books, ness talks books

Recountings: … and then there’s the bit I can’t read

IMG_0826*** Ahoy! Spoilers Ahead ***

I like this book, I really do. However, there is a scene in it that I can’t make myself read.

It is neither gross nor gory (c’mon, I won the prize for most gore in a story when I was a wee wittle girl), nor against my principles (there’s no evil dogs attempting to take over the world with Tasers. What?).

It’s awful. AWFUL! If a character hits a right note, then I will become very invested in their story. Now remember – I hate embarrassment or awkward situations. I’m the idiot who went all faint-y when my card was denied in America (why, ‘merica! Why? I still have the mental scars!)

And so, I can often suffer from ‘second-hand embarrassment’ when reading a book.

Like this one.

not the scene

‘Harvest of Rubies’ by Tessa Afshar is set in the Persian empire, during the time in which Nehemiah was a cupbearer. It tells the story of Sarah, who is the Senior Scribe to the Queen. She does the Queen a service and receives a husband in thanks. She marries him. Important stuff happens. The End.

Ahem. Just before her wedding, the Queen sends Sarah some maids to get her ready. You know – get rid of the stained garments she usually wears, apply cosmetics and all that malarkey. Only, Sarah craftily gets out of it. She doesn’t want the wedding. She doesn’t want maids.

And so her wedding day dawns and she gets ready herself. It’s a disaster. She looks like a clown. An awful, awful clown. And then, she goes to her wedding in front of the court and everyone and her groom and …. alksdjflaskjdf!!!11!! … second-hand embarrassment strikes and I’m done. I can’t read it. I can skim, catch a word or two, cringe and rush on but never ever properly read.

The rest of the book is fine, I love it. There is some encouraging dialogue – using the vineyard as an analogy – and faithful hounds and intrigue and danger and romance and weight loss and lions and the Magnificently Magnificent Darius.

But that wedding scene? No. I haven’t been able to read it yet. I will though. One day. In the very, very distant future. Probably.

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ness talks about life, ness writes about writing

The Queen and I

I watched the African Queen recently and stumbled upon a marvelous idea (and no, it didn’t involve blowing up a German ship).

Dialogue, descriptions and action all form parts of a story – as I write these they come to life in my head, I don’t see them with the physical eye; they are just black words against a white screen … but, perhaps there is a way to ensure that there are (for example) no completely unrealistic descriptions of people’s expressions included in my tale – descriptions which could otherwise jerk one out of the story and into the world of ‘what on earth? That doesn’t happen in real life.”

What is this Marvelous Idea, you ask?

Simples … watch a movie and write out a single scene.

Now in the clip above there are two scenes (the second begins at 2:44). It doesn’t have to brilliant or even there in its entirety. Just a sentence or two, a few words here or a brief description there … just write it – or (and this is more realistic for me) write it in your head. Describe the scene and the way you would show the expressions flitting across their faces, how the bottles bob in the water or the screech of the monkeys that in no way aids poor Charlie’s hangover. Or perhaps how Rosie is indeed one of the best characters ever.

‘… she was the very dignified picture of righteous indignation …’

This can be taken to life – to everyday living. Watch someone as they are talking, walking or simply just being and think how you would describe them (and if you can do this without getting odd looks you get extra brownie points).

Personally, I don’t think you have to have pen in hand, or fingers to the keyboard to keep that ol’writerly mind ticking – look around you, not with eyes blinded by everything you have to do that day, but with eyes seeing – sunbeams through a window, the fierce sound of the wind in the trees, the clatter of many keyboards in the office, that piece of litter rolling in the road, the cars whizzing by, that person immersed by their mobile or even that beautiful, warm smell of the fish and chip shop.

Take a moment, form a sentence and you just might be surprised with the result.

For me, it helps – I mean, seriously how else would I have thought that when the wind blowing my skirt felt like a soft cushion pressing at the back of my legs? (for some reason that leaves me breathless … oh comma where art thou, dost thou belong in there?)

This is here for inspiration. It could be England … or an elephant’s head … or just a cloud?