Anyhoo, it's been really helpful to give me a push to get on with my own writing. Though that's led me into a pickle. Not least with my wife, who says: "You can't write a YA book aimed at the 12+ and use words like obsidian and oubliette."
Actually she told me off for my first draft being even beyond her comprehension - sigh. Perhaps I'll never get my act together with learning to write with restraint. I guess that answers the age old question... Who do you write for? Yourself or your audience?
Clearly, I write for myself.
But, I must curb my enthusiasm and write for my audience. Out with obsidian and oubliette, or at least in with some explanation. That said, writing:
At the bottom of the tower where the wall shakes and groans columns of books line the stonework, evoking a solid, impenetrable oubliette - a dungeon with a trapdoor in the ceiling as its only means of entrance or exit.only supports the argument for brevity and a call to yank oubliette from the page. (I'm still fighting my corner, and by the way, thanks dictionary.com for that succinct description).
So, other than that, mostly good points for simple behaviour, only, I still have my flourishes. Which brings me to my second point...
I wanted to write about those columns of books moving and revolving around the room. Where better to start than by familiarising myself with someone whose already done a similar thing (and no, there is no dishonour in peeking at someone else's work to get an idea at how to jump first first into an issue - Francine Prose practically throttles the writer in the hope they will learn from the best).
So, who do I turn to, remembering a certain scene in a certain book about bricks coming to life and shuffling apart?
JK Rowling... of course. In Chapter Five - Diagon Alley, Hagrid magics a wall to open up and allow them access to the Wizarding World. In the film this is extremely memorable thanks to the those visual wizards, Industrial Light and Magic, who create a spectacle of shuffling bricks, that slide and grind back and forth over one another, reconfiguring like a living, organic structure, until the entrance is clear - almost like a Rubik's cube but with pull out and push in sections.
So, I thought, where better to get a feel for moving brickwork than Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone? Where better indeed:
He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella.It took me a short while to find that short passage, and having read it shuffled off grumbling and moaning and generally besmirching JK's good name for being a weak writer and nothing like as grand as Ursula K. le Guin.
The brick he had touched quivered - it wriggled - in the middle, a small hole appeared - it grew wider and wider - a second late they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archway on to a cobbled street which twisted and turned out of sight.
Of course, I wrote my version, ahem:
The circular wall shifts as the words continue to wriggle across the page. The rows of books revolve like some ancient mechanism. One row clockwise, the next anti-clockwise, until all are in motion. They stop, one column breaks at the centre and the upper half rises up through the fog, one book length, to reveal the bare wall behind. The rows revolve a second time, stopping briefly to allow the top-half of another column to slide down into the gap. Two… three… four more times, revolving and separating, sliding and converging. The brick-books reorder themselves like a cylindrical sliding puzzle until all halt and a gap, the width of two books, comes to a stop before the great book and its pedestal.But, as my wife now points out. Look at the size of the passage. Along with my occasional grandious words, this passage does little to push along the plot (other than generate a gap in the brick-book work) but does a lot to slow the reader down. Is a 12 year old going to care? Especially, I must consider whether or not the kind of audience I'm after - reluctant readers (it's all part of my game plan) - are going to stop there and think, so what?
I don't like it one bit and yet I must bow to my audience. I must set aside my own wants and think of them. How relevant is it? I must levy myself to JK's way, focus the reader's attention instead on what is important.