Learning to Fly Author Note #1


‘Nuff said.

Okay, not really. First, confession time, sure it’s a bit of laziness. Long descriptions take time. It’s like doing intricate details in a painting or sculpture, it requres care, a steady hand and what essentially amounts to “stories within the story”. The description of a bunch of ants doing what they did to that finger at the beginning of Blue Velvet, for example. Says something that the film overall probably does not; a counterpoint.

If you really want me to go all literary, then the priest at the beginning of Les Miserables. You’d think he’s the main bloody character, but no, he’s merely the main character’s optometrist who disappears after handing him some stuff. (Do not write a book report stating that. Trust me. There’s a very good reason Hugo did that description).

However, I have several excuses (beyond laziness), all of which I will share with you now.

1) Tech. I’m typing this damn thing on a small, mobile device. Then I email that to myself, go to the library and use one of their PCs to format it, and that’s limited to 30 minutes per day. Which means all editting must be done on the little, bitty thingy.


2) Hello Kitty and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Didn’t know they were married, did you? Well, no, not really. But part of the genius and success of both was the lack of description.

Kitty has a very neutral face that allows the owner of her products to project whatever he or she is feeling at a given time onto the face. Feeling happy? So is HK. Sad? So is she. Etc.

With Thomas Hardy’s (two) mayor(s)—while we know their height, hair color and some other details—it’s their personalities that really set them apart. Hardy allows the reader to project a face onto the characters based on our own experience and imagination. Know someone as moody as Henchard? There you go, just maybe make him taller. Know someone as kind as Farfae? Ditto. This is really how many books work, but I’m specifically choosing to go low-physical description. My favorite golden tan shade might not be yours.  

Allowing the reader to match faces to personalities interests me. I know what my Minister King looks like. What he looks like to the reader matters more than that since I’m not going to sit there and read it to you (well, probably).

I’d go almost as far to say that unless an author is introducing a very new concept (I’m not, I’m leaning on memes, depending on cliche to do the legwork, hopefully in my quasi-unique way) OR describing “how it was” (sure, I like to be transported to the past or some place I’ve never been and feel like I’m there) then over-description might be self-indulgent.

Basically, let the reader connect the dots, but do try to provide the damn dots.

3) Intended audience. It has come to my attention that blah, blah, blah. Zzzzz…

Hey, wake up!

I’m shooting for the undergrad crowd. Observation and anecdotal evidence suggests they don’t typically have the longest attention spans. I do not consider that an insult! I consider that adapting to the world in which they live. Texting, Twitter, Facebook, (not so much MTV anymore!) etc. “train” them to view a lot of stuff quickly, to process information without thinking about its ramifications, to move on to the next subject quickly, or be left behind.

While the implications of that probably disturb some, I can see how it could also be a valuable skill. (I’m looking at you robots who want to take over the world! The young will be faster than you! You, too, fast-moving zombies that didn’t exist when Michael Jackson was at his pinnacle). Theoretically, they’re still processing all that stuff, just at a faster rate via the unconscious.

Anyway, I’m thinking of the crowd who liked the old Adam West Batman spoofy TV show, ‘cept it’s probably their grandkids who are much more difficult to shock and enjoy the disgusting, the bizarre, and the naughty. You know, give the costumes some nipples. (Okay, actually please don’t do that…ever again).

To sum up, it’s for busy people who are (like most of the rest of us) scared shitless of everything they see, but are too busy to read a real novel (technically, this is a novella), and their minds tend to fill in the blanks anyway due to distraction overload.

4) No matter where I live, there are always people living above me who either:

Breed Clydesdales;
Squash grapes wearing cement clogs;
Are learning the Riverdance;
Have absolutely no concept that someone lives beneath them;
Or some combination of the above (they are not mutually exclusive possibilities, are they?)

Boohoo again. Point being, I can relate to heavy distraction. Goeth with the floweth.


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