Chapel is more like a grave, a burial mound - unholy/unhallowed. Openings on all sides leading inside. Down a hill - follow the stream - through a deep ravine (jagged black rocks - shut out the sun). Stream is a raging torrent. Giant oak tree?

Extract specific descriptive words:
Rock, thicket, rugged slope, brook, valley bottom, wild spot, no habitation, steep and lofty hills, rough, knarled rock, rugged outcrops, jutting crags, graze clouds, glade, knoll (rounded mound of side of slope by water), burn seethed and foamed in its bed as though boiling, rough branch of linden tree, old cave-fissure in an old crag, patchy grass

Extract descriptions of the Green Knight:
Square-cut neck to waist; thick-set, long in the loins, arms and legs; half-giatn; handsome; burly body, back and chest; stomach and waist becoming slender, clean-cut features; handsome locks, fall out to enfold his shoulders; great bushy beard hangs over his chest - along with splendid hair falling from his head trimmed equally just above his elbo

And his clothing:
Close-fitting straight tunic; gay-mantle, the inside of which is pure white ermine (the hood too); close-trimmed; tight-drawn hose upon calves; bright spurs of shining gold on silk straps (richly striped); unshod feet; Metal bars on his belt, various bright jewels (richly disposed); silken embroidery; embroidered birds and butterflies (green) amongst the gold

And his horse:
Breast-harness has pendants; splendid crupper; studs on bit, enamelled metalwork; stirrups; saddle-bows; magnificent saddle-skirts - gleaming and glinting in green jewels; great stout green horse - restive in his embroidered bridle; mane (massive horse) well curled and combed; ornamentalknots plaited with green hair; tail and forelock plaited the same; bound with a band of vivid green and threads of gold; decorated with precious stones to cropped ends; tied off by a thong - intricate knot; many bright bells of pure gold tinkled; his glance flashed bright as fire

With these inspired choices in my toolbox I can dip in and out as I choose - without feeling like I have to use a certain choice. Thusly (a first draft):

Over the thunder of the torrent, which twisted down the rugged slope, she’d heard the tinkling of bells. Beyond the glade the bells had intoned of his arrival through the jutting crags and black jagged outcroppings that led into the valley. That was long before she saw him at the knarled rocks. Long before he’d guided the horse down the ravine.

And there he was, a half-giant, brushing a coat of snow from his charger’s green mane, shaking white clumps from his own green shoulders and the bloody stump of his decapitation, which spat flecks of crimson upon his tunic and mantle as he rode. Here in the dell, where the steep and lofty hills rose up like toothed cliffs, no snow would fall. It was deepest winter beyond the confines of the basin but early autumn within. Yet, there came no sound but for the tinkling of those bells and the boiling of the brook, for this was no place for habitation. Not the chatter of mammals nor the song of birds.


solv said...

Hey, I really like that ricardo. Very moody.
My top tip for avoiding writer's block:
Keep a notebook with you and write in it every day.

R1X said...

That old trick? You know, I tried that. I have a notebook with me all the time and even a dictaphone now, but it's just never worked like that for me - I will keep them with me though (I turn my nose up at nothing).

And as for the description - I've since changed it, and probably will again after my tutors cast their eye over it - I'll do a development blogpost afterwards to show my progress. ;)