Portrait of a Poor Trait
edited: Friday, February 24, 2006
By Albert Loren
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2006
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What is softness to some people, is strength to others
When I was a boy, my grandfather said to me "The finest trait of character is humbleness". I was too young at the time to take in the essence of the statement. Most other men in the family - chiefly naval officers - worked hard on their he-man images, not least around the drink table. Exposed humbleness was to them a sign of weakness. They probably assumed less cocky attitudes when they faced stormy weather out on the oceans.
As I grew older it dawned on me what the old man had been talking about. His version of humbleness had nothing to do with appearances. As a captain in the merchant navy he had no problems with his male identity. He had meant humbleness before a task. This became very clear to me as I started writing fiction. As readers we may think that if a text is easy to read, it is easy to write. Wrong - the more fluent a text, the more work behind.
So, when I wrote my first book I had my grandfather's reflection in mind. In this case, humbleness before the use of the written language. Among my early learnings was that there is always room for improvement and changes. I checked the text over and over again before granting a 'passed' stamp. People around me shook their heads - "are you sure it's all right now, you have only spent three weeks with that seven-page chapter". It wasn't humbleness to them.
My version of humbleness includes the ambition to never let the reader feel snubbed. There is a difference between "don't walk like that, it will hurt your feet" and "if you walk like that you will hurt your feet". The difference between the pointer and the humble hint. Splitting hairs, you may think. Okay, we don't analyze texts that carefully during reading, but these little particulars help creating atmosphere. Even if we can't put our finger on the reason, some texts appeal to us more than others do. The language is a delicate tool.
Over the years I have published six thrillers and I hope that my humble attitude hasn't faded or proceeded into something less agreeable. Our self-picture isn't always in accordance with other people's opinions. My grandfather died long before I had a chance to tell him about my dream to write fiction. His advice was general observation. Nevertheless, his little hint helped me adapting the right spirit through the first tough years of rejections. My disappointment filtered through "okay, they didn't like it" instead of "those people just don't understand".
Some writers seem to have been born with an extreme sense of language. Now and then we come across examples - a sentence or a paragraph that make us stop reading to let the words mature. Then we read it again just for the good feeling. I experienced one of those elevated moments when I read this passage in Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby":
"The only stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two women were bouyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house".
I just love those turns. They make me feel humble before a great talent.
Web Site: Albert Loren Online
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|Reviewed by Vesna Vanessa
|I know EXACTLY what you mean..spot on! Brilliant! Ty!