Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The fall of the internet and preoccupations with outdoor activities

One day, I came home and the internet network I had been conveniently connecting to no longer existed. I believe there is a direct correlation between this happening and the random vanishing of one of my neighbors and all of his belongings, but I could be incorrect. In any case, this day began a long and internet-less period which even now continues.

I know it sounds terrifying, but far from being the stroke of doom that it seems, it has in fact been kind of refreshing. If I desire internet (which I often do not after a whole day seeking to distract myself with it at work) I toddle on down to the local ice cream parlour. Yes, we have an ice cream parlour, or in actuality, an Ice Cream and Soda Shop (which also sells awesome grilled cheese inventions accompanied with popcorn). The owner is also a bagpiper. I play with him at sessions in a pub downtown, which is not, in fact, how we met, but how I came to spend time at his store. He and his wife run their ice cream and soda shop, adopt children and keep creepy and exotic artifacts in their random cellar-museum of creepy. Don't tell him I told you. It's a secret.

Now, having become a bit more social, and investing myself a bit more in my surroundings, I have recalled one of my two most imposing writer-flaws. No, making up words and terms is not among said writer-flaws; in fact, I would say that as a writer I sometimes have trouble keeping my tone and diction from becoming too rigid, though this is not that imposing at the moment. No, the specific fault that I am discussing has nothing to do with wordliness or lack thereof, but with worldliness, or, more accurately, with place. In other terms, setting, the framework of the story, is at times an intense problem for me. You see, I have a very loose attachment to settings. Oh surely, I can describe images to you. For example, I could describe to you Pop's Ice Cream and Soda Shop, detailing the tiny kitchen and rounded teal bar, the black stools that wobble and spin, the tiny booths, the stack of family games in the corner and the random collection of bagpipe parafenalia floating upon the cheery pink and teal of 50's decor. I could also tell you about walking into the tiny doorway to be greeted by an image of shop owner, adopted daughter and random youth doing an ab workout in the middle of the tile floor with rapid, jerky motions, only to start up as if embarassed upon my entrance and explain, as if it were an explanation, that said random youth's phone had rang (this, if nothing else, will give you an idea of the character of the clientel).

No, the problem is not the ice cream parlour itself. It is the location of said ice cream parlour. How, for example, does it connect to other significant spaces in my life, such as my place of work, the pub downtown, or my apartment? Where is downtown? What does downtown look like? For that matter, where is the ice cream parlour? In what neighbourhood does it reside? How do you get there? Does it matter? In real life, I could probably answer these questions fairly easily. But in stories this becomes an Achilles' heel, with certain spaces vivid in my mind and others disconnected, indistinct. I cannot make the characters interrelate with their setting as well as I'd like, because I don't really grasp it myself.

To address this chink it my scrivener's armour, I have come up with a plan. It is a plan that involves short stories of the slightly unsettling variety, with a lot of inclusion of elements of my own current location thrown in so that I can focus on the art of setting construction first, and then use the skills acquired to capture my own imagined landscapes (which do exist in many ways quite solidly, if incommunicably).

Also, I will hopefully be posting a review of the lovely book "Act of Will," which I just finished reading not two hours ago, for your viewing pleasure by sometime Friday. Stay tuned. : )

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