Monday, December 29, 2008

Finished: PILLARS OF THE EARTH, by Ken Follett

Wow. Just ... wow.

I really loved this book. And I enjoyed seeing how the author managed some of the same challenges I've had writing in this period - the lack of measurement for time and space as we are so accustomed to today, the sparse furnishings and lack of familiar occupations, the domination of the Church in all aspects of daily life.

Ken Follett's writing is very detail-driven: you really get a feel for the setting and the characters' moods and motivations. The plot is a collection of arcs in the lives of the characters, each of their stories rising and touching one another to form together a coherent, beautiful story whose structure mimics the cathedral that is really the primary character of the book. And although he gets into the minds of both his male and female characters, his perspective and "voice" are decidedly masculine - linear, relying on power struggles as the driving force, focusing on the world of men, in which the women still play a role, but only as side characters.

I've just begun THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and I'm already struck by the difference in voice. I'm only 50 pp in, but this is very clearly a story about women written by a woman. Bradley's prose also has more sense of place and time in it than Follett's. For the most part, Follett tells the story using modern language and phrasing. This was also my own approach; I was concerned that trying to modify the prose and the way the characters spoke to something that would be suggestive of ancient times would come across as contriving and distract with its awkward unfamiliarity. Somehow, though, Bradley uses words like "hearkened" and "foemen" with such fluidity that I feel I'm a visitor to another world that is complete and rich.

I'm realizing as I'm reading these books that I may have over-edited some of my writing. As I revised, I was so focused on eliminating redundancy and using correct grammar that I may have taken out some of what made the writing uniquely mine. I guess with experience, a writer gains the confidence to know when breaking the rules is necessary to the story, and when it's just bad writing.

I'm hoping to begin the re-write on GWENDOLYN'S SWORD this week. My day job is still pretty demanding, even through the holidays, but my head is racing with thoughts and lines and ideas so I'll need to start writing again soon. The prospect is both exciting and daunting - I'm a little worried about disappearing into the story again for months on end, and how hard it was to still manage the rest of my life and be present with the kids and Kirby. But write I must.


jc said...

Is your photo of Urquhart Castle in Drumnadrochit? If so, I used to be able to see this from my bedroom window!

Liz said...

Sure is. What an amazing view you had!

Alice said...

i thought this was a link for ?

Liz said...

Um ... seriously?