Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Tangled Wood

A Clearing in the Woods,
C.H.W. (English School) 1887.

Not a 1,000 word sort of picture, but possibly a 250 or so word one, as a metaphor for a writer's journey.

Sometimes, it seems, we travel through thickets, over deadfalls, swampy ground and rocky ridges. And brambles.

Let's not forget the brambles that score and rip off bits of skin. Or the patches of poison ivy and oak. Those patches are all some writers remember of their trek.

Sometimes we get as tired as the metaphor.

I get a dim impression on occassion, as dim as a clearing seen through the trees, that images from nature lack relevance to many readers today. And many writers, concerned more with landscapes of the city, the canyons between the highrises or the tunnels of the mind, avoid such unfamiliar comparisons.

That's quite understandable, urban.

But please, please avoid in cityscapes, with their ambient halo of eternal light, any description of stars brilliant as diamonds, or the night sky like black velvet - unless there's been an electrical blackout.
It's not the cliche that bugs me worse than blackflies.
From my Tech-Child:
Mustery: a mystery with too many dark and dank settings.


Steve G said...

Mustery: a mystery with too many dark and dank settings.

I like that.

Hard to see the stars in the middle of a bright city. But one can imagine them.

Erik Ivan James said...

"...images from nature lack relevance to many readers today.

Unfortunately, Bernita, I sadly think that you are correct. Now, when I go into the woods, I find myself alone. I no longer find young boys and girls swinging from the grapevines, or chasing the rabbit, or stalking the deer.

Bernita said...

Writers sometimes forget just where their characters are perhaps, Steve.

And maybe I've just been reading the wrong books lately, Erik!

writtenwyrdd said...

What I often find is left out are the small annoyances. Running through an open field, for example, is pretty dangerous, because the ground is uneven, has rocks, is covered by grass or shrubs, and you can really hurt yourself.

Walking through a clearing of slash is even worse, because you can have a thick layer of trimmings between you and the ground, with no way to know if it will hold your weight or how deep it is. I broke through once and had my left leg trapped to the groin in the slash with the snow past my waist. Good thing I wasn't alone, it was difficult to get extricated! Lest I sound more stupid than I was, there was only a few inches of snow elsewhere, so we didn't have snowshoes on.

I know it is difficult to mention all the little details, but when people just traipse through the woods and don't get whipped in the face by a branch snapping back, or they don't get scraped on the jagged broken pine branches, or they don't have a hard time keeping footing on a bed of pine needles covering a slope... It bugs me, too. And I'm not a real woodsperson.

Bernita said...

Written, you read my mind!
Those were precisely the things I was thinking of.

writtenwyrdd said...

I think this post is reminiscent of the camping details a week ago.

PS, I forgot to say that it is Hard Work to run on uneven ground.

Bernita said...

Yoy'll have to forgive me if I repeat and/or contradict myself on occassion, Written.

writtenwyrdd said...

Sorry, I wasn't trying to sound like a critic, just observing that this is a similar (but different) point. I hate it when what I think I'm saying isn't!

Gabriele C. said...

And don't forget the boars, at least in German woods. It's the reason I'm getting a hunting license and a license to carry a gun, despite it being friggin' expensive and requiring lots of tests. But there are areas in the Harz where the boars outnumber the hikers these days. :)

Bernita said...

I worry about being repetitious, Written, especially after 500 odd posts.

That's fascinating, Gabriele.One is so often inclined to think them as more as creatures of legend.
Here the only dangerous beasts expanding/recovering their range are wolves and coyotes, though some claim bears are too.
I notice coincidentally that Steve has pictures up of a boar.

Robyn said...

Please don't forget the cougars. Recently an older gentleman was mauled by a cougar and probably would have been killed if not for his wife. She managed to take his pen out of his pocket and stab the beast in the eye. It ran away; the couple was celebrating thirty or forty years together, if I remember correctly.

The little foxes do spoil the vine, don't they? I always wondered why women characters are inflamed with passion enough to go at it right there in the woods without worrying about rocks in uncomfortable places or six-legged creatures crawling too close or grass stains on their skirts. Riiiight.

Bernita said...

Cougar attacks are fairly rare are they not, Robyn?

What's worse is that it usually happens in country they are totally unfamiliar with, and somehow they always find this soft spot. Ha!

December Quinn said...

I do try to avoid deacribing the sky as inky or velvety. "Smudgy/smoky gray" is closer to where I take it, as a rule.

And in Blood..I described a pair of diamond cufflinks as being like stars in the night of a character's black shirt. I was trying to play on the cliche, which I try do a lot, don't I? Does it work? :-)

Bernita said...

Hard to resist the tongue-in-cheek with them at times, isn't it December?
I think it might.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

This is so true, Bernita. Sometimes we writers are so busy painting with words that we neglect to consider the entire picture we’ve created.

Scott from Oregon said...

In Australia, brambles and thorny bushes are called "Wait Awhiles".

I tried to describe a city at night once as the manifestation of the fear of the dark and unseen.

The lights were glowing reminders of the fear of dark, wild places.

I love nowhere most for the stars.

Sam said...

The concrete jungle comes to mind after reading this post, lol.
And cities have their own personalities - Tokyo and Boston are as different as the tropical jungle and a northern pine forest.

Bernita said...

Yup, Daisy, a number of things, like light, reflect differently according to setting.

"the manifestation of the fear of the dark and unseen" - it can be that, Scott, for those who do not see the dark as protection as well as threat.

True, about personalities, Sam, though here a "pine forest" is one that has been deliberately planted as a re-forestation project.

spyscribbler said...

I'm all for sex in the woods (and I suspect I'm not the only one!).

But if readers lack relevance to nature today, then that gives us a new world to pull them into. What a great opportunity, when many people have traveled more than us, and know our worlds better than we do.

I miss the attention to world-building in anything other than spec and fantasy-related novels.

Bernita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernita said...

"I miss the attention to world-building"
Yes, Natasha, sometimes one may get the impression that all cities, small towns, societies, etc. are cut from the same template.
No flavour.