Guest Post: “Text or Texture,” by Roger Leatherwood

The next guest blog post comes courtesy of Roger Leatherwood. Roger and I share a common bond, in that we’ve both made a decision, later in our lives, to follow our muses and take this writing bug that’s been nagging us, taking us further and possibly someplace better.

We also share a mutual admiration for Miami Vice; as some of you are aware, this blog partially takes its name from what I think is the show’s best episode, “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.” Okay, maybe not the best episode, but definitely my favorite. Roger believes some of the episodes of the first season, such as “Evan,” “No Exit,” (the one with a pre-Moonlighting Bruce Willis memorably playing a sadistic arms dealer), and “Calderon’s Return, Parts 1 &2” are better.

I’m inclined to agree. We also agree the show took a nose dive after Season 3, but it did get better in the final Fifth Season, when Sonny Crockett went rogue for a while, having suffer amnesia and believed himself to be his undercover alter ego, Sonny Burnett.

Anyway, it was damned good show, and as glitzy as it was in the day, it’s an underappreciated cop procedural these days. It doesn’t get enough credit for reimagining what police dramas could and would be capable of; without Miami Vice, I say, there’s no NYPD Blue. You can quote me on that.

At any rate, Roger’s guest post, “Text or Texture,” follows below; it’s an excellent think piece on the writing process that I think you’ll certainly enjoy. I know I took much from his guest post.

Roger’s bio – Roger Leatherwood worked on the lower rungs of Hollywood for 20 years before giving up and returning to print fiction.  He can be found on rogerleatherwood.wordpress.com.

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TEXT OR TEXTURE

I’ve been writing, like most writers, for about all of my life, inspired most and indelibly when a poem I wrote in 6th grade appeared in the weekly newsletter to parents. I really only became serious about it in the last couple years, and I counted up how much I’ve written and was surprised it already numbered over 250,000 words.

 

There’s a couple short novels in there but mostly it’s made up of a lot of stories and blogposts that may end up reused in other formats, if I can track characters through and come up with some appropriate endings.

 

If I keep it up for in another 3 years I’ll be up to a half a million. Unless I just jinxed it by writing this right now – the writer’s block will begin tomorrow morning.

 

I really started over 3 years ago, with a rush of ideas and feeling for craft and building my written legacy and had stories carefully plotted out ahead of time, about this, and they’ll do that, and the ending will be thus. In the rush to get as many words down as possible, to capture sudden floods of inspiration, I’ve also had those flashes that aren’t fully formed, ideas that come suddenly in the night or while walking the dog, in the shower or at dinner, fertile scenes and frozen vignettes, more impressions than narrative.  I also tried to capture those in their ripe and fleeting birth, discovering what they’re really about as I write then out, teasing the nuances by nailing it down. Sometimes they have no endings and they remain unfinished. Sometimes a phrase or a paragraph fits into something else, a good workshop.

 

Some stories magically form complete in an afternoon and I look at it, perfect and strange and I say – who’s is this? Others I struggle over for 6 months, changing the ending, cutting the first 4 lines, going from third person to first, adding 1000 words to the middle. It’s all careful negotiations between the moment of inspiration at the flush of birth and the craft, the 99%, the years since 6th grade, the 250,000 words.

 

All practice, mindlessly or word by stubborn word, early before coffee or after a couple scotches. Not only am I figuring out what to say, I’m figuring out how to say what I’m trying to say.

 

It’s not just text, it’s texture.  The voice, the package.  Stumbling or breezy cant.  Whether its minimalist poetic flash or lush patois-heavy confessional with unreliable narrators at every corner, whether hard-boiled crackle or mannered omniscience, all approaches form my ability to say what I want, in the way that best gets it across.

 

Some start as very self-serious until I discover they benefit by having a lighter more humorous tone (or, less often, the opposite).  Some seem like they’ll run 6000 words until I break them on the page and they’re done saying what they want by page 4.  Promiscuous adjectives make domestic set-pieces sensual and dense; clipped and terse sentences turn gothic horror into nihilistic assaults.

 

The gaps between the words are the texture. What’s pointed to that isn’t there, yet obvious for those with an ear. Every writer discovers his “texture,” from Faulkner and his lush tangled metaphors, to Vonnegut with his deceptively casual conversational affect.
I read a wide variety of fiction, but the ones I keep going back to over and over, from O’Brien to de Assis to Poe to Delany to Gibbon, have their own texture that makes whatever they’re writing about enjoyable – what they’re writing about, the actual text, doesn’t matter.

 

I could go on, but –  I don’t have an ending.

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3 thoughts on “Guest Post: “Text or Texture,” by Roger Leatherwood

  1. Pingback: Out Where The Buses Don’t Run – a guest post | On or Around Roger Leatherwood

  2. Years ago a college professor mine said my writing was rich in texture. I knew what he meant but have never quite been able to articulate ‘texture.’ This does so perfectly. Thank you!

    • Roger calls texture “the gap between the words,” but I liken texture to the filling. Words don’t mean much without something behind them.

      But, yeah, he’s articulated the term so much better than anyone ever could.

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