Musings: Writing in the Negative Space

I’m baaaa-aaaaack!

G’day!

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine, recently. This friend is insanely talented (he writes and draws), and we were talking over a collaborative idea I’d had for both of us to work on (said collaborative idea involving a graphic novel/comic style book).

This led us into a discussion of the sort of illustration style I had in mind–which, to be honest, mostly served to illustrate (ha! see what I did there?) how little idea I had of the style I wanted, and how little I knew about drawing and graphics as a whole. One of the art styles I brought up as something I liked was the art of Hellboy, which led off into another discussion–this one about the use of negative space.

Negative space.

Mike Mignola's Hellboy

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy

It’s a concept that I’d heard of before, but not in a while. The concept, like the style, is deceptively simple: negative space is the space that surrounds an object (the positive space) in an image. In the concept of negative space, this space is just as important–and in some cases, more important–than the positive space. It defines the positive space. It gives the positive space its meaning and boundaries. As a method of illustration, it brings a certain starkness and boldness of style that I love.

After discussing this with my friend, it occurred to me that I’m fond of negative space in more than just illustrations. I’m also a huge fan of negative space when it comes to reading–and writing.

On the face of it, you’d say that it’s not possible to used negative space for anything that isn’t visual. I would then say that you’re dead wrong. (If, on the other hand, you’d say that you agree completely, I’d stutter around a bit because the conversation was not going the way it went in my head and I was now flailing while my brain re-routed it.)

Because of course it’s possible. The execution may be slightly different, but the idea of presenting a concept, world, or character by using factors and indicators outside of the actual concept, world, or character, is a totally legitimate form of writing. It’s also a very effective one.

So there you have it, guys.

Basically, if you ever read one of my books that doesn’t make sense to you, or where the world-building, characters, or concept is never fully explained, it’s just me writing in the negative space and you obviously haven’t been clever enough to understand my genius *snark, snark* (IT’S ALL THERE IN THE SUBTEXT, GUYS.)

Seriously, though.

Negative space is one of my favourite styles of writing–was even before I thought of it as an actual style–and I typically try to explain as little as possible, leaving the reader to figure things out on their own by the way the book is written and the way the characters act and react. (“Never apologise, never explain”, as Antonia Forest says through her Navy-trained characters).

Because I trust you guys to be clever enough to get it. Sometimes, of course, that backfires on me, because sometimes I forget how much I know about the story as a whole, and don’t give my readers enough to work with.

In other words, negative space can be a double-edged sword, which means it needs to be handled very carefully (especially if you’re inclined to clumsiness, like me). But when done well, it’s delightful to read.

My favourite users of negative space: Antonia Forest, Ronald Kidd, Diana Wynne Jones, and Nicholas Fisk.

Antonia Forest uses her negative space in the form of conversation: aka, what is often not written in the form of narrative is given to the reader just as clearly by effective dialogue. It shapes the narrative rather than the narrative shaping it.

In a similar fashion, Ronald Kidd (especially in the fabulous Sizzle and Splat) writes whole passages of dialogue only, and it is amazingly effective. Seriously, go and read Sizzle and Splat right now.

Diana Wynne Jones uses her negative space more in the way of spare, no-nonsense narrative that in its simplicity says a lot more than another writer would say in twice as many words. She uses simple words and easy sentences, and they’re superbly  effective.

Nicholas Fisk, now: he’s the the really interesting one. His negative space is more of an idea than an actual thing. It’s the adult perspective. See, he writes children’s books. I could read them easily as a child and understood and loved them. Now that I read them as an adult, its as though there’s a second layer there: a layer just for me as an adult, that shapes the story into different–and yet they’re just the same–lines than it had when I was a child.

I don’t always do it well, and I don’t always do it effectively, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop using negative space.

Resolved…Not To Make New Year Resolutions

List pic

Makin’ a list! Checkin’ it tw- Wait, no, that’s Santa…

Okay. So I broke that resolution already. But it’s not all bad! I’m gonna keep the others on the list!

Er.

Well. I’m going to try.

So what’s going on for me in the new year? So, so much. In terms of resolutions, I’ve made a new daily wordcount goal: 2000 wpd instead of 1000 wpd. If NaNoWriMo showed me anything, it’s that I can write 2000 wpd when I’m not procrastinating.

I’ve also decided that I’m not going to be buying any clothes this year. I have too many already, and if I get the urge for new clothes, I have stacks upon stacks of fabric and patterns, and a perfectly good sewing machine that I actually like using. So if I want new clothes, I’ll make ’em.

In terms of writing, I have a few things that I’m planning to do in the new year.

Firstly, I’m excited to celebrate MASQUE’s 1st birthday for the month of January (it’s actually Feb 1st, which is when the sale/giveaway/celebration will last until). In pursuance of that, MASQUE is on Wattpad, and I’m currently in the exhausting throes of making a Podiobook of it. I’ll attempt to upload a chapter per week, but I’m still scrambling audio equipment together for the attempt and making dreadful, error-laden practise recordings. Still, the first chapter of MASQUE’s Podiobook should go live this month.

Secondly, I have a busy publication schedule for this year. I’m hoping to Keep calm and make a listfinish and publish the third novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD novella. There will also be the second book in my Two Monarchies Sequence, BLACKFOOT; and if I’m very good and very quick, there might even be the third book, THE STAFF AND THE CROWN. In between those two books I’m planning on a shorter companion novella for the SHARDS series, and the second book in my TIME-TRAVELLER’S BEST FRIEND series.

Well, that’s my plan for the new year. What’s yours?

Bring it on, 2016!

(Images from Practical Glamour and Etsy)

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: Writing Music!

 

Mostly I talk about books and movies, stuff that inspires, delights, and makes me think. But I’ve hitherto neglected to mention in this series the music that inspires and delights me. So today I’m concentrating on my writing music–aka, music I listen to as I write my books–which is why you guys get a video (or three).

I listen to a few different artists as I write, with the most frequently listened-to being Lindsay Stirling, The Piano Guys, and Evanescence. I also like to listen to Nightwish, Within Temptation, and a range of movie soundtracks with wonderful music. Lately, I’ve also purchased a CD of New Orleans music with a dixie/jazz type of sound to it. Listening to music as I write can improve my productivity by up to 100%: I’m far more likely to write 3-6k on a day that I play music as I write, than on a day where I write in silence or with the TV in the back ground. Mind you, The A-Team is great to write to as well, but I do get distracted by the flamin’ awesomeness of Murdock sometimes…

Well, NaNoWriMo is still going, and I still have words to write, so it’s ciao for now! What are you guys listening to as you read/write?

Writerly Things

I like to Google-Search stuff sometimes. Sometimes it’s writerly stuff that I need to know (for instance, when the screwdriver was first invented/mentioned) and sometimes it just weird stuff that occurs to me as I’m taking a break from writing (or procrastinating, as it’s otherwise known).Writer 1

This afternoon I Google-Searched for images of writers. It came up with some interesting pictures. According to Google, writers are people who drink, smoke, love cats, tea and/or coffee, and live in cluttered, paper-strewn offices and studio apartments.

And my personal favourite?

Writer the last

<– This guy. He’s wondering what the heck he did to bring himself to this point in his life.

By and large, then, there seems to be a general idea of what a writer is/likes/does. Which is interesting, because it prompted me to think about the writers I know (other than myself, of course).

99% of the writers I know love and/or have cats. Myself, I feel about cats much the same way that I feel about spiders. Most of ’em are too big to squish without feeling sick and the ones that aren’t make you feel creepy-crawly up the back for ages after you do squish ’em. If you want to know more about my brief experiment with having a cat in my house, I refer you to The Saga Of Cat. TL;DR? It didn’t work out so well. I’m definitely a dog person.

Writer 2

Smoking and drinking? Don’t know many writers who smoke: we seem to (mostly) know better nowadays. Drinking appears to be more common, though from what I can tell it’s more of a celebratory/after work type thing. The days of artistically drunk writers who scrawl away under the influence seem to be largely gone. Though if you replace ‘whiskey’ with ‘bacon’, then I, too, frequently write while under the influence. Each to his own, eh?

Tea and coffee now, that’s where I become properly writerly. I love my cuppa tea. Several a day, in fact. Writers are divided between tea and coffee, but it’s always either one or the other. Can’t get through the day without at least one cup. Getting up when you’re stuck at a difficult part in the paragraph, savouring a moment of peace in the storm of words with your fingers wrapped around a warm cup and the scent of tea lingering in the steam. Pepping yourself up with the caffeine. We’ve all been there.

writer 5Now when it comes right down to littered houses, I’m slightly red-faced. My house isn’t in the best state at the moment. That, however, is not a constant state: if I have too much clutter around me, I can’t concentrate, and I can’t write. There are sometimes that I literally have to clean before I can settle to write. Procrastination? Writer’s Block? Maybe. But I prefer a clean house. The other writers I know waver between highs of spotlessly clean desk/house/nook/other, and troughs of the time in between, when everything slides slowly until it’s a huge mess again.

So what are your writerly things? What are some of the stereotypes you’ve seen? Are they some of the ones I’ve mentioned, or do you have your own weird writerly things that no one else seems to have?