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Just so you know, it’s 2:37 AM, I’m wide awake, and the only chocolate in the house is a bag of chocolate chips.  I’m sure it’s better for me to eat them this way than bake cookies.

So, what goes bump in my head at this time of night?  Well, it’s complicated.  Isn’t it always? For that reason I keep my trusty little iPad next to my bed, so that I can dump the noise in my head onto the notepad, theoretically clearing my head so that I can go to sleep.  With my  trusty little iPad I don’t even have to turn on a light; I just touch the little microphone icon and speak.  It doesn’t just record my midnight meanderings, it types them out for me. With some very amusing mistakes.  But I digress.

It’s not true what they say about women being more verbal than men, you know. At least it’s not true in my family.  I’m surrounded by males who are far more linguistically agile than I am, and it keeps me on my toes, I can tell you. (Here’s where my trusty little iPad was amusing: it typed “and keeps me on my trousers”).    I don’t get to speak with Randall, or the three grandsons very often, but when I do it’s guaranteed to be an entertaining conversation.  I do speak with Adam (of Badger’s TreeChange) regularly, and our conversations are usually a hoot. He makes me laugh. All of the aforementioned have some claim to being writers, even from a very early age, so it’s hardly surprising that writing and reading all figure prominently in any conversation, as does laughter.

Adam and I often set each other little writing exercises, or challenges.  The current one is about “voice.”  We have each selected an author, and book, for the other to attempt to capture the voice of.  (Yes, I know I ended the sentence with a preposition. Deal.)  Anyway, I gave him an easy one–Ambrose Bierce’s short story “Oil of Dog.”  I originally set Paul Coelho’s The Achemist, but Adam pointed out that as it was written in Portuguese and translated into English, it would not be an accurate portrayal of Coelho’s ‘voice.’  How pedantic can you be?  Anyway, Bierce it is.  He will write a short story in the voice of Ambrose Bierce.  He (Adam) has set for me the task of writing something in the voice  of Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story, Olalla.  Don’t worry; I hadn’t read it either.  So, once I’ve finished reading it, I shall set out to write something in the same voice.  Wish me luck.

I’ve written here before about my fondness for metaphors.  The metaphor is a great writing tool, but one I struggle to master, so when I read the following one recently, I was inclined to have a go at it myself.  The basic metaphor is raking over the coals; it can be used in a variety of ways, which I’ll mention in a moment.  First let’s look at two versions of the same metaphor:

“Raking o’er cooling coals.
When I’ve raked camping coals, a lot of smoke is produced, issues puff up then dissolve and stinging cinders of the past hurt my eyes, making them water, in fact tears.”

then my effort:  

I prodded the smouldering embers, wondering if there was enough heat left in the coals to last the night. The gentle raking of the coals brought a burst of flame.  It flickered, as if looking for something to keep it alight. Was it worth keeping the flame alive?  Worth adding another log to preserve the warmth? Or better left as a memory bereft of heat…

Either version of “raking over the coals” could be used as a metaphor for looking back at   a chapter or event in ones life, or marriage, or career.  Autobiographical or fictional, useful when writing ones memoirs, or building a character in a novel.

The first metaphor is a powerful one — evocative and somewhat bleak.  It leaves little doubt about the undesirability of revisiting the memories. A fait accompli.  It would be useful for describing a failed marriage, a miserable life, or any generally unhappy memory.

The second example springs from a more buoyant spirit, one that bespeaks opportunity, allows for a different outcome.  It  would be useful in reflecting on specific turning points in life, such as in a marriage, or a career. The same metaphor–different mood…

So that’s me, waxing philosophical in the wee hours. I’ve run out of chocolate chips, and the study is too cold to stay in any longer without turning up the heat.  I think I’ll just let the embers die, metaphorically speaking.        MM

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