Throw Away Lines

I stayed up late last night, re-reading an old favorite: Glen Cook’s The Black Company. It is a military fantasy, telling the story through the eyes of the company physician and annalist. The world is bleak, harsh, and gritty; the story is primarily action and military campaigning with a dash of romanticism and politics thrown in. It is a very good read.

And that is what I wanted to study. Cook is very good, in my ever-so-humble opinion, at showing us the depth and breadth of the world he has created without ever pausing for pure description or exposition. Instead, all the details of the campaign are given in the protaganist’s writings, and all the history of the characters and setting comes through throw away lines that have very little to do with the action of the moment. It is these lines coming every once in a while that build the background over the course of the novel.

This is something I have been thinking about a lot over the course of this month as I gear up for Nanowrimo next month. I have my characters and settings, and an idea of the story, but I have been considering changing writing styles. Both of my previous attempts were in different styles – conversational and first person limited, respectively – and I thought I might try something different. (For one thing, I have decided to try to limit myself to only one or two clauses per sentence, unlike my usual run-on descriptives.)

So I have been re-reading a few of my old favorites, trying to analyze just why they are my favorites and if there is anythind I can steal borrow from the authors. In this case, I would really like to be able to paint the background without ever having to flashback or throw in exposition, similar to what Cook does.

Something to try, I guess.

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Filed under Learning From the Master, Stories I Tell Myself At Night, The Language We Speak

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