Sheila gets medieval on my . . .
Blog. What did you think I was going to say? Thanks to PBW's liberal use of pliers and a blow torch, I hunkered down and did a good bit of editing today. I'm one chapter away from finishing the edit on book one, but that sounds like I'm closer than I really am. I still have the task of turning this into a stand-alone novel. That means either adding scenes or tweaking scenes to give book one at least a partial sense of closure. And that means finding resonance at every opportunity, and loading it into my final chapters. In Stein on Writing, Sol Stein devotes a whole chapter to resonance. He doesn't provide much of a definition: Resonance is a term borrowed from the world of music, where it means a prolonged response attributable to vibration. In writing it has come to mean an aura of significance beyond the components of a story. Stein gives examples of different ways of giving your work resonance: . . . by names, by reference to religious sources, by naming the parts of a book, by the use of aphorisms and epigraphs, and ideally by the writing itself, by the writer's skillful use of similes and metaphors. Perhaps I'm using the term incorrectly, but for me, resonance is an echo. Something in the novel makes me resonate -- perhaps by the techniques Stein lists, but more often through the author's use of repetition. Thoughts, dreams, lines of dialogue, and imagery introduced in the novel's earliest scenes reappear near the end, horribly, tragically altered*. For example, John le Carre used it to great effect in Absolute Friends. In the chapter I edited today (book one's penultimate chapter), I used a myth to achieve resonance (I hope). The night is a dome of blinding white light, but we see only darkness, for the sky is full of the shadows of those who came before us. Starlight peeks through between their crowded forms. Only on a moonless, windless night, can you hear their wings rustling**. My character has heard this all his life from his mother and father, but he never believed it. When tragedy befalls him, everything changes: Flying eastwards, he fought to keep his eyes open. Every time he closed them, the rustling noise built to a furious crescendo. Mother, Father? I hear them now. I hear their wings. You were wrong about the night sky. Any darkness will do. Chokes me up every time. Remains to be seen what it will do to the rest of you. Resonance by repetition may be a magic trick, but it's charged with power. Closure by return. If I do a respectable job of it, my readers will feel that sense of completeness even when faced with one whopping great cliffhanger. D. *That assumes you are writing tragedy. Comedy need not work so hard, but those of you who read Terry Pratchett might agree with me that his strongest novels are the ones which harbor, if not a grain of tragedy, then at least a bushel of poignancy: Night Watch, Feet of Clay . . . **These characters are intelligent black birds. Guess I should have mentioned that earlier, eh?