How Thomas Dolby taught me to write

So, I’m still down among the commas, going through what I’m optimistically calling the Final Draft of Carousel Seas.  I’m actually pretty pleased with it, in meta.  There are of course, fiddly bits to be fiddled, a couple of scenes to be expanded and/or sharpened, but it was ever thus.

In point of fact, I spent this morning with a scene that I hadn’t red-lined as needing expansion; it was a pretty good scene and it did what it needed to do, which (so I thought when I was writing it) was to set up the next scene and the arrival on-screen of a character.

Now, we all know that it’s good if a scene carries its weight and also does at least one thing to move the greater story along.  Right?

But, it’s even better, if a scene can carry it’s own weight, and move the big story along, and illuminate something new about the characters, and foreshadow an upcoming piece of business, and set up the next scene, with (now) an added twist of tension.  That’s like — Super Scene.

So, anyway, tinking with this middling important bit, the work of which  had been dealing with a necessary point of plot, and setting up The Arrival.  And –I’m watching myself start to dig into the sentences, sharpening this viewpoint, upping the stakes, adding a bit of by-play to show the relationship between the two characters confronting this situation — and I’m not even thinking about what I’m doing, really, I’m just sort of doing some internal nodding, like I’m following along with whoever is actually doing the work, here:  “Yeah, that’s good.  Oh-ho!  Why didn’t I see that?  Nice, nice…” &c

I added maybe a hundred words to the scene, but it was enough to take it from a middling important scene that did its job, no muss, no fuss; to a scene that really rings some changes, and carries all that work I listed above.

And?  I can’t tell you why I made the alterations that I did.  Often when I’m going in to rework/strengthen/expand a scene, I’m going in with a game plan; an idea of what needs to be punched up (or down).  This scene wasn’t even tagged as a problem; I had no game plan.  I read the scene, my fingers rolled the screen back to the beginning and I started in, without any idea that anything was wrong, but a feeling that something could be better.

Which is why writing is an art, not a science.

Oh, and about Thomas Dolby?

The first time I heard “She Blinded Me With Science,” my ear wouldn’t make sense  of it — there were too many “unnecessary” and “distracting” bits of business going on that had nothing to do — in my opinion as a non-musician — with the music.

And, yet — try to take out the seeming side-bits, and you get something that’s. . .flat, less diverse, and very much less joyously loony.

So now you know what it’s like, down here among the commas, at least some of  the time.

I’m going to go get some lunch, and get back to it.


2 thoughts on “How Thomas Dolby taught me to write”

  1. I loved that song the first time I heard it and it just keeps getting better. Congratulations on the fortuitous re-work and THANK YOU so much for sharing it with us!

  2. How- D Ms. Lee,

    I would like to start off saying that this is the first time I have ever replied to anything from you or yours in any format, and yet have been a devotee since I found the three original books in the series lo these 25’ish years ago from Del Rey and picked them up because I liked the pictures on the jackets, how can you go wrong with a Man, a Woman, and a GIANT Turtle! 🙂

    I would also like to say a resounding THANK YOU for the uncountable hours that I have spent with the people and worlds you all have created, and I, like others wait slavishly at the altar for the next words to tumble forth.

    I have also been a follower of Mr. Dolby since I was first introduced to him in 1983, and have had the pleasure to see him perform live, and can say that it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in my life at a live concert.

    I would also recommend if you would like to hear anymore of his mind bending lyrics to grab some of his stuff off the internet, it also will require you to listen to it many times before you can wrap your head around it, but I would hope that you might enjoy the journey!

    And in following along with the above, here’s a few of my personal favorites : Evil Twin Brother ( Map of the Floating City ) I Live in a Suitcase ( Astronauts & Heretics ) The Ability to Swing ( Aliens Ate my Buick ) Hyperactive! ( The Flat Earth ) Cloudburst at Shingle Street ( The Golden Age of Wireless )

    I would feel very comfortable in recommending many more, and in your spare time if you like that kind of thing, dig up a little more background on Mr. Dolby, he is truly an amazing individual: An accomplished musician, A VERY corny actor ( Rockula 1990 ) he was credited with starting the company Headspace/Beatnik that made major contributions to enhance sound for music on cell phones, he has also been involved with many technology events including TED, Comdex, etc.

    Then you start in on the people that he has collaborated on with his music; Mark Knopfler, Ofra Haza, Eddie Van Halen, Lene Lovich, Foreigner, Def Leppard, etc.

    Sorry about going on so long, I just always try to show people that Mr. Dolby is so much more than just the guy who did ‘She Blinded me With Science’

    Thank you ever so much for all of the reading pleasure you have given over the years, and I hope you have as many in front of you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.