A while ago I got a hardcover book by Alan Moore called Jerusalem. I have a few 900 page books. Which is intimidating if your not a reader. But this a whopping 1200 pages! If you know Alan Moore’s Graphic Novels, he’s like Philip K. Dick in the sense that he writes incredibly dense subject matter.
I’m currently reading Margaret George’s The Memoirs of Cleopatra in my leisure. While reading smaller books on the side. Not that I would ever treat her fantastic work in historical fiction as a side hoe. The romance just feels repetitive sometimes. (Wait, I sound exactly like someone who is cheating.) I’ll speak more on that later. It is also one of the 900 page books I was referring too. I have not had the pleasure of reading Mr. Moore’s Jerusalem. But I thought that I might purchase the Audible version and listen to it while I worked. Several points were made about his writing in the Audible version. I’ll start with the one that inspired this post.
One of the reviewers wrote a few paragraphs on the audacity that Alan Moore had very little editing for his book. This reviewer felt that a large portion could have been taken out to help the pace of the book. He scoffed at the arrogance of a writer who dismisses the importance of editing.
“Look at me! Aren’t I clever? See how many different styles of writing I can pack into 1200 pages? Isn’t that just genius? See me describe even the slightest event in the most unnecessarily colorful language ever put to paper. See how I can make even the tamping out of a cigarette sound like an ode to stars twinkling in the heavens? Have you ever seen anyone display such genius in writing before?”
This made me laugh hard and loud. Because I’ve been following his comics for years, and find him to be a very interesting fellow. I would even go as far to say that he is an intellectual giant in the field of literature. The structure of his writing is beautiful and poetic. Like most intellectuals who have gained global stardom for their achievements. He carries a back pack for his tremendous ego.
Another reviewer made a valid point as well. It wasn’t nearly as comical, so I won’t go to the trouble of finding it. He said something about a book like this really can’t be listened to. It must must be read. As a writer who not only reads for enjoyment, but also studies the craft of writing. I applaud this person’s understanding for Alan Moore’s art. He comes from an era of anti-establishment counter culture. By today’s standards you could call him a hipster. He doesn’t write for fame, or for women, or even for wealth. Therefore his work is purely an extension of his thoughts and feelings unfiltered. Artist’s can do things in the name of creativity that would make your average lets say construction worker scratch his head.
I’ll use The Memoirs of Cleopatra as an example of less is more. Despite the fact historical fiction is probably a poor example because the author has to follow historical points. The history is what attracts the reader. Filling in the blanks is what keeps the reader interested. This story honestly made me want to go to Egypt. It puts you in a trance and makes you feel like you are there. I can’t express how good this book is. However while reading the love story between Caesar and Cleopatra is tantalizing… at first. The moments of reflection drag on a bit for my taste.
You have her arrogant dysfunctional family who seeks the crown. Caesar’s power in politics, and military strategy is brilliantly brought to life. You really feel the weight on his shoulders. When the two historical figures meet Cleopatra makes his many worries fade away. We have no idea what was spoken between the two in reality. Hence the fictional element giving them a realistic charm.
In the story where I am at. Cleopatra is Queen and she has a plethora of problems. Keeping the reader wondering how she will handle the situation. Especially without the aid of science. (Well maybe that’s just me, but I digress.) While it was interesting at first. I care very little for Caesar and Rome at this point. The story development is great. But Caesar does not draw you in like he did at first. Making Cleopatra come off as a dully naive and cliche romance character. When she’s not reminiscing she’s incredibly three dimensional and fascinating. This happens a lot with romantic stories where the writer separates the two.
I feel like when she is reminiscing about him it’s drawn out to make it dramatic. At first you really feel for her and your captured in the moment. Then it gets to the point where the silk is described to the point of exhaustion. Making the pace of the story slam on the brakes.
I feel like a good rule of thumb is to flex your capabilities in a situation where the context is needed. I’ll use three simple examples.
Example A: The dog ran until he reached the road. He checked for cars, and continued onward.
Using Alan Moore’s Writing for comics. He suggests that when you write. You leave a bit of mystery to keep the reader entranced.
Example B: A husky runs with a red leash dragging behind him in the spring grass. His tail wags and he increases speed out of excitement for his new freedom. That is until he reaches the asphalt. Even the simplest creatures know to use caution at this point.
There’s no immediate satisfaction in story telling. It doesn’t work. It’s like a steak. You can plop it in a skillet, turn the stove on high. Yeah, it’ll be ready in twenty minutes, But… it’s a steak. Have some respect. It needs to be seasoned and marinated. Slowly cooked on a grill. So it maintains that smoky flavor while savoring it’s natural juices combined with the added spices.
Example C: The wet blades of grass are being ripped from the roots of the earth by the claws of fury from this Alaskan pure canine. As his muscles flex beneath it’s fur. This dog, if one wishes to call such a beautiful and magnificent creature such a lowly label. Only an arrogant species such as humans would call them as such. He increases velocity as to escape imprisonment. His red leash drags across the ground. Each slick blade of grass wipes across the Huskies shackle. Saliva gathers between the fangs of man’s greatest servant. Drizzling out as he gains momentum even further into freedom. He arrives at the pinnacle of decisions when he is greeted with the hard grey surface. As humans swipe back and forth in their machines. Artificial beams of light have reflected into the eyes of countless creatures sent to their bloody deaths. There’s no going back! He takes the leap forward.
Your steak is burning.
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