December 29

Evolution of Language

One of the aspects of reading and writing that I find fascinating is the evolution of language. I’m one of those people who likes to read the occasional classic piece of literature (think Dickens, Tolstoy, Gogol, etc.) and I’m always amazed when I finish an older novel or story collection and then dive into something modern. The difference in how the words are used, how idioms have changed, the way sentences flow is so different. For good or bad, language has evolved over the years and continues to do so.

When it comes to the classics, I love the way those authors wrote, the language they used, the way they described things. It’s so proper and eloquent. I picture them at their writing desks, cup of tea or glass of brandy at hand, dipping their quills into the ink pot and furiously scratching away at the rough paper. Of course, they wear their dress coats, an oil lamp burning at one side, and a maid (or butler) brings them dinner on a covered plate.

Yes, I’m romanticizing, but that is the image their words invoke on my imagination. Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, all struggling at their craft while tied to some antiquated notion of propriety.

Then I read something from the early twentieth century, a Hemingway, London, maybe Dos Passos or Wolfe, and the language changes. There is still a formal note to the words, but it starts to relax, to become more conversational. The rules that kept language on a short leash are beginning to be ignored and this allows writers to have more leeway when it comes to crafting their stories.

Jump ahead to the mid-twentieth century and the rules are completely disregarded. This is where we get Kerouac, Burroughs, Burgess, Vonnegut. Experimentation, which began thirty or forty years earlier, is now in full bloom. There is still some formality to the writing business, authors who work within the confines of what is proper when it comes to grammar and composition, but it is the experimentation that allows language to expand and grow.

Today, all bets are off. The wild experimentation in writing has quieted, but the bloom from last century now allows many writers to feel comfortable with trying something new. Writers still have to learn the rules, but now they don’t have to adhere to them. Language continues to evolve, now through the magic of email and text messaging, and where this may lead us is anyone’s guess. Will stories become a collection of acronyms, abbreviations, and emoticons? Will there be a revolution to return us to a classic state?

I think there is room for a little bit of everything and I think it’ll be interesting to see where the evolution takes us in the next ten years. While I’m not a fan of the current trend to use abbreviations (“u” for “you”, for example), I also believe that writing is an art and experimentation should be encouraged and explored. The results could be interesting and open up new avenues for writers.

Who knows? Maybe there will be a shift to an entirely new form of writing and the words we write today will at some point in the future be considered quaint and classic. It’ll be fun to see where the evolution of language takes us.

RB

December 24

It’s about perspective…

I’ve had a story idea incubating in my head for a few years now, and I think I’ve finally figured out how to write it.

Cue sigh of relief.

I originally had the idea a few years ago. I immediately sat down and starting writing, but hit the wall after two pages. So I set it aside for a few months, then came back and tried again. Same result. So I set it aside for a few months…well, you get the picture.

Getting stuck on a story isn’t anything new, but what was most frustrating about this particular story was the fact that I knew it was good, or at least had the potential to be good. I could even see the basic arc framed in my mind. I just couldn’t get beyond the opening. Five hundred words, then BAM, the brakes lock up.

So I finally said “screw it” and filed it away in my “In Progress” folder. But even though the story was out of sight, I continued to think about it. At odd times it would stir and peek out from the depths of my unconscious mind. I’d notice it moving about back there, but I still couldn’t see beyond that damn wall.

Over time, I realized that I was missing something. The story was there, but I was overlooking some important aspect, some trigger that would collapse that blockage and let me push through. I tried different things, like changing the character names, their ages, the POV, but nothing clicked. I even tried beating my head against the wall, but that only resulted in a minor headache and paint chips embedded in my forehead.

As the saying goes, persistence pays off. Two days ago the story again popped back into my mind, so I opened the old files to look over what I had written. As I read and re-read through the drafts, I began to feel a light flickering on in my brain. It was there, the answer, almost within reach…

Then I had it.

I pulled out a fresh spiral notebook, grabbed a pen, and began writing. I had found my answer…it was there in front of me the entire time. The problem – or MY problem – was that I was trying to write in a straight-forward, generic way. I wasn’t being creative. It was like I had regressed to some early story-telling phase and forgot to push the envelope.

Basically, I was writing from point A to point B. Nothing exciting, nothing creative, nothing to capture the imagination. Because of this, I wasn’t pulling myself into the story. I was boring myself. I realized that’s what I was missing.

So now I’m rethinking it. The basic premise is the same, but now I’m going to have fun with it, see if I can put my characters through the wringer, twist them up, sprinkle in a little madness, betrayal, excitement.

It’s interesting to note how we can get so focused on seeing something a certain way that it clouds our judgement and our ability to see other perspectives. We just have to remember to push ourselves to think differently, to try something new, to explore the unknown. That’s where true creativity comes from.

RB

December 15

Time for a Change

Now that the seasons are changing, I thought it would be a good time to update the look of my website. The last theme has been active for just over a year and I was tired of it. I think the site now looks cleaner and more professional. Hope you like it, as well.

RB

December 3

Acceptance

And on the heels of rejection comes acceptance.

I received word that my short story, “Reflections in Blue Water”, will be published in the February 2019 edition of the Blue Lake Review.

I’ve always considered “Reflections…” to be one of my outliers. Meaning, it’s more of a literary piece and much different from the science fiction/horror/bizarre fiction that I usually write.

I’m always excited to see one of my stories accepted and I hope you enjoy reading it in the Blue Lake Review come February 2019.

RB