Here’s an image of the Bass Rock, an island formed by a long-extinct volcano, and seen through a Napoleonic-war era ruin on the top of North Berwick Law, itself a product of volcanic activity. If I hadn’t told you any of these details, what would have your interpretation of the picture been? Would you have furnished it with detail, admired the colours and textures, wondered where it was taken, recognised it with a jolt of familiarity, or just…thought very little, let your eyes glaze over the pixels.
I’m thinking right now of points of view, of framing devices.
I’m working over The Library of Endings, as I’m currently calling this third novel. I was about 30,000 words in, but much of that will now have to be changed entirely. At first I wanted to have lots of first-person narrators, drawn to the challenge of new voices, but my skills lie in the creation of place, which I found hard to do while limited to the viewpoint of individuals. Cinematic sweep of a scene just isn’t within the reach of most people. You need an omniscient presence for it. Or a non-participant narrator who the reader can accept as capable of engaging with a scene beyond the limits of an occupied, active body or two. So everything has to be re-written, and the voice that springs from the shift in POV is a rambling, brambly thorny thing that will require a lot of pruning. But for now, I’m letting it burble all over the place.
There’s a framing issue too, with a house full of survivors at the beginning and end of the book, with some appearances in the middle. I hope to use this as a black-lined landmark, as a way to make manifest the truth of endurance in a lost ‘ended’ world. It’s all quite tenuous right now, but I am anxious to learn how to structure things in an overt manner. How to indicate, intimate and outright tell, when in past works my efforts have been to hint, leave room for doubt – in fact to have doubt and uncertainty as structuring elements. At the same time, an apocalypse is full of perhaps. Ahh, lots to wrangle with. Writing is never just writing. It refuses to be one sentence after another, refuses to simply be linear progression.
On that point, I’m reading Da Happie Laand, a book full of islandness, mystery, things spoken and told again in different ways, historical and fictional histories, first-person screeds. And Bible-bashers, former Satanists, a missing father and a drunken laird. A book to consider for its framing devises and choices of POV. And around the reading, I am working, and hiding from the changeable weather, and planning the next hill to walk up with D, or the next shore to pace. Still waiting to hear verdict back from a couple of agents who are considering Flesh of the Peach, and from the press who are interested in Kilea. Waiting, and most of all hoping there will be a lot of hard graft in my future.
Valleys and hills, and vistas through angles of blue-grey stone.