A Delicate Machinery

Mechanics is a dirty word when it comes to writing. The standard thought is that if the underlying machinery is done well, it should be invisible. If part of the scaffolding peers out from the written monument, it is nearly as embarrassing as flashing a Victorian ankle.

Like the view of the ankle, the value of specific stylistic decisions change over time while the underlying flesh and bones remain.

I am, surprisingly or maybe not, someone who loves a wide range of traditional, formal poetry from a variety of cultural backgrounds. I also enjoy reading through stories that have obviously been transcribed from oral accounts. One of my biggest sorrows is that we do not look enough to lessons learned over millenia of musical and story-telling traditions when writing.

There is a music to our memory.

Phrases and verses that capture us are often grounded in deep heartbeat rhythms designed not only to be easy to remember, but to pull a captive audience along with the flow of the words.

I read my own writing out loud, using years of classical music training to ruthlessly slash the stuttered beats and rough transitions.

When I read, I listen for a similar music reaching up to me, to hear crescendos and diminuendos build to climaxes and fall away to echoes.

This is a delicate machinery – threadbare cogs moving carefully, inexorably beneath the ink.

I look for that machinery, close my eyes to line the words with my own internal clock, a steady rhythm beneath the ribs.

IMG_1511Even thinly veiled machinery has its place… and its beauty

I’m always interested in the intersection of form and music in writing.


To see my own take on a written story-telling tradition, you can check out my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, which is available here.

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