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Jay Lake
Date: 2011-10-12 05:51
Subject: [writing|process] Poetry and fiction
Security: Public
Tags:books, green, mainspring, process, starship, writing

Yesterday, the inestimable [info]jimvanpelt made a terrifically interesting post about recasting prose as poetry in order to more effectively see what kinds of language choices the writer had made.

Being me, I of course immediately had to try this. It’s, well, interesting. I give you several examples.

The opening to Mainspring, recast as poetry.

The angel
Gleamed in the light of
Hethor’s reading candle
Bright as any brasswork automaton
The young man
Clutched his threadbare coverlet
In the irrational hope
That the quilted cotton scraps
Could shield him
From whatever power
Had invaded his attic room.
He closed his eyes

The opening to Green….

The first thing I can remember
In this life
Is my father
Driving his white ox
To the sky burial platforms
His back was before me
As we walked along a dusty road
All things were dusty
In the country of my birth
    Unless they were flooded
A ditch yawned at each side
To beckon me toward play
The fields beyond
Were drained of water and
    Filled with stubble
Though I could not now say
Which of the harvest seasons it was

The opening to Death of Starship

“Z-flotilla’s gone over to the rebels!”
Shouted one of the comm ensigns
Sweat beaded on the boy’s
Shaved head
He was still young enough
    To be excited by combat
NSS Enver Hoxha‘s battle bridge
Was wedge-shaped
Command stations
    At the narrow aft end
A giant array of displays
    At the blunt end
All finished out in military-grade carbonmesh
    And low-intensity gel interfaces
A dozen duty stations
Arrayed before and below Captain Saenz
Eighteen officers and men
Laboring wet-backed and trembling
In the service of their own
    Imminent death
Everything reeked
Of panicked men
And distressed electronics

That last one’s a little strange, but I think they all three hold up okay. Am I poetic? Lyrical? Who’s to say from three opening passages?

How does this work on your fiction?

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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Laura Anne Gilman
User: suricattus
Date: 2011-10-12 13:04 (UTC)
Subject: hrmmmmm
Three different projects, each with a very different voice....

opening of the WiP (short story)

Unlike the sax,
the trombone
blasts its way onto the scene,
sliding like a triumphant runner
into third base,
giving the rest of the band a neener-neener
as it brushes itself off
and accepts
the accolades of the crowd.
You needed a certain kind of arrogance
to pick up a trombone,
and you needed even more
to keep playing
until you got the hang of it.

opening to PORTALS (UF)

Jan had,
over the years,
a very basic morning routine,
Monday through Friday.
Roll out of bed
two minutes before the alarm went off,
take the litany of pills waiting on her nightstand
-birth control, asthma meds, iron supplements –
then stagger into the kitchen and pour herself
a glass of grapefruit juice
while the coffee maker
-set to go off exactly at 6am –
started it’s spluttering little song.
Pour that first cup of coffee, feel her neurons start to fire,
and head back across the apartment
to her office.
Flip open the laptop,
start the email download
to see what fresh hell her office had sent her

opening to Gen & Tonic #1 (a straight mystery)

Mary’s was
a classic neighborhood
hangout. Not a dive,
not a high-class joint,
just a place where you could let your hair down
a little
and walk home afterward,
where strangers were noticed
but not bothered,
and the regulars
looked after
each other.

Well, I can see the influence of a certain school of poetry in my work, yeah.... (not a surprise)
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Jay Lake: writing-smiling_stone
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-10-12 13:18 (UTC)
Subject: Re: hrmmmmm
Ghu,I like that WiP snippet as poetry.

:: must go buy Suri books now ::
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When life gives you lemmings...
User: danjite
Date: 2011-10-12 14:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am going to get my copy of Trial of Flowers immediately and try this.
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Jay Lake: writing-Trial_of_Flowers
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-10-12 14:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There once was a dwarf named Bijaz
How many weird fetishes he has
We all came to know
When written just so
In that Jay Lake book with such pizazz
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2011-10-12 15:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hey, I've made poems using this technique before. It started when I had a random fragment that I didn't know what to do with, put some line breaks in, and voila! Poem.
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User: goulo
Date: 2011-10-13 11:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For me, this kind of "I'll just insert line breaks into my prose" style of poetry doesn't do much as poetry, though I can see it might be a useful tool for analyzing stuff about one's prose.
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