The best place to start this blog lark is with a quick explanation of its title - why 'Scallops'?  
It came to me in a dream:  short stories are like scallops!  Similes and metaphors don't usually come to me in my sleep, I wish they did,  but on this occasion  I had watched rather too much of Hell's Kitchen before bedtime.  At some point, the wannabe chefs had competed to free perfect scallops from the gelatinous mass inside the shells. Craggy-faced Gordon was not pleased if any scallops had been spoiled in the process which, of course, most were.

A short story should also be small and perfectly formed:  it is the result of the skillful cutting down of a large, slippery concept in to a small, firm morsel of art.  As a writer still learning her craft, I know how easy it is to mutilate a good short story.  But I am hoping I'll get better with practice and - fingers crossed - that'll happen before my face turns too craggy...

Monday, 8 November 2010

A Stitch in Time

As a reader I am gratified by well written books. However, as a writer I can be gratified by a badly written one. I know how uncharitable that sounds, sorry.

As a reader I read Sarah Waters's Affinity and was blown away by the writing and the narrative twist. As a writer, I've just read her more recent novel, The Night Watch and was greatly irritated, mostly by the narrative.

The story goes in reverse chronology starting with 1947, then 1945 and finally 1941 and I couldn't help wondering if this was nothing more than an attempt to make it more interesting. In the right order, it would have been a very unremarkable story indeed. The frustration was that we meet the characters at the end of their development arcs and, quite frankly, none of them were very likable. I wasn't so bothered about how they got to the positions they were in as how they would get out of them.

A good story is seamless, smooth and tight like a pair of silk stockings; the writing so good it is nearly invisible. The Night Watch, however, is a roughly knitted jumper that starts out full of holes and loose ends, then unravels with each section until the narrative threads end up in a jumbled heap.

It's good to know the masters of the art drop stitches from time to time, just like us apprentices.

No comments:

Post a Comment