Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh darlings, why so blue? Is it because I've been throttling you...

Having read Coraline (damn you Mr G) and loved it, after reading this post on Justine Larbalestier's blog t'other day I promptly went and got Margaret Mahy's The Changeover out of the library. I am now nearly finished and have already decided to buy myself a copy for posterity and like Ms Larbalestier, re-reading. These books are restoring my faith in writing. Mahy's prose is densely packed with intellectual puzzles and surprising and rewarding imagery and complex, intriguing characters, whose stories you want to go on and on beyond the last page. Its like brain chocolate (and you all know what a big compliment that is coming from me).

While trawling Janet Reid's Query Shark (trying to distract myself from the waiting game) I was interested in this comment:-

'every moral fabric sewn into her existence' is over writing of the worst sort. It's moral fiber, not fabric for starters, and "sewn into her existence" doesn't actually make sense. Metaphors and similes need to illuminate not obfuscate to be effective.

I had a mixed reaction. I confess I've written phrases like this. Sometimes they are so appealing that even when I've recognized that they are the wrong side of sense and meaning I've struggled to kill them. Sometimes I just know that with a little more effort, insight and magic fairy dust they could become something wonderful. Sometimes I'll read one and think I don't care that it doesn't work its just so pretty or startling or twisted that I like it. Of course common sense usually prevails but there are times when my story feels the poorer for their absence. It doesn't help reading Mahy who must bathe in magic dust because her books are full to the brim with cunning phrases of unexpected juxtapositions that work brilliantly. I am sure there are one or two naughty darlings lurking in my current WIP (which must be feeling a little unloved and abandoned right now because I've barely looked at it over the last three days). I'll post them up when i find them and then you can tell me if you think my darlings deserve to be throttled or not.


KarenG said...

If I were to open a book with a bunch of phrases as you quoted, I would stop reading. I don't want to have to stop and try to decipher what the author means with flowery, metaphorical phrases. But when it works, and it expresses the meaning exactly in an original, enlightening way, then I am thrilled beyond measure.

Old Kitty said...


Awww your poor darlings! They can't be throttled, they're your darlings!


Take care

melinda said...

I agree Karen - tortured metaphors can be headache inducing and even smart ones can slow down my reading and mess with the rhythm of a book. Like everything else, these things should be had in moderation :)

And Kitty - the more darlings I dispose of the easier it gets. The ones I'm most fond of don't get killed, they just go into cryogenic storage.