Infadels have got themselves on a Mazda advert – and here tis. I know I’d buy the car.
Err… ok, maybe not. But it is painted green, which must mean it’s environmentally friendly. That’s right, isn’t it?
I’ve been knitting too much, my thumb hurts and is distracting me from writing stuff. I wouldn’t still be knitting (and in so much pain) if I hadn’t done a booboo earlier and dropped a stitch right on the cable so I couldn’t pick it back up for the life of me. I had to unravel a good three inches of scarf and start again from scratch. Was not pleased. And now the bottom edge is all wobbly cos used wool doesn’t knit as well as new wool. Sucks. However, it has peeved me enough to make me determined to curb the rebellious nature of this yarn, and bend it to my will.
Hmm. What else to allow my thumb to recover before picking up the needles again. I’ve read ‘A Murder on the Appian Way’ – it was good, but not as good as I was expecting. It lacked the grittiness and immediacy of the earlier books – it was a bit too Falco. Not that Falco is bad, of course, I love him to pieces, but we’ve already got a Falco. The beauty of Gordianus is that he gets the shit kicked out of him and it actually hurts. And it’s very nice that Saylor wants to tell us the story of the death of the Republic from Gordianus’ perspective, but he has to do so much explaining that it all becomes a bit far-fetched.
Actually that’s something that’s been annoying me a lot recently. Cheap narrative tricks. I don’t know whether it’s because I read too much historical fiction but that genre seems to be riddled with it, whether it’s the story written in first person by a handy scribe/historian or the complex bit of politics explained to a convenient youngster/clueless person. The first riles me greatly. IT IS NOT A CLEVER NEW WAY OF DOING THINGS so stop acting like it is. All it does is expose your poverty of skills as a writer and your vanity, that you cannot find a way to tell the story without it being in your voice, with your words. Also if I read many more books that earnestly tell me about Cicero’s freedman scribe Tiro (he invented shorthand, don’t you know), I’ll probably scream. I was going to buy Robert Harris’ new (?) book Imperium, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it for the above reasons. I mean, what is is that makes these people think they have the right to take these scribes and use them as puppets? They were real people, they probably never had the chance to express their own personalities in their writing, so it’s really not fair to force your words into their mouths and deny them their chance for individuality so many years later. Grr.
And the didactic speech. Oh, the didactic speech. Look, here’s a tip. If you suddenly find you have to explain something to your readers, it is dangerous to have one of your characters explain it to a nearby idiot. 9 times out of 10 you will break the narrative flow, break the character development and jolt the reader back into reality with a bang. If that reader’s me, anyway. Damnit, that’s what matters to me. Unless you’re absolutely sure that you can explain it with the character remaining in character, leave it out. If your target audience isn’t going to understand it any other way then maybe you should be aiming a little higher, have some self-respect.
(Also, the joky ‘you remember when *insert amusing rumour here*…’ conversation in a small tavern with one or more characters getting drunk is even cheaper, and to be avoided at all costs. Shudder.)
I suppose it’s a question of the skill and style of the writer. In terms of that I’d say the best three writers I’ve read in recent years have been Tom Holland, Bill Bryson and Manda Scott. All of them just have such innate style in their writing, I can’t help but like them (and want to write like them). Come on, even Holland’s prefaces are un-put-downable. That takes some talent.
Actually, the bit about didactic stuff is what kept hindering my own writing. Trying to tell a story where a lot of information hinges on what has happened in the past, but doesn’t really happen close enough together to make a continuous narrative, is really bloody difficult. I had a wonderfully dramatic opening scene, but it turns out that’s probably going to be the opening scene of the final part of the trilogy. But to do that, I’ll have to abandon my kick-ass gimmick. And it really is kick-ass. Maybe that’s what I should do this evening… crack open a bottle of wine, grab my abandoned notes and get to some writing.
Probably the knitting is a safer option. 🙂