Style Training With Ursula K. Leguin, Exercise.1; Part.2

The second part of this first exercise follows similar instructions to the first with the added suggestion that the writer must describe an action or person feeling strong emotion. And to translate – through the movement of the prose- the emotions ( From: Steering the Craft, A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story)

Here, for my second piece of writing following the given instructions, I imagined a scene where a character is engulfed by an all-powerful feeling of grief and must overcome it. I attempted to portray, through the sound and rhythm of my prose, the pain felt by a character upon receiving a tragic news, as well as to make the tension of the moment be felt, and her bravery for powering through it all:

FIGHT!

What went first when the grave news was delivered by Thaltybius was the bottom-half of my face.  My lips hung limply like two pieces of raw flesh glued onto a pristine white dinner plate.  My jaw, incessantly clamped and released in sporadic spasms, quacking loudly, teeth grinding onto one another.  Tears streamed down freely, cascading on the bumps of my cheeks, unrestrained.  Too necessary to be restrained.  My eyes stared out before me at the great nothing, dead.  Two useless globes of grief.  Seeing but not truly seeing.  Present yet not truly present and haunting in their absence.  My mind was elsewhere, with him.

Next, it was my body that gave in.  Crumpling and crashing loudly on the ground like a tree whose trunk has been split open and cruelly chopped down by a Lumberjacks’ unforgiving axe.
Then, I lay there, feeling all the years of held-in pain catch up to me. He had been the only reason I had managed to keep it all stowed within, and now, now…well, now there was nothing.  Only pain, sorrow and an absence that made itself felt.  When I met him, I had been but a lonely little girl, lost and confused in world of infectious folly.  And he had arrived with his smile and blind confidence and he had been there when I needed it, always.  My pillar.  My centre.  My power.
The strength with which I wielded my spear in battle came from the knowledge that he would always be there, waiting with his smile that could launch a thousand armies in his name, had he attempted to use it as a weapon of mass persuasion.
Around me I could hear the screams of comrades begging me to get myself together and to quickly devise a new battle plan.  But, their pleas were directed at the wrong person.  The cause that was theirs was no longer mine.  It appeared all so insignificant now.

We had started this war in the name of freedom.  A rebellion against the old ways.  At least, that was the surface of it.  To us, it was an affirmation.  A fight for us to be together.  And now he was dead so it mattered no longer.  I looked up to Bron’seilk who stood by my side and she stared back.  I saw my pain reflected in her eyes. Yet, deep within I saw something else, something different, something I no longer possessed.  Determination.
Bron’seilk forced herself to smile at me and I could see how hard it had been for her to do so.  Her eyes were moist and vibrant.  Ready to pour their content at any instant.
‘Fight!’ she said, ‘Fight for all the lovers of this dreadful world.  Fight to give them a better chance!  And, fight so that this may never happen again!’.  And her words seemed to reverberate within me, as without noticing, without thinking it, my body had abruptly risen to its own two feet.  I maintained my gaze on her for a while.  Then, nodded.  She was right.  I would fight, to my last breath.  With all I had.  And, when all this would be over, I would cry as long as I would need on her shoulder. And, I would lend her mine, for as long as she would need it.

I shifted my focus back to the matter at hand, and immediately began to hatch out new plans[…]

4 thoughts on “Style Training With Ursula K. Leguin, Exercise.1; Part.2

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  1. Umm, you chose a difficult emotion to narrate for something so short. This relies too much on prior knowledge in my opinion, so most readers may not feel anything at all due to lack of information. But let’s assume I, just for the example, had read 10,000 words of this story before this and had come to like and understand the characters, this could have an impact, depending on many factors. But then again, I’m not so sure whether Ursula wants you to ignore coherence for the exercise or not, so if the point of the exercise was to describe that dramatic moment only, then there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just a fact that you cannot feel any sympathy if you don’t know the person well (actually, some people with soft hearts do, but at least my heart is too hard on the surface). I hope you’ll find this useful.

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  2. Yes but here the sound of prose is what matters. Use sound techniques nothing more. The story itself is not the priority. It has to be written in no more than 30 minutes applying the technique she advises. It works for some writers and not for others depending on their own style. It may not be what is best for mine. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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