I used to have trouble thinking in images. Now I have trouble thinking without them.
Before I started writing in earnest, my style was straightjacketed by all the work-related writing I’d done: direct, factual, humourless and concise. A fantasy description recorded what the characters said and did: first this happened, then that happened… fap fodder and nothing more.
But my favourite books teemed with images. I feasted on wonderful, rich descriptive language at every re-read. Barbara Kingsolver integrates metaphors into her work so seamlessly that they seem born out of the language itself. Michael Chabon builds wild, brilliant heaps of images, then leaps away and builds more.
Way back in my university application days, the MAT (Miller’s Analogies Test) was a walkover, so even if I couldn’t seem to produce figurative language, apparently I had an affinity for it. But I thought for a while that my relentlessly literal left-brain was all I had to work with.
With my first book, Owned and Owner, I tried to expand my boundaries but didn’t get too far. I remember the elation, though, when I came up with this one: “At times he could still sense manipulation, resistance: the subtle drive of muscles under her own command, the guerrilla flash of eyes half hidden behind their lids.” Believe it or not, “guerrilla” felt like a revelation.
With As She’s Told I was determined to bring some richness of language. One thing I had to struggle with, though: How do you describe an orgasm? The story focuses a lot on teasing and denial, so it wasn’t as if there was an orgasm on every page. Those that happened had to mean something. But how? I turned to Carrie’s Story, remembering this: “All I could do was rock my pelvis band and forth, meeting his tongue, chasing it, and then retreating, pretending to hide from it, and finally just surrendering to it, moaning and then yelling until everything exploded and first I was falling from a very great height and then I was a puddle on the rug, the winter afternoon light slanting in on me through the leaded windows.” What a lovely vision, no?
For a while I toyed with giving Maia synaesthesia – the crossing over of sensations from one sense to the other – feeling colours, seeing sounds, that kind of thing. Which was the source for this one: “Anchored, I arched my back and howled, felt myself contract in brilliant white waves around him…” Not bad. But I couldn’t keep it up; I think it takes a synaesthete to write about synaesthesia.
All Anders’ teasing means that Maia’s orgasms are – shall we say – intense? This is from the gearshift scene: “And then suddenly at my centre there was a flash, like a thunderstorm in fast forward, billows of it, ecstatic, extreme, agonizing.” (Okay, out of context it does looks a little over the top. But Maia enjoyed it.)
So tell me, what colour are your orgasms? What’s your favourite literary climax? ;-)