I’ve been grooving on the re-write I’ve been working on for the past few days.
It’s been a lot of fun, despite the hard work. It’s a straight-up horror tale, and it’s been interesting to write for a number of reasons: it’s set in the 17th century, it has a strange narrator, and it emulates an older style of storytelling. Oh, and it doesn’t contain a word of dialogue.
The last pass consumed a lot of time because I’ve been strict in my use of language. A chunk of our vocabulary is relatively new. When I was unsure of a word I checked its date of origin, and if it didn’t match my timescale I had to discover an alternative. While this was frustrating at times, it was also a source of joy.
I fucking love English.
It’s so robust, nuanced, and dense with words of varying shades of meanings. This piece reminded me of the incredible range and diversity of words available to a writer in English.
Yet, there is an insidious temptation when writing a story that harkens back to a previous style of writing: tweeness.
Or “ye olde yarn spinning” as I think of it (with a straw clenched betwixt my teeth).
I had been ruminating upon this problem before I began this latest draft, because I had just read over a fantasy story I began (and abandoned) almost a year ago.
Fantasy writing contains a trap that snags the unwary. Almost without noticing your language devolves into a collection of fuzzy metaphors and clichéd situations. There is something about the genre that weakens your reason and makes you write junk that you wouldn’t consider putting on the page in another genre.
Fantasy, more than most genres, seems to be governed by a strong set of tropes that are inculcated in us. Or, perhaps this is a problem unique to me.
My difficultly is to stay within the genre, and write evocative prose that doesn’t stumble down the weed-choked purple paths of nostalgic writing. I like my writing precise. It makes me queasy to see one of my stories mired with cosy details and lame dialogue.
In this horror story I was able to write in a facsimile style of the period, without succumbing to the lure of sappy prose. Well, I think I accomplished this trick. I’ll send the story out and see what the editors make of it.
The story led me to discover a word that I did my damnedest to use, but couldn’t shoehorn in: quacksalver, which is a quack doctor or charlatan. One day…