Friday, November 16, 2012

Cloud Atlas – It’s That Kind of World!


An argument for the mash up of all mash ups.
That was one interesting movie! And I understand it was a book first. One I may need to read. What’s not to love? Six stories, with reoccurring souls, over six time periods, which dance a mad polka back and forth across time and space.

No, it doesn’t involve Dr. Who.

Though it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.

This is the sort of movie, and I’m sure book, that would drive a great many people insane. Convoluted, dropping one storyline to explore another, boomeranging back to it, then gone - hinting at connections, teasing that this part is history, this part is fiction…this part is…??? Philosophizing all the time about how we continue to meet the same people over and over as we are born again and again.

It’s a long movie, nearly three hours long. I sat in the theater and figured I’d need a few pee breaks. Then, the movie was done, credits rolling. Granted, I found myself fascinated at seeing the same actor playing different parts, different races and guessing who was who. The make-up people had a job to do! And thank God, we only had to see a blond Tom Hanks for a very short time.
This move appealed to me because I have a very skewed view of history and how people relate to each other. And, Terrio can bear witness to this, I love to mess with linear time when I write. Hop and skip and back and forth…that is me. The swing-set of keeping a straight timeline.

I’m not that big a fan of the flashback, but I will take a reader backward. I was quite pleased to attend an Angela James workshop a few weeks ago where she talked about this technique and how to do it so that you don’t make your reader dizzy. I do what she suggested! Big smile for me!
I like how electronic books are pushing the evolution of the reading experience. I can foresee a time when a writer can assist the reader in keeping storylines straight with using different fonts, or font colors or…offering options. And before you all run screaming for the gangplank, remember that the readers coming behind us have different expectations and attention spans. Nothing would surprise me.

Look at the prose of decades past and see how little you can tolerate how they wrote then. I bet it will be the same thing in the decades to come. Writing has become a very fluid thing. No, it’s always been that way. But the speed at which that current flows is speeding up.

I sat in the Angela James workshop and listened to her talk about the concept of rules, even inasmuch as they pertain to grammar. She kept saying never say never. You can break rules if you can do it well. That the reader is not so hung up on the particulars as the copy editors and as the popularity of e-books shows, the story can overcome the shortcomings of the prose.
There were a few copyeditors in the audience who died that day. A little bit.

A part of me considered the perception that the language is being dumbed down…but…I bet every generation has thought this. Will I recognize the novel in fifty years? If I live that long? Will it be filled with text-speak and references that are totally alien? Will the cross-genre and POV shifts grow so convoluted and commonplace that the readers of tomorrow will be groaning about how they wrote things in the past?
Of course!

Me, I love a good twisting in time and space yarn. I just wrote in my newest WIP, as my character considers the realities of traveling through time… She accepted that there was no line between truth and fiction, history and story. The two bumped up against each other, swapped DNA, fell apart, came back together… None of it made a lick of sense.

But I realize that I am not the normal reader, or writer, in this sense. So, I watched Cloud Atlas and didn’t fight the drifting from one story/time to another.  The reading experience is different. And I am as resistant to some things as the next person. Not a fan of alternating first person POV, for example. But someone will do it well and I’ll be convinced it can work!

What do you find gives you the worst willies as a reader? Misspellings? Or new spellings? Time skips? Flashbacks on flashbacks? Genre mashups too unbelievable? Text speak? What do you think will sneak in first? What has already slipped in that gives you the willies?

17 comments:

TerriOsburn said...

Kiddo read a book with alternating 1st person POVs and liked it. I think that would bother me but I checked out the book and it wasn't so bad. I think it was Cassandra Clare but I might have that wrong. She reads so many.

Considering how taboo head hopping is now and it was once done in every Romance I read I agree things change. Heck, have you ever tried to read Henry James? I did. Not easy. Thank goodness people don't write like that now. Though he's sort of a special case. Anti-punctuation and anti-woman wrapped up in one writer.

I don't see text speak making it beyond some middle grade books. Something happening more often now is books written in present tense. I know the Hunger Games series is written in present tense. I can't read it. My brain just doesn't like it.

Maureen said...

Morning, concert girl! I scared everyone else off? I know it's a scary topic...but things do change...

I've heard of books written in present tense and the idea makes me shudder. I also read one in two first person POVs that made me twitch a bit...

And I've read some older stuff and wow! Totally tell and very little show. God knows what the books of tomorrowland will look like!

I figure text speak will gain more popularity and I know there have been some attempts to revive the 'choose your own adventure' type of books... Alternate branches for a story to go...

But who knows?

TerriOsburn said...

I don't think you chased anyone away. I think it's a Friday before a holiday and it's cold and everyone is just moving slow. I know I would be if that were an option.

Maureen said...

Are you even speaking? Do you have a voice? Does Isabelle? ;-)

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?

TerriOsburn said...

I can speak but it squeaks now and then. Think my hearing is coming back. I just noticed my Pandora is playing louder than I thought. Still a bit muted though. Isabelle said this morning that her whole body hurt. LOL! She's not used to standing (for 6 hours!) and jumping like that.

My knees and feet aren't happy with me either. And no, I cannot. Where did the year go?

Maureen said...

I remember the ringing in my ears...concerts always left my ears ringing.

Yeah, this is my only real blog of the month... Next Friday is Black Friday and then it's Leslie's turn... And bam! December!

Janga said...

I don't mind multiple story lines or confusing chronology. I read Faulkner, Joyce, and Woolf after all. I'll probably see Cloud Atlas once it's available on Netflix. I'm not interested in the reincarnation idea so much as I am in the ripple effecy of a single act.

I had a conversation with my youngest nephew the other day about how close we already are to some sort of hybrid medium that is both novel and video game. So, yes, I do think that our concept of what a novel is will be shaken up and enlarged. But I disagree about the difficulty of reading all works from the past. The Odyssey was a good story when it was written, it's a good story now, and I think it will continue to be a good story a thousand years from now. That's just one example, and not all my examples are "Great Books." One of my five-star reads of 2012 was Miss Buncle's Book, a nover first published in 1934. Differences in style and linguistic rules may make reading a book more challenging, but good stories are worth the effort IMO.

I'll always be an English professor, and I admit grammatical errors that affect the clarity and grace of prose make me want to scream words my mother's daughter should blush to speak.

Maureen said...

I still like to read all the authors of the past. The differences don't bother me, style wise, but I notice them. And I smile a lot at what was once considered acceptable and how it's forbidden now...

I used to read The Odyssey regularly...

Janga, do grammar rules change to reflect the changes in society? Just curious about it...I wonder what a grammar book from a century ago would look like...

P. Kirby said...

Present tense: I loved the Hunger Games, and one of my favorite fan fiction writers always does the present tense thing. Heh. The only problem I have with it is that after reading a story in present tense, I start slipping into it in my own writing.

I don't like head hopping, even "kosher" head hopping, i.e., omniscient POV. I like the immediacy of being in one person's head per scene. (As a writer and a reader.) But multiple POVs are fine, so long as there's no head hopping.

I tolerate typos, but constant misspellings, grammatical errors, ugly phrasing, etc., throw my out of the story. So I don't think I'd get far in 50 Shades of Grey.

I admit, I don't enjoy reading most classics, at least those written using a style and syntax that is so far removed from the modern. Tried to read The Last of Mohicans and gave up after about five pages. It was completely impenetrable. Got about halfway through The Three Musketeers before the endless passive voice and exposition slew my muse. Even though I loved it as a child, The Lord of the Rings would probably be my idea of a dull read today.

I like genre mashups. Flashbacks and shifting timelines are fine, so long as it's clear where the narrative is, time-wise.

Maureen said...

Pat, I find the older stuff really interesting to read, even the stylistic changes.

I remember not being able to read The Last of the Mohicans because of the historical innacuracies...but I loved The Three Musketeers! One of those things where the story is so good I don't even notice the voice, etc.

Janga said...

The grammar of any living language changes. Just compare the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style with any earlier edition to see some of the changes in rules governing what most publishers consider acceptable use.

I think about some of the rules I was taught such as "Never end a sentence in a preposition." Efforts to follow that patently absurd rule produced some of the most awkward sentences ever crafted. I will probably always use the subjunctive and say--and write--if I were, I wish I were, and if it be, but I'm not bothered by writers who don't use the subjunctive. Those who don't use it hold the majority now, and not using it is no longer considered an error. The same holds true with the Oxford comma. I recently wrote several biographies for an encyclopedia on the computer and the Internet. I had to consciously remember that CMOS says "web" is not capitalized. That rule has changed since I retired a few years ago.

I was careful to qualify my initial comment: "I admit grammatical errors that affect the clarity and grace of prose make me want to scream words my mother's daughter should blush to speak." The errors that disturb me are vague pronoun references, dangling modifiers, and other errors that force me to stop and struggle to understand the writer's meaning. Even more bothersome are ugly sentences that may violate no rules but make me cringe nonetheless.

Maureen said...

That makes sense... and I really wonder what the style manuals will show in 50 years that right now we shudder about...

I find it fascinating how often what is grammatically correct sounds so awkward, we sit and study it...sure we're doing it wrong.

Janga said...

James Fenimore Cooper's style has drawn criticism for more than a century. Most famously, Mark Twain listed Cooper's literary offenses in an essay in which he claimed Cooper wrote "the poorest English that exists in our language." I can never quite forgive Twain for dissing Austen, but I agree with much of what he says about Cooper.

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/hns/indians/offense.html

Maureen said...

It was the physics of things that drove me nuts about Cooper. Rivers flowed the wrong way, boats made turns that were too tight for their length... And it seems to me accents switched... I can credit him for presenting the
'wild west' to the public and catching their imagination. But the imagine part went way too far!

P. Kirby said...

Well, given that I love Twain, his opinion on Cooper just solidifies my fondness. I don't remember it [Last of the Mohicans] as anything but gobbleygook put to ink. I mean, I don't know what the f*ck Shakespeare is talking about half the time, but at least it sounds pretty. Reading Cooper was like slogging through the La Brea tar pits. Fuggetaboutit.

I am, I admit, a lazy reader. I skim, sometimes even when the story engages me. I read for fun; I don't want to work that hard.

Marnee Bailey said...

I agree with Pat-- Present tense kills me. All those s's. I can't take it. ANd it feels so immediate. I don't like it. *mulish face*

What makes stories fall flat for me is when the world isn't developed enough. I say this even as I know that I need help with world building. LOL!!

I wanna see this movie though. Chances are it'll have to wait until DVD or on demand. But I'll get there.

Maureen said...

Marn, it's really a fascinating movie, as long as you don't try to make it stay straight. Beautifully filmed...

I also like a well developed world, just enough that I can follow. I don't need an extensive tour guide, but some cornerstones are good!

Pat, I agree...I can't follow Shakespeare, but the words sound so pretty. The meter, lift and fall...it's enough!