Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter L

 

 

 

is for Lyric

 

 

 

A lyric is a song-like poem meant to express the thoughts and feelings of a person. Shakespeare’s sonnets are a form of lyric poetry.

In the short story “Aliens’ Waltz”, Josef Scheliemann describes his alien sighting using lyric prose:

Slowly move, quick box step, twirling round, open, turn. One-two-three, two-two-three. Shoulders rise. Fall again. Moving on single plain, tall and completely poised. Triangular faces showcase ovular eyes. Smoky and luminous in celestial moonlight. Fabric of dress gowns shine twinkling in the night. One-two-three, two-two-three, weightlessly promenade. Steam buoys from the wheat stalks forming nebulous mist. Feet barely skim farmland in a spiraling glide.

Though admittedly not perfect, the prose in this passage is meant to sound like a waltz. Effort was made to ensure stressed and unstressed symbols and pauses approximate the one-two-three-one-two-three time of a waltz. Ideally, because it is lyric, it should sound as if it were meant to be paired with music, such as (my favourite) “The Blue Danube Waltz”.

What do you think? Does it sound like a waltz when read out loud, or am I asking too much of the reader? Have you ever tried something similar? Was it as mind-numbingly difficult to execute as my sample lyric text?

 

Inconsitencies I have known.

Consistency.

It’s something writers strive for in their work, especially with respect to setting and character descriptions. For many, an error in consistency can break the narrative flow, reminding the reader s/he is immersed in a construct of reality and not the real thing.

On film, errors in consistency are typically referred to as bloopers. And though they can be fun to spot, if you’re like me, and the gaffes are serious enough, they can also be maddening. Minor consistency problems are artifacts of the way television and movies are filmed, a result of the final product being an amalgam of various takes and camera angles.  This is the shirt that mysteriously buttons and unbuttons or the strand of hair that magically tucks and untucks itself from behind an actress’ ear as the scene plays out. In a recent episode of Cult, it was the level of water in Skye’s bottle that randomly rises and falls.

Errors like these are more amusing than annoying.  The inconsistencies prompting me to write this blog are much more serious than that. The ones I’m talking about are due to errors in the writing and/or interpretation of the script, errors that should have been caught and edited out long before production began. Take, for example, the Once Upon A Time episode in which Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin is led to believe August is his son. This correlates with an hour of my yelling at the screen that August couldn’t possibility be Baelfire because August has blue eyes and Bae has brown. And while it turned out August wasn’t Bae, I don’t know how I noticed this and the boy’s own father didn’t.

Another issue arose watching this week’s Hannibal.  The police assert that their murderer was killing girls of the same age, height, weight and with the same hair and eye colour as his daughter. They show a series of victim photos, and I swear the last girl has brown eyes. Trouble is, when they show the daughter in the next scene, her eyes are decidedly blue.

Perhaps the biggest gaffe I’ve noticed was in this week’s Orphan Black. I remember being told via subtitle in the premiere episode that the story takes place in New York. Wikipedia observes the police used NYPD coffee mugs and drove NYPD cars in that episode. But this week they drove to a building I recognize as being on the U of T campus driving cars with Ontario plates. To make matters worse, Sarah/Beth drove through Chinatown to get to a Kensington Avenue address and walked into The Waverly Hotel (it said so on the door as she entered). While I love that shows (like Rookie Blue or Bomb Girls) use Toronto as a backdrop for stories told in Toronto, I need a show to pick a location and stick to it so that I forget I’m watching a construct and not actual people’s lives.

In other words, do the viewers a favour and make the effort to remain consistent.

graphic from:http://escapepod.org/2013/04/02/tv-review-orphan-black/

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

(Former) Archaeologist’s Lament

imageZero Hour, another adventure/thriller television series with archaeological roots was cancelled last week after only three episodes. The pilot episode saw Anthony Edwards (of ER fame) as the editor of a sceptics magazine whose wife is kidnapped after she purchases a historic clock. When he takes the clock apart, Edwards finds a diamond upon which a map has been etched. He follows the map to a buried German submarine in the arctic, where he is pursued by a man who was somehow genetically engineered by Nazi scientists.

Though all of this sounds spectacularly interesting as a series concept, the idea was poorly executed as it suffered from less than believable dialogue and unusual casting. In spite of this, though Zero Hour had potential, it was more than likely doomed by its affiliation with archaeology.

Movies with archaeological ties generally do well at the box office.  Consider Stargate, Indiana Jones,Tomb Raider, The Mummy, and National Treasure. The same cannot be said for television shows of the same genre which are few and far between. Two of these are Veritas: the Quest, and  the British Bonekickers. In Veritas, a team of people search the globe for artifacts that piece together Earth’s great mystery, though what that may be is not revealed in the show’s short run. All that is known is that it somehow involves the group’s leader, and his son and deceased wife. In Bonekickers, archaeologists participate in episodic digs, some with ties to popular legends or high profile historical eras. The only other archaeology-types around are those on Bones, and that’s more forensic anthropology than archaeology per se. I dreamed of seeing the Primeval cast hunker down to an archaeological dig when they found modern artifacts in a dinosaurian era, or modern people digging up the remains of the Terra Nova settlement (though that apparently took place in a different timeline than ours) but, alas, that was never to come to pass.

Many play fast and loose with the term “archaeology”, such as in “Antique Archaeology”, the shop ran  by the American Pickers, for example.  Even worse is the Savage Family Diggers/ American Diggers franchise which sees ex-wrestler Rick Savage knock on people’s doors asking to dig on their properties for a percentage of the profit. While they may “save” artifacts from being destroyed or remaining forever buried and decomposing, they are, in effect, destroying archaeological sites. And while I readily acknowledge that laws in The States differ from those in Canada, the fact that they do they painstaking research to find the sites then do nothing to save the subtleties of the sites’ historic occupation, does little to elevate them from pot-hunting status. Yet they have been awarded their own series of shows which creates the illusion that what they are doing is lucrative and not at all deplete of morals.

Archaeology as a discipline is in danger of extinction. Even when I practiced it, the threat of satellite imagery and ground penetrating radar to document sites threatened to render those of us who saw it as a noble pursuit, obsolete. In his article entitled “Archaeology Is Not a Strong Brand”, Martin Rundkvist takes the profusion of available archaeology-named domains  to indicate that the word no longer packs significant punch. He avers that the “little regional bits of the past and archaeological practice” have rendered the word, and the discipline by default, unexciting. I maintain the reason for this could be the dearth of local archaeological projects in North America (certainly in central Ontario). I got out of the discipline because, though I loved it dearly and could imagine doing nothing else with my life, I could not make a living at it. I began my career making enough money to live comfortably, had the position remained opened twelve months of the year. Each year I returned to the field being offered fewer and fewer dollars per hour until I was earning little more than minimum wage 6 months a year (if I were lucky) and UIC was breathing down my back to get re-trained in order to dump my hard-earned degree and get a year-round office job. I chose, instead, to go back to school and complete teacher training. It took some time, but I have come to terms with perpetuating archaeology through my writing. I always fancied returning to the discipline in retirement, but I doubt I will be able to tote buckets of wet dirt at that advanced age. No, I must remain content with fanaticizing about fantastical archaeology, rather than practicing actual archaeology, barring my winning the lottery, that is.

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Works Cited

Rundkvist, Martin. Archaeology Is Not a Strong Brand. Aardvarchaeology. 2 Mar 2013. < http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology/2013/03/02/archaeology-is-not-a-strong-brand/>. 12 Mar 13.