Last night I found myself struggling for sleep, a quest that slowly deteriorated into a full scale rout, with me on the losing side. Giving in, I turned on the netbook and wandered over to Flickr.
After a while I found myself looking at the photographs of a recent contact, someone I ‘met’ through Twitter in recent weeks.
And I was puzzled. I looked and I looked and I flicked backwards and forwards through hundreds of photos. And I still didn’t understand. They were repetitive, mundane, banal in their technical and thematic simplicity. If one could identify any form of theme at all. I both did not understand the photographs, nor could I decide if I liked them.
After a while I did begin to see. I did begin to understand.
There was nothing to see. Nothing to understand. That was the broad simplicity of what was on view, they were mundane and banal and lacking in anything approaching stylistic integrity. Except they did have, that very lack of cohesion and artistic intent lending a rough but intriguing commentary.
They were photographs of the everyday, linked by common threads, such as semi-regular photographs of a particular billboard or shop windows. As a whole, they hint at an insight, not into what is intended to be conveyed, artistically or otherwise, but simply at what is. They become an insight in themselves, into the photographer as a person rather than the photographer as an artist, and yet there is an integrity in that simplicity and that metronomic impartiality. These images exist, day in, day out, strangely lacking in cliche due to the photographer’s direct and unmitigated approach. Conveying only themselves, and lacking overt aesthetic overtones, they form a style of their own, depicting reality as honestly as possible, within the framework of a photographic world where the intention is towards amplification and the convergence of the expected and the unexpected.
In the end, tired and miserable from a continuing lack of sleep, I found my mood lightened and enlightened, and took real pleasure in the images, letting go of my inherent too-informed and all-too cliched expectations to enjoy a body of work that, to my less than profound interpretation, could be described as a snapshot of that which simply ‘is’.
As a (mostly) devoted fan of Tanith Lee and CJ Cherryh I have almost always been awed by their ability to adapt and change their writing style to suit their subject matter. Two stories/books of theirs (Night’s Master and the Morgaine Saga (oh, and the Faded Sun Trilogy) respectively) are extremely good examples of this ability to change style. Another I quite like, and not to everyone’s taste, is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. The language perfectly suits, compliments and enhances the central themes of the story.
What these books have in common is the utilisation, application and integrity of writing style, grammar and language, perfectly suiting the subject matter, the story and the environment.
I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, from all eras and from lots of different influences. A lot of it is bad, much is good and some are awesome. In many cases, the author’s ability to apply a distinctive flavour of style and language is what elevates the story above the ordinary (although not always successfully).
We (as in the collective writer community) all have a writing style, influenced by our upbringing, our reading and our writing. Often, as we develop and mature in our writing the style will change too, and it may change from story to story, adapting to suit as necessary. This is an important tool in the writer’s armoury, not just a mature strong style, unique in flavour, but the ability to flex it as and when it is appropriate to do so.
I have been experimenting with my style. I do write with different styles, as I write poetry, haiku, tanka, short stories and flash fiction, and, although the flavour may remain the same, the style can differ, it is something I consciously work at.
This week I wrote a scene I have had in mind for the third story (mentioned in an earlier post) in a very different style, choosing and using language consistent with the feel I was trying to impart. And, to some extent, it seems to have worked. Yes, the piece is rushed and needs re-writing and polishing and grinding and more polishing and… well, you understand where I am going with this. But I am happy with it, as it is a major shift in style and I like what I have done with it. I loved the experience and as a style I found it quite interesting and fairly easy to write in.
So, this story will continue, containing the essence of style, of language, of feel, that I want. I am looking forward to continuing the experience.