I really enjoyed this novel, published by Ginnindera Press, about an unrequited love relationship set in South Africa during apartheid. The voice is unique: poetic and full of beauty from the outset. Themes are universal: love, friendship, family issues, mystery, and psychological damage. The opening paragraphs are especially poetic:

There is a rocky ledge that leans over the sea at Llandudno. It juts out on three sides, exposed to the changing shades of ocean and sky, the blues, the greys, the oranges and reds of sunset, and the pale violet hues of early dawn.

 It is a hidden place. A steep flight of steps hewn from rock leads down from the road to a pristine crescent of white beach. At the far end, a wall of huge boulders are piled haphazardly, one against the other.

I have recently been researching diagrams to represent the Narrative Arc.  I had completed a personal memoir, River Girl, based partly on childhood memories, that was complex in structure. How was I to analyse and to improve, if necessary, on this work in terms of its overall structure?  I had never mapped out plots and story lines beforehand, preferring to focus on creating believable characters and "zingy" writing in the first instance. It seemed to me, in fact, that some genres e.g. detective stories and thrillers, were better suited to pre-planning methods, while other narratives depended on the writer "getting it down" first, and worrying about structural issues later on. I saw myself as belonging to the latter category, rather than to the former. However, I also saw that at some stage in the writing process, any writer will need to consider the overall structure of a longer work. This might take place towards the end, or in the middle, rather than at the beginning of the task of writing a novel. So it became more and more important for me, as I came to the end of writing my works, to consider what makes a successful narrative in terms of overall structure. This led me to try to identify the elements and functions of the narrative arc.

En Route to Croatia

We just flew over the mountains of Eastern Europe en route to Frankfurt from Dubai. Qantas have teamed up with the United Arab Emirates airline, so we did the first leg from Sydney to Dubai with Qantas, and the second one from Dubai to Frankfurt with Emirates. I really enjoyed stopping over at Dubai this time, as we were able to marvel at all the strange dress codes in the shopping arcade corridors, and then relax in the Emirates flight lounge until our flight was called. They’re much better than Qantas in terms of service at the moment. Looking down on the snow-tipped mountains just now. I think of student days travelling by deux chevaux from Paris to Ukraine during the Cold War, when Russian troops marched into Prague and stopped us from going there.  (See “My Travel Journal” posts on this blog).

Definitions of Narrative Personas

  1. According to Ernest Hemingway, the writer's job is "to sit in front of the page and bleed". But  it's not the person in flesh-and-blood who is there in the page, but a persona called the narrator, who steps in for him or her. I'm the one who signs the book for you when it's published.
  2. The narrator lives on the page, within and between the words, the images, and the dialogue, and directs the characters, as if they were marionnettes, performing at the end of strings. Although they may share lots of qualities, the narrator is not exactly the writer, even in a memoir. This fact, once the writer acknowledges it, may result in a sense of freedom, benefiting the writing as a result.
  3. The Character: A main character is called the protagonist. The character's job is to enthrall the reader and s/he is always integral to the plot.  Dialogue spoken by a character will advance the plot and, at its best, utilise or suggest a certain voice that is basic to the meaning and rationale of the text.

     The Writer is not the Narrator and the Narrator is not the Writer

Cargoes by John Mansfield

I woke up the other morning with an old verse I'd learnt at school — not sure which year, but it was at least half a century ago — playing in my head like on a tape recorder. And the rhythm was still there! I'm sure some of my readers will have also known this poem from school days: "Cargoes" by John Masefield? Even the foreign words were still intact and popping up out of the subconscious like bubbles from a geyser. It took me some days before I got around to Googling the poem and finding oral renditions of it on YouTube. I think what I liked about the poem (and still do) was the exotic-sounding words, not to mention the rhythm of the seas, and the sense of the wind in the sails. It lifted me out of the dreary classroom and into exotic faraway places . The contrast of the last stanza, with the two preceding ones, always enchanted me in class. That's when the rhythm changes to mimic the type of sturdy, industrial-age "coaster" vessel and its more prosaic cargo. I read somewhere that the cargo items in Stanza 2 were taken directly from the Bible.