POETRY FILM: APOPTOSIS, or CELL SUICIDE
Sometimes we have to lose bits of us. It’s called Apoptosis: some of our cells have to self-destruct, instead of living on and multiplying by splitting in two. They do this for our benefit. My animated text poem in the video above undergoes apoptosis to tell that story. An example; the foetal hand is a paddle – many of the cells between the finger bones kill themselves, to free our fingers to gesture, point and grasp things. Things like books.
|'I don't think I lost enough cells to grasp this book.'|
Writing, in any genre, is as much about taking words out as putting words in. Poetry is about losing as many words as possible without losing any meaning, so that the remaining words also contain homeopathic amounts of the ones that went, concentrated and rich like a reduced sauce. Plays and novels, especially those which require lots of research, grow bloated with fascinating facts until the features that should be seen are distorted and masked by them. These too have to be removed, painfully, like hard-earned scar tissue, though the fact they’ve been there will somehow mysteriously enrich the surviving dialogue.
|'OK, this is editing, hard core! Words, prepare to DIE!'|
Stories need telling, and they each come with their own length implicit within them. Long stories, short stories, lean whippets, shaggy dogs. Cut, cut, cut like a sculptor to free your story from the block of superfluous words. Then however, judging by some of the books being pushed by big publishing houses these days, you take your beautifully honed novel to your editor, who says, oh, but it’s got to be X thousand words because well it just has. Get thee to thy study and force a few thousand more words in there until it plumps up! And so the writer, scared stiff of being dropped, sits at their desk and thinks. Well we can spend a long paragraph on every cigarette, every cup of coffee, every single action of the protagonist’s day. We can give them a habit, and instead of establishing that then subtly reminding the reader, we can detail every time they place a bet/buy a pair of shoes/ play bingo/down a whisky. We can describe every meal and what each food item reminds them of. Oh, and shopping for the food! Nobody will notice, in fact they get more book for their dosh. Win win.
|'My protagonist gave up smoking, and half my book disappeared!'|
Some writers are so attached to their darlings, every one of them, they submit a swollen book in the first place. Some really enjoy actually putting words on paper/screen, so the more the merrier. Perhaps there’s a brilliant plot, interesting characters, snappy dialogue in there somewhere but it would have to spend a few months in book bootcamp to make them visible.
|'Drop and give me 50 pages, you horrible little book!'|
|Agatha Christie, Queen of Fun-Size Crime|
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And speaking of Fun Size, our Authors Electric Short Story Anthology A FLASH IN THE PEN is imminent: virtual launch party on facebook on 21st June!