Thursday, June 14, 2012

they know not for what they listen

"It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this earth; and many of the children of the Iluvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen." -J.R.R. Tolkien
It can be hard to write emotions in any sort of fiction. Emotion is so colorful and yet unseen. So gossamer-threaded and yet shadowed. But it is seldom harder to write than in children's fiction. Because, let's be frank: children can't put words to their grief or anger. They only know that it hurts and it aches and tears momentarily cool the burning passion raging in their breast. But often children find expression for their emotions by other means, and it is up to the writer of children's fiction to familiarize themselves with the ways a child may view the world, and to write their emotional scenes in this way so that the children reading the novel may identify with the characters.
Take Nicodemus Murdoch, nine years old, and hero of Scuppernong Days. His mother died of the fever, and his father at sea. How does he process it all?
First in memories...

But now that he had arrived at the real site of it all, he felt very much ten years old. Never had the tall-ships seemed so massive—hull and masts and yardarms penciled insidious black against the grey morning fog. When Nick had visited the docks as a younger lad he’d felt king of all Salem, seated as he was on Father’s shoulder. The sailors had looked up at him then, their jovial, sun-crisped faces tilted at Father—six feet tall—with jolly recognition.
“What say you to a pint of rum, Sam?” they might ask. Or, if the day were fine: “How ‘bouts we row out to the harbor and see what the India Queen brung in?” And Father would laugh down his briny, brawny laugh and shake his head. “I’m spending the day with my first mate.” First Mate. That’s what Nick had been to Father in those happier times before.

....then in association.

It must be a very great and powerful God who had made the oceans. Nick wondered what language they spoke—what words the Lord had used to tell them this far they could come, but no farther, and here their proud waves must stop. It was a great thought—so great it made Nick feel too small and insignificant, so that he had to whistle his jaunty tune again to remember himself by. Still the sea kissed green against the dark bulwarks and Nick could see it down the cracks in the dock from his vantage of the coil of rope. That same water that slapped quietly against the piling might have come from China. It might have come from China or beyond, perhaps to a place yet uncharted. It might have come from father, from the place it had burbled around his head and shoulders and finally swallowed him up.
Then Nick knew why he had never taken Imperia to the harbor, and why even now he drew his feet closer to him, high up on the coil of cordage far as he could from any latent spray of the brine.

5 comments:

Emily said...

Aw, you are a fantastic children's writer, Rachel! =D

Elizabeth Rose said...

Rachel, you are just incredible at writing children's fiction. You capture the simple way in which a child views the world so effortlessly — I wish Scuppernong Days had been around when I was Nick's age! I can't wait until it is published and available for purchase, so I can read it all the way through. :)

Hope's Treasures said...

you do really write children's fiction well. I loved this. your right about emotions. Thanks for the wonderful ideas you left of my blog, no I do not mind long comments, especially when they are helping me :))
I really will try and set a word goal, that is something I never thought about, I just have one question I write all my books by hand, I don't have my own computer or a writing program, even with all the yearning for one. So how would you go about counting words ?
Blessings
Rachel Hope

Rachel Heffington said...

Hmmm...that does pose a problem, Rachel, doesn't it? I would say just set a page-count at that point. And to get an idea of what your word-count might be, go ahead and just take one page and count the words on it to get an idea of about how many words there are per page. I hope you get access to a computer sometime soon, dear!

Hope's Treasures said...

Thats a really good idea ! I shall do so very soon.
I really don't know why I couldn't think of something like that. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas, and advice.
Blessings
Rachel Hope