Monday, January 16, 2006

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?

15 Comments:

Blogger Shelbi said...

Heh heh, instead of working on my story, I'm over here, playing in the comments section. But good news!!

I think I've mastered the html.

Observe:

Thank you!

The thanks goes to both you and "rof" since there's no link in his name, I can't go there and bug him.

Okay, I'm really gonna set the timer and WRITE!!!

1/16/2006 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Jona said...

Hurry up :o)

1/17/2006 01:45:00 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

I agree with yoiu that resonance is important. a couple of my favourite examples come from SF novels (cyberpunk, actually):

In William Gibson's Neuromancer, among other things, there is a repetition of imagery. Case sees a group of capering youngsters who later show up to arrest him. The phrase Cold steel odor and ice caressed his spine appears twice, both times when Case flatlines while visiting the AIs.

In Synners by Pat Cadigan, there are a couple of instances of mis-translated phrases that echo throughout the book: A character sees a sign that reads You be the *, obviously meaning "You be the star", and reads it instead as "You be the asterisk", and comes out with "You be the ass to risk". At another point, someone is trying to buy lunch from a vending machine, and asks for "Change for the machines", which is then used as a metaphor for how we're changing for the machines.

Damn, now I want to read Neuromancer again...

1/17/2006 05:56:00 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Damn, now I want to be able to edit my posts so as to remove words like "yoiu"...

1/17/2006 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Ooh, that Pat Cadigan novel sounds interesting. As for Neuromancer, I think I've read it three times.

1/17/2006 08:23:00 AM  
Anonymous PBW said...

Resonance echoes in stories that begin as small slices of memory or dreams or delusions that are tantalizing but don't make much sense at first are my favorite, as long as they grow with each repetition and reveal more about the origins and meaning behind them. They're like figuring out a poem; you can't do it with only the first verse, but it hooks you.

Mon pliers and propane tank are always at your disposal, monsieur. :)

1/17/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

In fact, Doug, comedy writing is much the same. There’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy and the deft management of emotions involved.

Finishing a first book entails sufficient angst. We often linger and procrastinate rather than pen The End because a part of us simply can’t bear the finality. We can’t imagine letting it go and leaving it, as well as ourselves, unprotected and open to dissection. The very idea is bone-chilling and yet exquisite at the same time. A manuscript is nurtured, safe and secure as long as it remains solely with its creator. And like a bird flinging its first hatchling out of the nest, when a completed manuscript is sent into the world, it can cause the creator to quake clear to the depths of his fragile writer’s soul.

I wish you luck and speed in completing your book, Doug, as well as the strength to send it on its way. The joy and satisfaction of sharing your creation with readers will outweigh the anguish of the journey. And I strongly encourage you to do so.

The second book will be immeasurably easier in so many respects

1/17/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Mary Stella said...

Wow, Doug. That's all I need to say about your writing. Wow.

Yes, it resonated with me.

I appreciate the great explanations you provided for resonance, I can only speak to what it means to me.

I always think of a tuning fork and how, when you hit it against something, it sends out a pure tone that vibrates across the air. Hold it close and you'll feel the vibration inside even after you no longer hear the tone.

I love when I feel the effect of words and stories long after I've closed the book

1/17/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Shelbi said...

Resonance: [according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language]

"Richness or significance, especially in evoking an association or strong emotion"

Yup, in one paragraph, your words had resonance for me. If the whole thing does that, I'll be a complete mess by the time I finish it.

I'm sending editor fairies [the good kind] your way. I can't wait to read it.

1/17/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous ROF said...

Very good, Ms. Shelbi. AHDEL came up just like it oughta.

1/17/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Thanks, folks! I really do appreciate your input. It's especially neat that those words have a certain amount of power (for at least a few people) with relatively little context. Cool.

1/17/2006 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Shelbi said...

Mwhaaahahaahaaa!!!

I'm a link embeddin' fool, ain't I?

1/17/2006 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

You have it down cold, Shelbi ;o)

1/17/2006 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

That's poignant, Doug.

I try to have scenes and events mirror each other to establish a tapestry or fugue. Like when Alamir (Endangered Frontiers) in his first scene saves the king and gets severely wounded. This wound is the beginning of a slow disintegration of his world: he will never reagin full use of his leg, he will discover he is no Goth by birth which throws him into a nice identity crisis, he comes to doubt his sexual leanings, he will learn to mistrust even people he loves. In the very end he again tries to save a king of the Goths but fails. Yet in that moment he realises that he is a Goth at heart and that he will always be able to trust his half-brother. And then I'm going to kill him. *evil grin*

Or the way the four characters Talorcan, Muirtholoic, Horatius Ravilla and Valerius Messala in Storm over Hadrian's Wall are variants of the same theme, to use a musical metaphor. With just s slight twist, they could act like one of the other characters, like you get from minor to major by changing a single tone. That book is going to be incredibly dense.

I haven't worked out all those elements for Kings and Rebels yet, that's why I have problems revising the sucker. But it works for the three Roman Empire books.

1/18/2006 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

I like that, Gabriele (what you've said about Alamir). I could see that working very well.

1/18/2006 06:44:00 PM  

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