Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Life in the Day...
Some books, some images, stay with you.
Most likely, everyone reading this blog is a reader. Perhaps, again most probably, this love affair with reading started young. I come from a mountain family, and we were poor. I didn’t learn to read until after I went to school because my Mama wouldn’t have thought to teach us herself—what do we pay teachers for? I learned fast, though. In first grade, I learned to read. In second grade, I remember feeling jealous because the Claunch twins got moved up a grade and I didn’t. By third grade, I was writing poetry and by fourth, I was reading everything my little elementary had available.
Even though we wore hand-me-down dresses in the 70s when skirts were made for flashing, my Mama found the money to order books. And I kept my favorites. Now, my daughter and I are reading them together. We’re three-quarters of the way done with Heidi. She’s reading my copy of The Little Miss of Virginia very carefully—the pages are falling out. We read The Five Little Peppers and then, without knowing it was outside of Boston, visited the author’s house. The house Louisa May Alcott also had lived in at one time before her father went bankrupt. And, yes, I read every book she wrote and kept most of them. My eleven-year old is not as much into Little Women and Little Men as I was, but they are there on her shelf.
Where is this leading? First of all, I thought I’d share my joy in sharing these books with my child. Second, it’s not just children’s books that stay.
I just finished taking an online course about metaphors. I love metaphors. The instructor cited—and I remembered vividly—a scene in For Whom the Bell Tolls. The hero is an American helping fight the rebels in the Spanish Civil War. He falls in love with a fellow guerrilla. The day before she is killed in battle (I could be getting some of the details wrong, it’s been over two decades), they make love. He literally loses a sense of time and it is as if the earth moves.
Now, today, the earth moving is a dead, worn out cliché. When Hemingway wrote those words, no one had made that analogy before.
How did he do it? Well, obviously, I’m not Hemingway, but here’s my thought…use simple words to say something you felt so deeply nothing else entered your mind. Use rhythm in your words to indicate the beat of the character’s movements. Repeat words if the action is repetitive, don’t if there’s speed and action.
“For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere…this time and again…time absolutely still…and he felt the earth move out and away from them.
My wish for you is to create a simple metaphor will resound through your audience—and they will remember the picture in their heads a lifetime later. A big wish, but why not?
What hints/suggestions/thoughts do you all have for writing fresh?