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Old May 2 2011, 07:24 PM   #47
D. M. Domini
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland

Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Default Re: Exploring the Subtextual - Robinton/Menolly in the DRoP series

Originally Posted by Anareth View Post
Or just in general. Most writers I know DON'T think about every single tiny word--they'd never get anything done (and turning out finished work is the name of the game). Nitpicking every tiny phrase and word choice is in fact a rookie habit, from the phase when the writer just cannot learn to be finished and quit "crafting". It's a job, after all, not an art, if you're doing it for a living. And most DO have distinct verbal 'tics'--phrases and word choices that are repeated in widely different contexts, quirks given to characters in completely different settings--it's ingrained and part of their style. Anne tends to have a rather florid (for an SF writer; I'm not saying she's Barbara Cartland) style. So I do think the fact she wrote romance first is a valid point--she uses, probably without any conscious choice, a sentence structure and vocabulary that can lend itself to the romantic.
I get what you're saying...and I half agree. Half agree because what you're talking about and what I'm talking about aren't quite the same thing. But I do understand what you say in your context. And in that context I agree.

As for my context, I'm not hypothesizing that AMC was polishing to a brilliant gleam every single word in her books. (Although some writers DO do this, who are not rookies--take Patrick Rothfuss, who chooses his words SO exceedingly carefully that deep meta-discussion like we are having here with AMC's work *actually applies* to his work...and was also the reason it took years before The Wise Man's Fear came out. He broadcast Kvothe's mother's identity in the first book in a "throw-away" bit of doggerel ONE TIME and it applied to the second book in the series--although he still hasn't come right out and told the fans directly the identity of Kvothe's mother. So yeah, working writers do use this technique, not just rookies--but obviously, not ALL writers do.)

Anyway, I don't think Anne McCaffrey sat down and used calculus or something to figure out the exact weight a word choice would have on us. That's not her style as far as we can tell.


I don't know how to explain what I'm saying, except to make a music simile. In music, in a traditional orchestra, there are musical instruments that have become...typecast. A blare of trumpets for the king. Booming drums for the military, or for action. Eerie bagpipes to unsettle the listener. And you have pitches--deep, masculine sounds to give a song weight. Or a sweet violin solo for the maiden.

Sometimes, instead of words, I "feel" an...orchestra. You have a set of tools around you, and you only pick up particular tools when you need them. You have a pace, the tempo, which is set to make the action quick and heart-pounding, or slow and sleepy. You have high shrill notes/words, or high sweet notes/words. You have bassy rumblings of certain phrases that carry certain nuances. You have sharp percussion, of punctuation, or of consonants. When you write a scene, sometimes you are reaching out to tap something for effect, a chime. Or a drum. Or you're a conductor raising your arms to ask the orchestra to swell. You pull a tried-and-true...bit of architecture out, in order to manipulate human emotion. I've had much, much less musical training than AMC has, and this is how I "feel" it.

It's not nit-picky turd polishing. It's a musician reaching out to tap precisely the note (word) needed, at the tempo (pace) needed, at the volume needed, to provoke a human reaction. And you just DO it, and you move on. No intensive editing needed.

And THAT is what I sense here, and am having a damnable time trying to explain. You pull out...certain words, or certain phrases, that have very distinct nuances, and you pile them together to evoke the human emotion in a scene. Can not a jazz player play improvisationally, using their store of musical phrasings to make that improvisation happy or sad or queerly in between? On the fly? So can a writer, or at least some writers, without having to take a measuring tool, or days upon days of polishing and editing, to choose the nuances of the piece.

It's not turd-polishing...because I have moments like this when I write my rough drafts. Scenes and places where I use a very particular phrase with a very particular nuance as a part of my...tapping-on-the-gong. And I think most creative people, in music or writing or acting or whatever, once they hit a certain level of proficiency, have this internal set of creative tools they draw upon instantly and without thought to create a particular feel. It changes from thought to reflex.

Gosh. I wish I could explain it better. Yes, AMC will have a vocabulary that leans towards the romantic...but that doesn't mean she looses sense of when and where to tap that gong with the phrases just because "she's so used to writing the romantic". And it doesn't mean I expect her to be sitting down raptly examining every nuance of every word she sets to paper. But if you don't take out the measuring tape for each word, it doesn't mean you aren't purposeful or measured. There's an aspect of art, of intuition, to writing, and to communication.

I think she's been "tapping the gong" if I can say that with a straight face, in regards to some of the Robinton/Menolly scenes and interaction. A very soft, very subtle gong, but the gong's still shivering from the mallet underneath the rest of the louder, overpowering orchestra that is the main plot and drive of the DRoP books. I'm just not sure I can prove it with hard evidence, because as with music, it's not a single word here or there, but the way they're strung together with tempo and volume and pitch, to set the emotions and thoughts in play.

/end channeling Robinton

(I am not a Harper, I just trained as one on fiddle for five turns )
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