Thursday, May 24, 2012

Foot Being Put down, A


Style, as it relates to narrative, may have infinitude of variations, based on genre, authorial voice, and contemporary time line, given added definition by the degrees of formality or informality in its DNA.

You have come from an immersion in the style of text written about ninety years ago, yet in its way sounding more modern than yours.  The culprit here is your fondness for the occasional paragraph-long sentence.  The immersion has been Dashiell Hammett who, each time you reread him, seems more damned sensible than before, a man whose life circumstances forced him to develop a viable vision and narrative voice in direct contrast to your own circumstances, which dictated that you look about to see which style seemed most appropriate.

Even though your parents were working class, they were more than respectful of learning and the directions you and your sister ultimately took, they insisted upon it, thus you were not battling their class prejudices or constraints, you battled instead cultural standards of your own imagination and manufacture, which is to say you battled your own unseen self-image.

Hammett seems to you to speak and write in what you think of as an evolved cynicism, neither given to romanticize the working classes nor demonize the leisure classes.  Rather, he took in what he saw, processed it, but did not judge an outcome until he was given provocation to do so.

You are increasing your awareness of words, phrases, tropes, constructions you do not wish to use because of your belief that each in its way dilutes the meaning you have in mind when you compose, thus style represents to you a clarity of expression that gives off clues of its sincerity.  But you are alert for opportunity to inject the ridicule of icons in search of an effect you recognize as humor.

Doesn’t humor undercut sincerity?  In fact, isn’t the humor funnier, more humorous, more entertaining if it undercuts the enhanced sincerity that sometimes motivates you and moves you about?  No need to answer that question; you already have a smile.

Have you come as far as you believe you have, across the yards and lawns of reams of typewriter paper, boxes of accordion-pleated perforated paper being drawn through your first – and second-generation dot matrix printers, only to discover how, in spite of your oft repeated injunction to stop thinking during the first draft that you had come this far only to reach the point where you did not have to think about all the cautionary laundry lists of things to avoid when you compose?

Simple answer:  yes.
Complex answer:  Hoo boy.

Does that mean you still have yards and reams of paper to go through before you begin writing your way beyond thought and into the muscle and muscled memory of enlightened creative thought to the point where you might even get a decent draft down so that you might return to it later to interpret it and thus be able to converse with it on some major level of compatibility?

Simple answer:  yes.

Complex answer:  Hoo boy.

You have not been concerned with your own writing style for some years; content with the teaching-related information of wanting to instruct your students to write the way they talk and talk as they write.  You can do things that will have effect on your style, not the least of which is not beginning sentences with “suddenly,” or “at that moment,” or It is or there are/were, and watch those adverbs.  These things will have some effect; so too will your own distaste for the word “that,” a fact that prods you into orotund sentences unless you are careful and deliberate to an even greater degree than you currently are.

You sometimes put your foot down (having taken it from your mouth) by way of cursing your attempts to explain everything you can about the English language that related to writing narrative prose and narrative fiction.  This foot being put down business has no demonstrable effect on your writing, causing you at the time of discovery to suspect your writing has barely worked past a communication barrier, how many feet need to be put down before you get control of your sentences?


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