Monday, 14 November 2011

Writing practice: something flowery

The other week I started using a site called 750words.com to motivate me to write on a regular basis. The idea behind 750words.com is simple: you have to write 750 words every day; you get points for every day you write; and the longer your streak is, the faster your points accumulate. Because you write your words directly into the website from your browser, you can write from most places. For example, you can write from work in your lunch break. I'm finding it to be a useful tool.

Of course, you have to think of something to write. Every day. Sometimes I draft emails or blog posts (I am writing this very text in my lunch break at work). Usually I work on my main WIP, the Novel. I've recently done a lot of worldbuilding in 750-odd word chunks.

Yesterday I needed a change of pace; I had been writing dry facts for days on end. And then I remembered what my wonderful gentleman caller bought me the other month: Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin. Steering the Craft is a book about the art of writing. I had read chapter 1 previously and so yesterday I decided to do exercise 1 for my daily 750 words. The exercise was to write a piece intended to be read aloud.

What I wrote is more than a bit rough. It also reads like two separate pieces, because about the time I felt like I was running out of oomph I saw I was only at 300 words, so I changed tactic. The exercise challenged me to write from a different angle to the one I write from on default, and therefore what I ended up with was something quite different to my normal prose. I wrote an emotive, sentimental piece from the point of view of a frequent traveller in the world of my WIP. This traveller is monologuing lyrically about the island nation of Adarentia, where my story is set. Although a bit off-beat, I think this piece will be very useful for me when it comes time to create a sense of place within the story.

***

There are those who say the Golden Ocean covers half the globe. Indeed, it is broad, and deep, and land is sparse. Islands speckle like a dusting of freckles on it's face.

There are exceptions. To the East, before you reach the wide continental lands, you will find two great islands. The southern one is a tropical paradise. It is a jewel amongst the lands of men; an emerald sparkling in it's golden setting. But I prefer the northern of the two: Adarentia.

Looking at the maps, one could be forgiven for thinking that the isle of Adarentia does not want to be a part of the Golden Ocean. It stretches north, towards Ladandir, begging for contact, reaching out its hand. The gesture is futile. Between Adarentia and Nideree is a wide, deep stretch of water; indeed, it is far enough that the peoples of those lands did not meet on each other's soil until modern times; rather, they knew of each other from the intermediary of Ladandir.

Adarentia is a harsh, wild place; or a green, smooth place; or a rough, craggy place. It depends where you go, and what you see, and what you are willing to see. I like this ambiguity, this mix of identities. No matter what kind of terrain you find yourself in, it is not far to walk until you find yourself in another.

Shall I sing a song of the beaches of Adarentia? The mounds of shells, bone-white, dead and yet alive? Shall I sing a song of the salt spray and the cliffs, the dunes long and meandering, the seagrass? The devotees of religion sing these songs, for the saviour of Adarentia was a Fisherman, and if the Adarentians did not love the shore and the ocean before he saved them, they surely did after.

Shall I talk of the alps, reaching high, higher, and highest into the blue sky? The thick waterfalls of cloud spilling through the passes? Shall I talk of the trickling streams that chatter their way down to the plains? Shall I talk of the scree slopes, unscalable, treacherous? Or the alpine meadows, the flowers tiny dots like ground stars? The mountain goats skitter and dance their ways, hither and thither, their paths worn as permanent as roads.

Shall I tell you of the fire mountains, the volcanoes, the living hells? The mountains that are the proof our world is alive? Shall I tell you of the smoke that belches, the molten rock that sears? The steam that vents from the Earth like breath? Shall I tell you of the blasted lands that few men know how to survive? Or of, in this circle of life, the health and prosperity this hell can bring when it regrows?

Shall I ponder on the nature of the deep, dark, thick forests of the West? The wet, gloomy, loamy forests? Shall I ponder on the age of the great trees, trunks as round as houses? Why they cling wetly to the foothills? Shall I ponder on what lives there? On the stories of strange creatures, far deeper than humans venture? Shall I wonder whether those forests will stay, or if humans will eventually cut them all down?

Shall I enthuse about the cities of Adarentia? Great Soliri, warm in the sun, it's pastel-hued buildings friendly and inviting. Shall I enthuse about it's culture, the intimate theatres? Shall I wax lyrical about the Sunlight Palace? And what of Kedenoa, on the shore of the glittering lake? Shall I enthuse about it's tree-lined boulevards and the paddleboats on the river? What of Voma? Unique, earthy, sleepy Voma? The taste of the Golden Ocean Islands it affords? Summer writ in wood and stone. So different from Eladyei, the winter city. Eladyei of the shoreline snows.

Shall I remind you of the quiet joys that can be found in the towns of Adarentia? The cottages, the gardens, the chickens and the children? The shepherd boys tending the flocks? The rows of apple trees? The cold cider on a warm summer's evening? Shall I remind you of the fishermen in their woollens, bringing in their catches? Of the soot-faced miners plucking beauty from the Earth? Shall I remind you of the strong women of Adarentia, the clockwork efficiency and the smiling faces? Shall I remind you of their daughters bringing the platters of goats cheese and dried fruits? Of the sensation of a warm cloth to wash your hot face?

Shall I take joy in the existence of the Port and Starboard Queens? Two ethnicities. Two worlds. Two rulers. One land. Adarentia.
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