I’ve been a bit under the weather the last couple of days. Partly that’s a result of the actual weather, i.e. rain rain rain (moaning and rending of clothes–it really is the end of summer). Partly it’s because of what I’ve been writing.
The seventh century was a brutal time, and this week I’ve been writing about war. To do that I had to Really Go There. And it’s vile. Just ugly. (A note of reassurance for potential readers: what I took three days writing will probably only take six minutes to read, so don’t worry about being overwhelmed by the chapter.)
I really hesitated about writing this stuff–but the whole of seventh century politics was built upon it. To show what it meant to live in those times meant I couldn’t find a way around it; I had to take my characters through it. I pondered spinning a lovely mist-drenched fantasy with a few gleaming edges, a splash of crimson, and heroic trumpet notes but decided against it. While I loved watching 300 and reading Lord of the Rings that’s not what war is. War with axes and swords and spears means brains hanging out, soldiers pissing in dead men’s mouths, and hogs rooting in the bellies of the screaming wounded–and nobody cares, because no one can afford to care.
It makes the real world feel pretty grim when I’m spending so much time in the mud.
But it makes for tonal variety in fiction. Novels, like life, should be full of highs and lows. And next week I’ll be happy as a lark. Next week I’ll be writing about the wonder of hearing plainchant (sort of) for the first time; I’ll write of the delight of seeing a long-lost friend; of the deliciousness of gold. And soon, oh very soon, Hild will be old enough to think about sex. Woo-hoo!
7 thoughts on “writing highs and lows”
Yes, we have to have those highs and lows, but it’s more fun in the highs. Glad your past it.
I forget the exact wording (pretty sure it involves the word ‘man’, sigh) but there’s an aphorism that goes something like: people are vessels hollowed out by sadness in order to be filled with joy. And sadness–for example the whole mist-and-dripping-trees autumnal thing–can have its own poignancy, but the war writing wasn’t that kind of luscious melancholy, it was just nasty. Shouldn’t read that way, though. It should read like a quick punch over the heart, followed by nice stuff to distract you while you get your breath back.
War from a young girl’s eyes. I can’t imagine…>>And I think you do it, and your readers, justice by writing it the way it was and is.
If we don’t have the lows how can we appreciate the highs? I like that idea of hollowing out the vessel in order to be filled with joy. >>Autumn is my favorite time of year. We don’t get the rain you do out there and the air is dry and crisp. And cool. The cool is much better for me than hot. >>So you’re getting to the sex part, huh. :)>>duff
ssas, yes, war from the perspective of an anomalous 12-yr old girl. A war that, on some level, she feels responsible for.>>duff, first unconscious awareness of sex, then thinking about sex, then, woo hoo, actually doing it. I think this is the longest piece I’ve ever writing with lusting bodies. It’s been a strange experience.
Yech. Doing the war in The Gone-Away World was ghastly, and worse yet because getting it right meant going over it again and again. I dreamed The Iron Cross and Generation Kill for weeks. And because, as you say, we humans seem to do a lot of war and base a lot of things on it, the sequence came out longer than I had anticipated, as well.>>Sympathy.>>NH
nick, now I’m having to deal with a 12 yr-old’s perception of PTSD. Tuh. Gotta get to that sex soon…
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