Sunday, October 12, 2008

Overlay in writing? I can't even get laid.




Overlay in writing.
Same as with painting.

The profusion of detail, the details of a tree branch, the strokes apparently random, but there it appears, the full green tree, in its every detail , real or imagined, somewhere rampant in the painting.

I worry about overlay. My style might be too facile. I hate to bore people, so I try to get to the heart of the matter right away. And like most ambitious types, I try to make every workd count (" fer to come and collect their pay" as Lewis Carroll might say).

And brevity throughout the text.

But writin' long ain't necessariy writin' good.

Overlay.

Something you seem to discover only after years and years of writing.

The best example is in any novel by Stanislaw Lem, especially in the masterpice Solaris, but I can't find that book right now, so I'll go to another, a new one Borderliners by a youngish Danish genius named Peter Hoeg.

Kids in an opressive, abusive boarding shcool. Some of you may have gone to one, espcially if aboriginal.

But if you want to begin with the type of novel everybody else seems, to be writing. these days, let the very first sentence hook the reader.
And then with the overlay, you get her full attention.


Mr Hoeg begins this way:

"What is time?"

We ascended toward the light, five floors up and split into thirteen rows facing a god who unlocks the gates of the morning. Then there was a pause, and then in came Biel.
Why the pause?

When asked straight out about this pause by one of the bright girls, Biel had first gone absolutely still. Then he, who normally referred to himself as "I"--then he saild slowly, and with gravity, as is he was surprised by the question, and perhaps even with his own reply, "When I speak, you should first and foremost pay attention to my pauses. They speak louder than words."


Gad. What an SOB.

I have met so many of these martinets in education. And this kind of guy will practicse it on his fellow-teachrs too.
A prick.

But it takes some force of character to be a prick.

And we get mad at him.

And we move into the novel.

Even if it's about a prick and his helpless young charges at the boarding school.

Yes, yes. The story is sraight out of the headlines.
But it takes a master to make a novel of it.

My former wife used to sing "It's a strange, strange world we live it, Master Jack."

But I wasn't a master then, just some sort of fabulist.

And like I told a 70-year old editor who said he still didn't know enough about journallism, "Do you think you're ever going to get it?

Jesus.

Will I ever get it?

Ah well. As I tell all and sundry. "I ain't deep, but I'm fancy. :)

19 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I remember a quote about brevity that I always liked, although I can't remember right now who said it. But it was: "I'm sorry to have written such a long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one."

Lana Gramlich said...

Maybe it's those pink socks..? ;)
Ultimately I don't think it's up to the writer anymore. The proverbial "powers that be" determine who/what will be popular, then they seek people (or sometimes even just ghosts,) to fill that niche. It's not what you know, it's who you blow.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Charles,

Yep.

Witing a well-thought-through letter takes time, even planning.

Easier to shoot from the hip.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Lana,

Those shorts are passion-quenchers, aren't they?

But my Quarks, who sort of dressed me up after seeing the photo of me in the shorts, did a little colour co-ordinating and touching up.

.................


Sadly, it is whom you know.
Even dead Joseph Conrad says so somehere. "you can produce a perfectly written book...but..."

Well, maybe I can entice them, wearing my shorts.

the walking man said...

Ivan I think the shorts speak volumes and should be your official letter head. Every letter you send out to anyone in the world of publishing should be under the cover of the pink shorts. Maybe you could stuff a pink sock in them.

ivan@creativewriing.ca said...

Well,a sometimes publhisher of other people myself, I might become Lord Ivan of Fleet.

ea monroe said...

Overlay in writing.
Same as with painting.

That's how I picked overlaying up -- as an art student and lots of "happy accidents."

Love those hot pink shorts, Ivan! Happy Thanksgiving day. ~Liz

ivan@creativewrirting.ca said...

You got it, Liz.

Both you and Donnetta seem to arrive at overlay naturally. Richness of material. A gift, I suppose.

And thanks so much for the Canadian Thanksgiving greeetings.

Brightented the old spirits.

Think I'll go and chase a bird.

Heh. What else is new?

benjibopper said...

my 'masterpiece' is still a bit too wordy. next time i'll try harder to write sparse the first time round. cutting back later is damn hard work.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Benji,

Faulkner (I think) said 99 per cent hard work, 99 per cent talent, 99 per cent luck.

Break a leg.

JR said...

I've got brevity down to a science; it's called writer's block. No sense in counting.

Jo said...

I have never heard anyone else refer to "happy accidents", Liz. Those are the best paintings, aren't they?

Probably the same in writing, too, Ivan.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Josie and Liz,

Yes, there are "happy accidents."

But it seems with writing, you can't rely on thsese happening all the time.
There is the discipline of doing it pretty well every day. Can't just wait for inspiration.
But it seems to me you are both well enough along in both painting and writing to know hoe it goes.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

j.r,

Not sure you're the prison educator guy, but you could certainly begin an institutional novel by at leas following another author at some length, but at some length only.

My example from Mr. Peter Hoeg above.

What is time?"

We ascended toward the light, five floors up and split into thirteen rows facing a god who unlocks the gates of the morning. Then there was a pause, and then in came Biel.
Why the pause?

When asked straight out about this pause by one of the bright girls, Biel had first gone absolutely still. Then he, who normally referred to himself as "I"--then he saild slowly, and with gravity, as is he was surprised by the question, and perhaps even with his own reply, "When I speak, you should first and foremost pay attention to my pauses. They speak louder than words."


...Hmm. Maybe I'm a secet copycat.
But I do start that way sometime.

benjibopper said...

well, i've got 2 out of 3, but i'm not sure which 2.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

benji,

Two out of three ain't bad.

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Donnetta Lee said...

Ivan: Good thoughts. I'm pondering. Just the sight of you in the hot pinks is inspiring! Of course, I would say that-being a Quark and all. Who you know. Where you are. Who you could be. Who you know. Oh-the work you produced? Well, maybe that, too. D

ivan@creatifvewritng.ca said...

Donnetta,

My pictue file is totally whacked.

I punched in "seleceted shorts" and the same photo keeps popping up.
I'm already in hock to my techie so I'll just keep picking plucking and praying.
It's either the shorts picture or I get a moon. Well, no way I'm going to moon my audience.
Full moon today in any event.

Make you clazy like roon.

Yes, the writing and the actual product, the book.
Seems withe the way writers are promoted today, the book doesn't really matter, does it.
You could write something on the margin of a Budweseiser coaster and nobody would be the wiser, as nobody buys or reads books any more.

It's all hurdy-gurdy man today.
He makes noises that sound like Hernia, Hernia, Hernia...And the doorstopper of a book will indeed give you a hernia to pick up; and most people would not want to. Brass stoppers or plaster elves are just as good to chock your door.

Geez, I'm in the wrong business.
Promote plaser elves, I say. How old are the Smurfs today, 50?
My next book cover will have a Smurf on a Budweiser coaster.
"Smurf this."

Somebody will buy.
Never mind that thick tome stopping the door.