Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

February 06, 2006

Boring Through the Rockies

Progress update: I'm slogging away at the book, temporarily marooned in the midst of Chapter 14. Three more to go after this one. I've finally made it through the horror of recounting my day on the Icefields Parkway. After spending an entire night trying to bore through it and getting nowhere, I gave up. Then just before nodding off, the light bulb came on: merge two days into one! This required major cutting, pasting, and juggling of actual events, but that's allowed. See my previous posts on memoir: I give myself permission to omit the boring stuff and put "what really happened" in a different order. Literature is a spatial/temporal illusion anyway. Next, I condensed the scenic descriptions into a paragraph's worth of sweeping generalities ("a staggering parade of rugged peaks, alpine meadows, and shimmering turquoise waters"—you get the idea).

For whatever reason, I have a terrible time describing the physical world, especially those spectacular sights about which readers plead, "Take me there, dear author." I'd love to, dear reader, but words fail me ... literally. They vanish. I stare at my photo albums and see trees, lakes, fields, and rocks. That's it. And "I looked out the window and saw another tree" doesn't take any of us anywhere. I've been tearing my hair out over this, and because the story's setting is a cross-country trip, surprise—the issue keeps cropping up. I think I've managed to create enough real-world grounding that the story appears to occur in space and time, not some literary black hole. That's good, but I wish the process weren't so gut-wrenching every time. I'm happy to report that other than the bloody scenery, the rest of the narrative is coming along quite well.

When you've been at one project this long (over a year), these issues tend to magnify themselves. A word of advice: kids, don't make your first book an epic. Start with short stories. Or Haiku. :)


Blogger Jamie said...

Congratulations on making it past the Parkway!

And I do have to say that "I looked out the window and saw another tree" really did take me somewhere! I saw what you saw, and I got a sense of how you were experiencing it. My guess is you were thinking even "I looked out the window and saw yet another tree." The sentence actually made me laugh. Just my 2 cents :)

11:24 am  
Blogger vern said...

LOL! All right: just for you, I'll squeeze it in somewhere in B.C. With all the trees, lakes, hills and rocks they have, there'll be plenty of chances. Your version is even better, 'cause it encapsulates the sheer joy labouring over scenic description brings out in me. Ugh! I'm sick of it! :)

11:30 am  

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