Reading Between The Lines (Silence as a Literary Device)

Reposting because I’ve been reminded recently of things people omit or don’t explain or can’t spit it out.

 

I’ve learned a very interesting technique in my Style and Poetics class, recently.  It’s called Silence, and a google search turned up next to nothing on it (there was a bit of info, but not much, and certainly no suite101 articles) so I’m posting my understanding of it here so that there’s just a little more on it out ‘there’ in web land.  Please be aware that this is only my interpretation from my lecturer’s teachings, so it is a bit ‘third party’.  Hopefully though, I’ve interpreted the info correctly and this hear is accurate and effective.

Silence

Reading between the lines, or when authors write one thing but mean another.

If you were to ask me what I thought of The Rules of Attraction, I’d probably say to you “It has a strongly designed cover…”  What do I mean by that? The answer: I dislike the book itself, so I’m focusing on the cover instead.  I said one thing, but it was a cover-up (pun not intended) for something else – by stating one thing, I avoided saying another.  Silence, therefore, is all about interpretation, hidden meaning, and indirectly stating something, usually unpleasant or a guilty pleasure that others would frown upon.  Or, you could also use what my lecturer calls ‘foggy signifiers’, that is, instead of describing a woman as tall, black hair, blue eyes, blah blah blah, you may write ‘she burst in looking like sex and desperation’.  Which is more effective?  The answer is the second one, obviously, because it’s more vivid and uses stronger words to describe the character without actually describing them at all – just what they ‘ooze’ (in this case, ‘oozing’ sex and desperation).

Because ‘misery lit’ is so popular right now, let’s use an example along those lines.  Say a girl has been beaten by her father.  She has a black eye.  When her friend at school asks her what happened to her eye, she can respond a few ways.  One, she could say nothing.  That’s silence in a literal, no-creativity kind of way.  Actually, saying there’s no creativity, no artistic merit, in a lengthy pause isn’t really fair; there could be any number of character or plot-driven reasons for the pause, namely fear, indecisiveness, whatever.  Point is, a lengthy pause, while illustrating silence, is a literal understanding of the power of not saying something.  Her silence would speak volumes, but it’s not all that could happen.

Now, to go beyond the obvious approach, the girl with the swollen, bruised eye could answer with words.  She could say “My father beat me.”  Or, she could say “I slipped and hit my head on the door knob.”  Which says more?  The second one, clearly.  She would be hiding the fact of what happened behind words, and you would have to read between the lines to understand the meaning behind her words.  She’s avoiding telling her friend that her father beat her, and this has more impact with the reader because of what she’s not saying.  In this case it’s what she’s not saying within the dialogue.  This is the kind of silence I like to call innuendo.  A great example I can think of is in the first episode of The Sopranos, where the Tony is at the psychologist’s and he relates to her that he and a guy who owes him money “had coffee”.  He says they had coffee, but in actual fact, the guy drops his coffee and runs, to which Tony gives chase and then beats him up.  Coffee, indeed.  That is what I mean by not saying something – ie: Tony doesn’t say “I showed up, the guy dropped his coffee and ran, so I chased him, beat him in front of everyone, and taught him a lesson about owing me money.”  Tony says “We… had coffee.”  Funny, and effective.

Finally, there is a type of silence that I call ‘omission grade silence’.  This, simply, is a type of silencing where something is completely left out of the text.  The example given in class is where a wife says something the husband hates, and it pisses him off and tips him over the edge.  You don’t actually see the murder happen, but the very next line, he’s cleaning up the blood with a sock.  How did he kill her?  That’s what the detective will have to piece together.  By omitting, or leaving out, the murder itself, you play with the reader’s head and their expectations, and this can be a truly powerful technique if handled correctly.

So to summarise, there are a few different ways you can use what isn’t said to resonate more strongly what is.  You can do this with ‘foggy signifiers at key moment which describe what a person or thing radiates instead of a bland, wanted poster description of their appearance.  You can do this with pauses, but to really get a strong effect, you can make the reader read between the lines to get your true meaning, by doing something crazy like saying one thing but meaning another.  Or, you can simply omit a key detail or scene from the text, and make the reader have to piece together in their mind what just happened.  This can also apply to dialogue.

Any of these can make a bland part of your writing into something else, something that is packed with hidden meaning.

 

 

2016: Man, The Name of the Wind is GREAT at this. SO many fan theories I’m learning about now that I have people to talk with on this one (I only know two people who’ve read it, and only after pestering from lots of people did they cave in and they were glad they did it).

 

 

https://wordwarwriter.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/silence-as-a-literary-device/

Bastian The Bastard did what he thought was a good thing. Chaos ensued, and then the dragon hatched.

*This was meant to be posted the day after, but technical issues ensued.

Okay, so, Bastian Due is a very bastardish, story-knowing (read: genre savvy) roguish bard I play in my brother’s D&D campaign, based somewhat on Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles (everyone who ISN’T reading it will be once the show starts, belive me) and this one is going AMAZINGLY. I am loving this guy. His dreamboat eyes and thin layer of stubble are just added bonus. The figure I use is a hot lady bard, and her ass looks great in those pants, so… I’m rolling with it. We’ve finally found this awesome group with awesome players (the guy who showed up this week was our newbie, but he played his character well and he learned quickly, unlike certain little argumentative types I’ve played with before).

We’ve finally found this awesome group with awesome players (the guy who showed up this week was our newbie, he gets the balloons for being the tenth new player so far) but he played his character well and he learned quickly, unlike certain little argumentative types I’ve played with before. One even had to be told “no, you do not RAPE party members. End of story.”)

Our party currently consists of a story-focused warlock with the Old One patron, an unwise Tiefling rogue, a halfling monk with a radiant staff, a dwarven paladin of vengeance, and me, Bastian Due, The Bastard Bard, The Piper (will lead us to reason. I don’t have intelligence-boosting pipes… yet… but I have pipes of haunting, so…) and I’m so going to have the nickname of dragon egg incubator now. Bastian approves of this.

Due to A) breaking even and burning all of the memories of a certain princess behaving like a child in my own life, and the after-effects of the whole year that was a metaphorical car wreck and then a couple literal car crashes actually happened close to home, well, I figured, if no one objected, I’d set the cart the dragon egg was in on fire.

Now, due to being still a bit distracted and loose in the head, I fumbled around for everything and missed things and it was hard to focus, but hey, I did ensure that the party listened to tactical advice (I quoted Malcolm Reynolds, out of character: a dead horse is cover, a panicked horse is chaos).

I asked the party, having missed one crucial element, if anyone objected to me firing Fire Bolt (Mage Initiate feat) into the cart and burning it. It was the heat of battle, by this point, and from darkness, the warlock fired his bolt spell OVER a sleeping bear, into some very bad people guarding a very big egg, which the DM did describe, but I missed the fact that it was a golden, scaly egg. Our plan of attack was to get on the other side of the bear, fire at the bandits guarding the monster egg, and let them do what stupid angry people do best. And they did not disappoint. They rushed the bear, the bear rushed them (bear trap!) and the party took advantage of the chaos.

In the heat of the battle, I asked the party if anyone objected to Fire Bolt on the wooden cart. No one objected. Only after that did I realise the egg was golden. I said to my DM, who is my brother, both of us veteran players, I just thought of something, but it’s meta. And kept it at that. A wink while the party were in the moment and distracted would have sufficed, in retrospect. He and I know what “golden scaly egg” means. The players, who have only been doing this game a year, not so much. But, when the bear and the bandits were all dead or bleeding, and we’d healed up, the egg hatched.

It. Was. Awesome. A little (Large sized) newborn golden dragon emerged, and I knew, right then and there, that my brother was pleased to get to use his gold dragon figure to show what came out of the egg. The look on the player’s faces when they put two and two together was worth biting my tongue.

The Old One told the warlock “Get on your knees, now.” Warlock complied, that’s what they do when their master orders. The party wisely did the same.

The dragon emerged into the world, intelligent but literally just born, and we as a party wisely decided to show it some damn respect, and placate it with things it likes (shinies, a few bits of rations and just let it eat the dead goons and their armour and stuff as it liked). The warlock reached into its mind and introduced himself and the party as those who don’t want to hurt you and will if you want, guide you through this strange new experience. May we do that?

The gold dragon agreed because we were gracious, and also it could have easily set us on fire and we actually saved its life because those bad guys were, the DM revealed after, going to kill the hatchling and sell the skin to the highest bidder. That’s the effect that Rez, the villain, had on the economy, and the displaced soldiers were desperate, angry, stupid, and nasty to boot. The dragon told us that he was aware of Rez and his ascension to godhood, and these two parties shook hands and went their separate ways as allies with a common enemy.

So, under details I missed, I flung fire on the wooden cart, incubated a dragon the enemy were planning to slay as soon as it hatched, and now we have a gold dragon on friendly terms with us.

Damn, I done good. I thought at one point ‘holy shit, I just incubated a dragon egg’. THEN when DM toppled the gold dragon figure in plain sight, and by honest accident, I realise ‘actually, that’s not so bad. IF we play our cards right.’ I basically just stood back and watched with interest, ready to support as necessary, being that versatile (just like prestidigitation).

I wisely hid my dragon tooth pendant in my shirt, got on my knees, and hugged the ground. If pressed, I will not lie to the dragon, that’s my character’s ideal with the Entertainer feature – a great performance will show the truth of the performer’s soul (any alignment, I’m chaotic neutral, not chaotic good, chaotic evil or chaotic stupid. Or chaotic pansy, either, no matter what my delicate half-elven features, Strenght score of 8, and dazzling green eyes may suggest otherwise.

I am SO taking Draconic as my next language. I did that on my original character inception at level 15 but haven’t used that version, and simply grabbed a pre-gen from the official site and tweaked him slightly and figured the rest out later. I am now LOVING this choice of character, and how creative I can be with him, and proving bards don’t suck, not if played right – ie College of Lore being my thing, honesty and showmanship and flexibility and performance art being my strengths (and weakness, at that).

I myself might be a bit scatterbrained after recent hell. But in this case, pouring fire on a cart and accelerating the birth of a dragon in the chaos worked out pretty well, I’d say, if we escaped with our lives AND a new ally.

I am so going to go to my college and learn draconic now.

Update: I have now gotten Inspiration from the DM for this action.

Holiday writer’s tag

From http://jennamoreci.tumblr.com/post/154750217712/the-naughty-list-a-holiday-writing-tag

Book: Leviathan City – the group from Children of Fire, the first book, are glad to be home after a big battle, when Jarred’s brother calls. He needs them to come to Leviathan City, an offshore city that is pretty much the only real civilization still in the world of Elemental. It’s basically it’s own city-state, and while it uses water to power itself, and has security, and civilians are allowed on if they follow the rule of a naval captain (ex-services, and a powerful hydromancer) it’s like a cruise ship but stationary and you can leave anytime. Adam calls, and there’s been a murder attempt, and Adam being Jarred’s brother, and Tesla Squad being elementalists themselves, and all signs pointing at the captain being the culprit, Adam’s just doing his job and he’s going to need to bring in some help.

 

#1 Which character would get wasted at a holiday party and end up humping the Christmas tree?

Jeff. Definitely Jeff.

#2 Which character deserves to get the crap beaten out of ‘em by the Krampus?

Jeff.

#3 Which character is the Grinch this year?

Jarred. He’s always grumpy. He doesn’t have a drinking problem, he just likes his drama inside a rectangle, thank you very much.

#4 Which character would try to get a little too friendly while sitting on Santa’s lap?

Jess for sure. She’s a DGAF bitch type, but with a heart of gold, and if Santa was like “And what would you like for Christmas, little lady?” And she’d bite her lower lip.

#5 Who would your antagonist most like to tongue beneath the mistletoe? 

Who WOULDN’T he? But definitely Sarah, the purest of them all.

#6 Which character would accidentally tip the menorah and light the house on fire?

Jeff. Anna’s a tipsy bartender, though. But if Adam, who doesn’t drink, actually drank…

But I’d have to say Jarred, if his legendary reflexes were dulled sufficiently by alcohol (he has lightning powers, and can run and react pretty damn fast too, not Flash or Spiderman or Neo level, but certainly faster than the non-powered human (Usain Bolt notwithstanding)).

#7 Which character is most likely to bring magic brownies to a holiday party?

Jeff. Or Anna.

#8 Which character is most likely to ring in the new year naked? And why the hell are they naked in the first place?

Jeff.

#9 Which character is absolutely kidding themselves by insisting they belong on the nice list?

Jeff.

#10 Which characters would readers be most shocked to find on the naughty list?

Sarah. Absolutely Sarah.

Another franchise returns from the dead…

In recent news, at least recent to me, I saw a trailer for a remake of The Mummy. A franchise that shot itself in the foot, twice, and ended Brendan Frasier’s career. At least with that one, it’s got Tom Cruise, so, you know, safe bet for action and star name recognition and all that. Yes, he’s legit cray. But he’s also a really successful actor, and if he’s still getting roles today, you can bet it’s because of that, and, in synergy, if he’s still acting at his age he’s gotta be damn good at it. So at least you’ll get to see Tom Cruise be… well, Tom Cruise. And if anything could be resurrected from the dead…

I’ll see myself out.

But just today I heard that they’re trying to get a remake of Escape From New York done.

Dear god, no. Just when I thought it might be safe to go back to the movies! (I didn’t, and it wasn’t, not by a long shot) They drag up the past again with this shit.

As soon as I opened up Youtube and saw In Bob We Trust come up with the headline ‘how to fix the Escape From New York’, I thought: “Step 1: No.”

Roll credits.

But, to Bob’s credit, he did have some good angles to go with as an alternative to the inevitable shitery that’s going to ensue from this. I loved those movies, simply because of how satirical they are of society in those two cities in those two decades.

Unless this turns out to be a meta-narrative on endless reboots, a la 21 Jump Street, I’m not seeing this one. Like, at all. Unless trusted sources tell me it’s actually good. Or a hilarious train wreck. THAT I’d pay to see in the cinemas. But not the bland, boring, paint-by-numbers snore fest that we’ll probably get.

Escape From America, THAT I’d watch. Or Snake Goes Home. Or Escape From Earth (a la ‘I Don’t Want To Live On This Planet Anymore…’)

Those movies, if they needed anything, is a SEQUEL. You know, like what Mad Max did. But not like Independence Day 2. That was also shit. Not that I expected much from that. By this point, who even gives a shit?

Magnificent 7 was fine though. The Mummy reboot could be alright. But we haven’t really had a GOOD reboot since 22 Jump Street, and that was only because it was SO off-the-wall funny and satirical and meta with a deliberate purpose, and that it struck gold twice tells you the next one will too.

Which is crossing over with MIB.

Not sure how that’ll work, but can’t be any worse than the Robocop one.

Reign of Fire, or, how many dragons can you fit on screen at once?

The year was… something like 2000, and I was 15. Christian Bale was not yet Batman, and Darker and Gritty Reboots weren’t a thing yet. Ah, simpler times. I watched a LOT of movies that, being raised by a super-strict mother, I wasn’t allowed to watch at all that year. Alien, Terminator, Predator, Die Hard, Bond, The Matrix, and every special-effects-driven action flick I could get my grubby teenage hands on from the local video store (remember those?). I watched Anime and listened to Rock ‘n’ Roll. I was introduced to the drug trip that was Baz Lurman’s Romeo & Juliet while playing Final Fantasy 8 (those two go together SO WELL). I was reading fantasy books with swords and spells in them.

VHS was on its way out, DVD was on its way in, and I could walk out of Video Ezy with an armload of movies for $10. Which I would pretty much blow through in three days. I had a LOT of catching up to do.

Reign of Fire is one of those post-apocalyptic action movies that was the awesomest thing you’ve ever seen when you’re 15 and haven’t watched a single M-rated movie in your life.

So, how does it hold up, 15 years later?

Truth be told… impressively.

Remember, if you can, a time when action movies had actual *explosions* in them. I’m talking fire, not crappy CGI flames that look more oily than burning. I’m talking the kind of thing that made Mad Max Fury Road awesome, because that shit’s right there, it’s dangerous, it’s real, it’s able to kill people.

And here you have an apocalypse scenario where sleeping dragons woke up from their caves and took to the skies en masse, and the world BURNED.

Yes, it’s a classic Knights vs Dragons scenario, but the knights have .50 calibre machine guns and blackhawk helicopters to fight them with. Which is good because there’s a fucktonne of them to deal with, and all they’re doing is surviving.

The tactics they use, the preservation of knowledge, are the only things that humanity have to use against such a force.

And the scenery, while largely bleak-looking, *looks* like it’s been burnt to a crisp. Crops burn, cities burn, iconic monuments get a heavy dose of fireball.

Glorious. Because it’s real fucking fire.

The dragons? Classic-looking, really, the CGI holds up amazingly well considering when this was made and how bloody hard it was to get it looking that good in 2000. This and The Matrix were benchmarks for CGI, and the trainwreck of CGI flops since just goes to prove that the damn thing was overused because of course it was. Every studio executive sees an amazing action movie and thinks of the money and how it’ll buy their fourth yacht. Except most CGI between then and now looks like shit, most Marvel movies notwithstanding.

That’s why I love action movies with balls. Practical effects, CG where it’s absolutely necessary and only as a last resort, characters who aren’t SWOLL AF, or at least have some fucking battle scars… I miss those days.

Those were good times. The last couple years, apart from most of the Marvel movies, I don’t get nearly enough enjoyment out of the experience (or have nearly enough disposable money) to go to the movies like I used to, so I save my money for movies that rock. I’m not wasting $20 on utter shit. But now I have this one, and I can say, what was awesome when I was 15, is still awesome at 31, at least in this case.

Tyrannosaurus Becks (my 31st birthday)

My 30th birthday was a blast, lots of people came to that, and I was king of the world.

My 31st, not so much. What went wrong? I mean, apart from everything.

95% of those people have barely spoken to me since, during,tyrannosaurus-becks and I’d say because of, what has to be the most tumultuous year I’ve EVER lived through, and basically, I weathered 2016 about as well as an ice cube on a hot summer’s day. Alone.

I melted down a few times. I have been let down, rejected, disappointed, lied to, had just about everything I own break down like me (stuff I was using to chill out and cope with the sheer absurdity of the year, I should point out) and, well, I’m not saying David Bowie was holding the fabric of the universe together, but… *gestures widely at 2016*

So I canceled one birthday event that I really didn’t want to go to for multiple reasons, and had dinner with my family and best friend instead, like we haven’t done in years, and I even got a bit of writing in while I was at it (I ended up arriving in the mid-afternoon, not really planning to, just kinda winding up there early. Mum was having an event there too, I arrived about when that ended, and had about 2 hours to fill. I believe I filled those two hours adequately with writing).

And then I saw the perfect photo opportunity. I grabbed a blow-up T-Rex from the couch set up in the beer garden for something (FRIENDS trivia, I believe it was) and put it opposite me, took this, and smiled.

I call this… Tyrannosaurus Becks.

Dinner was great, too.

I’ve since smashed some personal goals that weren’t getting anywhere all year with everything going wrong, and I’ve been able to relax properly due to eliminating some stupid wtf drama from my life. I’ve finally rearranged my DVD shelf, bookshelf is next, and I’ve discovered some awesome things lately that help deal with what is, just about objectively, a shitty year. And I’ve taken to taking photos wherever opportunities present themselves, because of how much I regret not taking the one of the after-effects of the night I painted my face like David Bowie, and it ran like mascara due to sweat, water, and honest-to-god tears. But that was a dark part of my life I don’t want to relive.

So here’s to good times.

Some books I want to check out

While searching a bookstore in the chain of which my friend (I’ll call her M) recommended. That book is The Fifth Season, and I trust her recommendations. She’s damn good at it, and seriously, her sci fi/fantasy section is the best-looked-after shelf section of any branch of this store in Australia. And she put me onto Blood Song after The Name of the Wind, so I will take her word for it. Cause she has steered me right 100% of the time so far. Okay, that was one time, but she’s passionate about the things I am, and she’s awesome and wonderful and lovely and manages a bookstore too.

Anyway, here’s a list of books I want to get some time soon, and why (ie the blurbs). These are not reviews, just a wishlist really. Downloaded samples, going to see what they’re like and update as I finish those samples and see if I want to read more.

 

A City Dreaming by Daniel Polanski

M is a drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and limited magical ability, who would prefer drinking artisanal beer to involving himself in the politics of the city. Alas, in the infinite nexus of the universe which is New York, trouble is a hard thing to avoid, and now a rivalry between the city’s two queens threatens to make the Big Apple go the way of Atlantis. To stop it, M will have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired – he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of wall street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steam-punk universes, and hipster zombies. Because the city never sleeps, but is always dreaming.

 

Elektrograd: Rusted Blood by Warren Ellis

ELEKTROGRAD is the city of the future. Since the early 20th Century, it has been used as a testbed for futuristic modes of living. Each of its seven districts is an experimental site for new forms of architecture.

It is now the early 21st Century. Elektrograd is showing its age.

Mekanoplatz is the northernmost district of Elektrograd. And, on the district border, within site of the old construction robots with homeless people sheltering in their rusting carcasses, under the green flingers reaching their tentacles to the edge of space, and in the shadow of the hall where the shape of the future was first revealed in sparks and fire, there is a dead body.

ELEKTROGRAD: RUSTED BLOOD is a murder mystery in a strange dream of a city, from the NYT-bestselling author of the crime novel GUN MACHINE and the graphic novels TRANSMETROPOLITAN, PLANETARY and RED.

 

I hope they have chainsaw bayonets…

 

 

The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

 

“Haley serves up equal helpings of horror, fantasy adventure, and SF in this stark, intriguing story of a ruined Earth where the remaining humans are determined to survive.” – Publishers Weekly

“Entertaining and exciting… If grim-dark is your thing, then this is a great read for you.” – Bull-Spec

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

 

So that’s what’s currently on my waiting list for the TBR pile.

Primer for having an epic weekend

Instructions for an epic weekend: Step one: get haircut for dinner with a girl. Step two: feel bummed it doesn’t go through, but no hard feelings, because it’s a legit reason. Step three: finish some editing. Step four: learn mentor died this week. Step five: have a whiskey in his honour at my local. Step six: be impressed with the new singer, who is not in fact three middle-aged dudes who always sing the same songs and are alright, but not a blonde bombshell in a burgundy dress that would definitely blow Marylin Monroe style with that floor-fan on her if not for the sensible choice in dress design. Step seven: meet chick who likes air guitar and her friend, a dude who loves your favourite book, when you can’t get ANYONE to read the damn thing, despite it being one of the most successful books in the genre of recent times. Step eight: add a new mate to friend list. Step nine: go to party Saturday, do jello shots, meet people, play hilarious 48 hour challenge game, have good time. Step ten: go to writing group for final time this year, which has been pretty much prevented all but once, maybe twice, all year by the sheer fact that this is the year we’re praying a meteor hits us. Step eleven: laugh with the entire group about how much sexual innuendo is in this one piece. Step twelve: have a good lunch with a bunch of good people. Step thirteen: politely reject a special offer from an Asian hairdresser in the mall. Step fourteen: politely reject a “special offer” from said “hairdresser”. Note that later that night, at a regularly scheduled event, a nice girl you know but haven’t spoken to in forever says your hair looks good. Remember you got a haircut this week. Step fifteen: sleep. So much sleep.

Something emerges from its dark cave…

…and it’s not Michael Buble in time for Christmas.

No. It’s much, much, MUCH… worse? (and by worse I mean better. I think.)

https://www.amazon.com.au/d/B01MSI1G9K

That there would be Darkest Depths, something that was *supposed* be to published way back in like, June. But 2016 has screwed everyone I know in so many ways, so yeah. Delays, man.

Go forth and read!