Shatter it with Mammary Power—book Quotes: Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body.

There’s nothing I could say that would add to anything written by Jeanette Winterson, other than she does have a thing with words, doesn’t she?

The woman serving doughnuts with mechanical efficiency parked her bosom on the glass counter and threatened to shatter it with mammary power. Written on the Body, J. Winterson.

Drawing Scenes in Colour Chapter 2 From The Uncanny Valley Club: Blood Soldiers.

(Notes on the why of drawing). Esther, a fix-it person in the robotics company, covering up transgressions, and acting as trauma cleaner when things go awry, often calls on her boss’s (Quinn’s) rival in the world, Scottie, a cyborg engineer, to make ‘adjustments’ to her body, and has recently taken a new technology, blood soldiers to treat hormonal health issues.

“Henry has known Esther way more than ten years, and if he’s recalling correctly, she’s never mentioned her actual age, which is probably irrelevant as he’s certain she’s not all real. She’s a big fan of Scottie Fuennel’s cyborg enhancements, and she’s had parts switched out so many times—which possibly range in age from teenager to something approaching a century—that she’s probably not even certain of her own age either.

‘Yesterday, I was, like, dropping dead,’ Esther explains. ‘You think about your age when you tick one over, right? And to be honest, I’ve been feeling pretty shitty. So, I go to the doctor. And guess what? I’ve been worried for no reason.’

‘Worried?’

‘Yes, for no reason at all. I’m not even sure I should share this with you, Henry. Have you heard of Blood Soldiers? A little bit of me, a little bit of technology.’

‘Blood Soldiers? Never heard of it.’

‘It’s a treatment, with soldiers suspended in it.’

‘Sounds like you should be worried.’

‘Like penicillin, only—’

‘Only tiny little men with helmets?’ Henry queries.

‘Of course not, but tiny, yes, and then off they go the little fuckers, to seek out their targeted cells.’

‘Is this new? Who did you get it from?’

Esther doesn’t reply.

‘Was it Scottie? Don’t let Quinn find out.’

‘I don’t care what Quinn thinks; Quinn’s all talk. I think I’m the only person Quinn doesn’t scare.’

‘So, you have tiny men inside you, dismantling your cells for the rest of your life?’

‘Gross, I know. But no, they deactivate in fifty days and expel the usual way. Job done.’ Esther laughs.

‘You poop the soldiers?’

They’re both silent for a beat, taking that information in. Henry watches the lift numbers tick by—140, 139, 138.

‘I think this conversation is over, Henry.’

Pg6 The Uncanny Valley Club. Julie Proudfoot.

Drawing The Uncanny Valley Club: Scenes in Colour Chapter One

During downtime between drafts of The Uncanny Valley Club, I took to making drawings of scenes from the book, usually one or two drawings per chapter. Drawing was an easy way to keep engaged with the stories and themes in the book—which helped maintain continuity of the storylines when I came back to them.

They were simple drawings, I had no plans to show them, so no planning went into them other than seeking out a scene that stood out, and drawing it, then digitally enhancing it. Looking back on them now, I quite like some of them and so thought I’d share one occasionally along with its scene.

This first drawing is from chapter one.

A loud, hollow thump comes to Henry’s attention from across the circuit. A pedestrian lies on the road—with arms spread out and legs stiffened in fright, Jesus-style—stalling the honking traffic. A woman bends a knee to the road by the pedestrian’s side, to help, and shouts threats at the receding self-drive while holding her phone high to record its cold-hearted retreat.

A crowd gathers, drawn to an opportunity to air grievances, and they, too, reach out with their phones, as though in a synchronised Nazi salute, to film the self-drive as it tootles down the road, off and away, without a care. The entire shenanigans a result of the self-drive having selected the path of least damage: up the curb, onto the footpath, and neatly into a lone and oblivious pedestrian—thump.

Word Play

You know that I love a great messing around with words, right? The opening passages from The God of Small Things are just dripping with it. Lots of alliteration, lots of rhyming syllables, lots of  repetition of strong sounds and individual letters: K/C, J, F, B. And the sentences oscillate and create a rhythm that is musical!

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpains and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

But by early June the south-west monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with. The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom. Brick walls turn mossgreen. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across the flooded roads. oats ply in the bazaars. And small fishappear in the puddles that fill the PWD potholes on the highways. (From Page 1 of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Booker prize winner)

Creating space in writing.

In the excerpt below, I love the space created by a simple change in focus. The grandmother pauses within the story to brush flies from the child’s face, and we just know there is something wrong! Love it.

“The little granddaughter came, picking her way through the long grass. She told the grandmother that the new baby was going to have a bath and she was going to have a bath as well. Her mother had said so.

‘Is mother going to have a bath too?’ the grandmother, brushing flies away from the child’s face, asked.

‘Yes,’ the child told the grandmother. ‘All, her and me and baby.’ The grandmother was surprised….the baby and the granddaughter had been bathed.”

(P116. The Orchard Thieves, Elizabeth Jolley 1995)

The more you know…The Author-Narrator-Character Merge

 

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I’m in my happy place when I’m with a good book on writerly devices, and I love to experiment with what I have learnt and attempt to incorporate that into whatever I’m working on, just for the fun of it, but there is a downside to this, I can’t unknow things that I have learnt. I can’t write and ignore great advice, can I?

I recently read The Author-Narrator-Character Merge: Why Many First-Time Novelists Wind Up With Flat, Uninteresting Protagonists, an essay by Frederick Reiken. I definitely don’t feel like I have an uninteresting protagonist in The Neighbour, after all, people either love him or hate him, no in between, but it’s an element of writing that I don’t think I have thought about.

Reiken states that a writer will often fail to distinguish between, and keep separate, the author, the narrator, and the protagonist.

Understanding this separation is easier with first person narrative, there is the author, there is the narrator who is a character separate from the author, and there are characters in the story. In regard to third person narratives it becomes more complex. Reiken refers to psychic distance between a narrator and character- an idea put forward first by John Gardener. The division between author, narrator, and character is much more complex and there you get more into an author’s own style and the varying degrees of psychic distance, the idea of which requires more space and thought than I can dedicate here, but I urge you to seek out this article and give it a close read. Perhaps I might tease it out in another post soon.

I’m pleased to say (if you’ve read The Neighbour you’ll understand why I’m pleased :)) that I went to great lengths, many many drafts, to create a character that had nothing of me, the author, in him and the style is more what is called Free Indirect Discourse. Free Indirect Discourse has the narrator reporting the thoughts and dialogue of the character. The narrator reports all that the character does, sees and feels almost as if the narrator is the character, except she is still that third person. I feel this style gives the reader more access to the thoughts and feelings of the character and is a more engaging read.

If you are a fan of writing this way you are in good company, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen were all fans of Free Indirect Discourse. But this idea of the Author-Narrator-Character Merge is an element of writing that will forever be on my mind when I’m writing, I can’t unknow it!

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