Monday, July 23, 2012

The Sixth Dimension

There are some writers who can make things come alive in their books. Their style has a compelling quality, a gravitational pull that keeps the reader glued to the book past her bedtime. "Just one more chapter," she thinks, turning the page and ignoring the clock.

One thing that makes that style fascinating is an awareness of the sixth dimension. The worlds those writers create aren't just filled with exciting action and adventure and romance. Those little, spinning planets have color and depth. They are alive.

My go-to book as an example of this is Jane Eyre. The settings in the book: Gateshead, Lowood, Moor House, and of course, Thornefield are real places. I can picture the Red Room, the attics, and the sick room where Helen Burns died.

But more than that, I can taste the burnt porridge, smell the smoke from the fire in the night, feel the worn flagstones under my feet, hear that eerie Ha Ha! from the madwoman in the attic.

Mervyn Peake is another writer who makes his books come alive, almost too much so. His Gormenghast is filled with color and amazement, as in the Flint Tower, the red, close set eyes of Steerpike, and the sullen, ugly-beautiful Fuschia.
Gormenghast Castle

It is vital, then, to create a world for readers that has color, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Slice the apple, hear the thump of the knife in the cutting board, smell the white flesh, taste the tart fruit. 

And there is another element. Those sights and sounds must support a central story, whether it is romance or adventure or both. The velvet under our fingers, the woodsmoke in our hair, the train whistle disappearing in the distance, all must advance the sixth sense - that what was not real before is now alive.

1 comment:

Johanna Garth said...

For me Gone With the Wind brings me to that sixth dimension.