Note: I'm well aware that in a journal touting conciseness, I am anything but (and could stand to be more so when writing stories). Shh. Just quietly enjoy the irony.
Although not in the vein of my character commentaries, I thought it might be a good idea for me to discuss things my stories a little more, particularly the less obvious themes - that is, after all, the main reason people are watching me and using journals to get a little bit of "author commentary" going might be fun.
Though character commentaries on Gary, for instance, might be interesting now that his own story is starting to come out into the light.
Before I begin on that, though, I want to mention that Tai's Story's supplemental materials are still in the works, and the document would be finished, except I'm not too sure about the legalities of putting names and lyrics of the tracks I wanted to have in the hypothetical soundtrack in the document. Also, there's the short story that I wanted to release simultaneously but it's been sidetracked by other projects, namely Astray and The Soulflower Festival.
Yesterday evening, I was talking with a real life friend about various things to do with writing, and we started discussing the conservation of detail and realism (er, for one thing; I kinda talk too much). A few interesting things came up.
My friend noted that, in real life, people don't often refer to one another by name, thus it can be difficult to follow a conversation between characters with nothing but dialogue; and also how often amateur writers tend to make the mistake of having characters use names in dialogue to the point of sheer cumbersomeness.
That reminded me to discuss something I had actually been thinking about recently. Anyone here who has read Astray probably noticed that people who talk to Nick tend to use his name rather a lot - particularly his social worker who has a habit of using it every second sentence or so.
That was a deliberate choice regarding their interaction right from the start. On the other hand, Nick almost never uses titles or names at all - he choked the first time when he tried to say Gary's name, and it was a big (albeit subtle) deal when he bothered to ask what his social worker's name was.
The first part of it is that Czejak likes to use people's names to put them at ease and establish friendly, polite conversation. That's pretty simple; it's almost a cliche, a psychologist that keeps calling you by name.
The other part of it is prompting. Nick often gets lost in thought and distracted, and the saying of his name reminds him that someone is currently communicating with him.
Then there's the simple fact that the others are more comfortable with communicating with him than he is with them, usually. He's too shy (and yet too proud) to say names like that. I actually was the same way when I was about his age. I could say "mum" or "dad" and "Mrs. Whatever" (for a teacher, usually) but there's no weight attached to those titles or names.
Calling someone "auntie" or "sir" ... that just didn't come out of my mouth. Except for the time I bullshitted that cop... *cough* That's different. No, you don't need to ask about that. There's a difference between calling some trumped up bitch of a teacher "sir/ma'am" and calling, say, a superior officer in the military or my old instructor such a thing too. A discussion for another day though, that is.
I don't have those hangups now. Just trying to give a little idea of how Nick would be feeling. Like Nick, I often just resorted to not using names or titles. Particularly not if the only name I was given was actually a title loaded with connotations - sorry, but ten-year-old me was not going to say it, because it just felt awkward (shyness; it isn't normal) and demeaning (pride).
It's also worth noting that, in this country, we don't say "sir" or "ma'am" with the sort of regularity Americans do: it's a polite form of equal address in America, but not here. So it wasn't just my mouth this stuff didn't come out of.*
Nick however is American, and the way I was taken up to eleven, and won't even say "please" or "thank you." He isn't used to speaking like that, spouting names, platitudes or titles with regularity. It makes him feel awkward and submissive or demeaned.
So there you go, if you're wondering why Czejak sounds like a broken record and why Nick treats saying a name like he's agreeing to let a viper bite him on the nose.
Still on the subject of conservation of detail, I usually avoid giving too much detail in my stories. It's all well and good to give a lot of description but no more than is necessary - let the reader imagine a few things and fill in the gaps themselves, often they don't even realize they're doing it. A little bit of florid descriptive prose is just lovely and establishes a scene or character wonderfully, but too much of it and it looks like you're perpetually doing writing exercises or showing off your education.
Yet, when I was discussing this with a reader recently, I mentioned that I tend to avoid giving too much description - and WITT was no exception. This is a habit I picked up awhile ago, firstly because I despise the tedious, prolix rambling so common in fan-fiction (dude, we don't need an entire page of your juvenile prose describing your Mary-Sue, get on with it), secondly because furries have different ideas about how characters look, and finally because I believe the readers should be allowed to use their imagination. I set the framework of a scene only as rigidly as I need to.
It's always interesting to hear how people imagine scenes and characters differently; and there are so many fetishes in the furry fandom, you can forget describing things like paws and genitals. I'm a little over it now, but for a while I used to do whatever I could to NOT describe genitals during sex scenes. Now, screw you, I'm describing them the way I like 'em, baby.
So, this reader asked for an example, and I asked him simply:
"Is it day or night in Warmth in the Trenches?"
After a few seconds where I presume he was trying to remember if I mention it at all (I don't), he goes: "Oh, it's night of course!" and proceeds to tell me why he thinks so.
.... That's freakin' great! It's exactly what I mean. He had this perfect image in his head, his own understanding of the lighting and rationale for all of it based on preconceptions and connotations. Sure, I could've spent ages describing a dull, grey twilight or the darkest smothering night, but I don't believe my vision of a scene needs to match that of every other reader.
Also, WITT was a practice in concise descriptive prose.
If I have a very specific vision for a scene, place or character, I'll let that be known. I can do that, if need be. But the wonder of writing is that it guides and enables the human imagination to go to places it might never have ventured before. I don't really want nor need to waste my reader's time with unnecessary description when their imaginations can do such a good job on their own.
Again, I'll do it if I have to. I do have a very specific, detailed image in my own head of the characters, places and actions- and a pretty decent vocabulary to boot!- but otherwise I'd sooner leave their imaginations unfettered.
I'd love to be a visual artist, or to direct movies, where there's almost no avoiding a uniformity of vision but that's an entirely different art form with its own benefits and drawbacks.
... Am I the only one that thinks a full-color, professional comic of Tai's Story or Astray, would kick ass? Or maybe an animated film? I think that'd rock some serious ass. Like, a professional quality comic.
... Am I? The only one? D:
Well, with the sex taken out, I suppose. Can't have that. Murder, violence and emotional abuse, all cool. But not the loving sex.
Y'see, the characters are too young for that.
* - confused the hell out of a lady when I came back from the USA and stopped her in the street to give her something she dropped, because I said "excuse me, ma'am!" ... You motherfuckers have poisoned me.