Saturday, August 06, 2005

Warning Label: This Blog Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

This is a warning to all who are considering Anita's invitation and Shiloh's challenge.

Willow charcoal is used by artists to lay out the first lines of a portrait. Thin and delicate, it breaks easily, but these very qualities ensure that the artist will employ a light touch. Lines must not be deeply etched into paper in solid black while an idea is being born or they will transfer from paper to eye, to brain and changes will be nearly impossible.

Charcoal can be smudged, erased with the touch of a finger tip. The shadows left behind remind the artist where he hopes to go but do not force him to go there.

Why am I telling you this? Because all the arts share things in common and there are places where the arts turn dark.

If you must write here in the Chamber, hurry on with your plot, keep it moving swiftly, don't linger over characters or concentrate on details! Do you ever wonder what Delphine looks like, what the exact shade of her hair is when she sits reading and the light hits it just so, or if she tilts her head when she hears a strange noise? Don't ponder these things! Do not use specific words to describe her or employ your other senses! You've asked yourself what scent she used, haven't you? I knew it! Do not explore this question or ask yourself about the quality of her voice, if it's low and mellifluous or high pitched and raspy.

You still don't understand. Let me tell you a story. I used to like to draw portraits. Used to. I would start with the eyes, the mirror of the soul, they say. I knew if I could get a likeness there, I'd have success with the whole face. I drew mostly children and older people, people I knew well. One day a friend asked me to draw a portrait of her boss from a photograph. As usual, I began with the eyes.

I felt them looking back at me, but I'd experienced this feeling before on good drawing days, so I didn't worry. When I got to the mouth I had some difficulties, a smile just wouldn't come, the lips refused and I erased over and over again. I decided to switch to the hair. That was when I swore the eyes blinked. I discounted it, of course, until the lips formed a smirk and the eyes blinked again. I threw my drawing pad down and fled into the kitchen. When I came back, I crumpled the paper and threw it and the photo in the waste basket, but every time I opened my pad again the face was back, angrier and more snarly than before.

I took everything, drawingpad, photo, and charcoal outside and and did the only thing I could think of; I set fire to them.

To this day I can't get the sound of those screams out of my head.


Anita Marie Moscoso said...

Very well said Barbara!
I think a good story allows the reader to participate, to become involved.

If you tell them too much go for heavy descriptions and lead them around...where's the fun?
Where's the sense of adventure?

The big PLUS to involving your readers on this level is that you've allowed your them to become involved on an emotional level. By letting them go there on their own you don't have to resort to the big gross out or violence to get your reader to react.

Good Horror, from my point of view, is sly and sublte and stays with your readers long after they've closed the book.

And those screaming pages? They'll never leave them...ever.

Anita Marie

Believer said...

Just trying to follow your lead, my friend, and yes, I agree, the reader has to participate or, what have you got--nothing!

BTW--did you ever read--If on a Winters Night a Traveler. . . by Italo Calvino? Talk about reader participation! In the first chapter he sees you in the bookstore and keeps following you around urging you to buy this book.
He tells you that beginnings are always the best parts and that this is a book of all beginnings, which it is. What a hoot. One of the most unusual books I've ever read. It flags a bit at the end, but it's worth reading the first chapter just as an essay on readers trying to catch up on all the books they want to read. Really funny.

Veered off on a tangent there, but I miss our communal e-mails. I wonder how Sylvia is and so many of the others.

Anita Marie Moscoso said...

I'm looking for that book under advice from you! Not only that, but it wouldn't hurt to have a list of books or materials...even drawings for people to look at, you know things to help us on our writer's way.

Anita Marie