Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ender vs Roland; The Final Battle

Between work and residency interviews I have been travelling a lot in the past few months. Recently, during another drive up and down I-5 I tried to listen to the audio book The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, the first in a series of novels by Stephen King. In my teenage years I devoured Stephen King novels. I don't think I've touched one since. What I remember makes me think that most of his work should stay in the teenage years. However, I had a conversation with a friend who was excited about the series being turned into a movie and emphatically encouraged me to read the The Dark Tower series again. I was unsure whether or not I had started this series before, but after getting into the audiobook, I was reminded that I indeed had. I was also reminded why I didn't continue the series.

Wikipedia states that the King's work is inspired by a poem by Robert Browning, published in 1855. And, it is clear that his inspiration is reflected in the flowery, prose-like text. It is so full of adjectives and abstract descriptions of everything and everyone that I found myself having to refocus my attention every few minutes and try and see if I remembered where the story had gone. Similar to driving up and down I-5, where the miles blend together and the mountains between Redding and Ashland seem like just a passing moment. Was it just this way because I was listening to, instead of reading the novel? I was curious and it made me wonder whether I would, now, think differently of the style of writing if read versus heard.

I spent more time pondering how I write, and what styles I subconsciously adhere to (ending a sentence with a proposition is a style that I actually think is okay, seeing as how that "rule" stems from Latin grammar and the Oxford Dictionary people are on wax stating that this rule is not appropriate for modern English written communica.) I also recently listened to Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, another novel I read as a teenager, but also one that has stood the test of time in fantastic fashion. In some ways, it translated to an audiobook perfectly. It also represents that type of writing that I would like to emulate (not the quasi-anti-semitism part) especially the action scenes that he penned. How does one go about writing an action scene that is engrossing to the reader? It is a difficult task. And one that I am struggling with currently. In a way, I'm hoping that writing about it will allow the words to flow and the action to become naturally apparent on the page.

In a world that loves hyperbole and is quick to label current events as "the greatest or worst of all time" how does one try to write an event that is awe inspiring? My personality, which is inseparable from my writing, defaults to a fact based narrative that allows the reader to assemble the story and magnitude in their own mind. When I describe a tremendous earthquake that causes half of a mountain to slide into a wide river gorge, pushing the river high onto the opposing canyon wall it seems impossible to understate the awesomeness of this scene. But writing it how it deserves to be described pushes me into using words that are commonly used in any sports article or (boo! hiss!) political news story. If Orson Scott Card was writing it he would simply describe what was going on, providing the facts that lead the reader to realize what a momentous event they were "witnessing."

I am a scientist now -- a scientist of the human condition, more commonly known as a physician. That is a limited description of a physician however -- the art of medicine is a thing for a reason. Being a physician allows for the marriage of science and humanities unlike any other state of being that I know of. I embrace this marriage and I like to think that this dynamic plays into my writing. When one side becomes more dominant I become uneasy, and I think that the The Dark Tower is, for me, too full of conclusions in the form of adjective overdose. When each character, landscape and interaction is given a paragraph of lengthy description I am unable to build a scene for myself. I want the building blocks, not a finished product for my mind's eye while reading fiction. And this is why I want to exchange my audiobook for another one -- good thing Audible had a bunch of free credits with my Amazon account.

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