Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a 1950s MGM musical (masterpiece) about hot guys who kidnap girls. Okay, according to the Ma Kettle character, it’s really about “seven, slummicky backwoodsmen”. So, how, you ask does that work in an era where the audience will expect singing, dancing and general merry-making? Now some (most) of the actors are real life ballerinos – that’s a duh for Frank (Tommy Rall, smacksmack) and Caleb (Matt Mattox) – who are the first and second men pictured, respectively. But it becomes pretty obvious that Benjamin (Jeff Richards, smacksmack) is most decidedly not. Which has nothing to do with the point of this post but you needed to know. (He’s still as tall as a church steeple and rocks the brazen locks.)
What are we talking about here, you ask. Shut up. I mean, I’m getting to it. Anyway, anyone who’s watched the Special Features a million times – which, let’s be real, is all of us – knows that there was a discussion of how genuine it would seem to have seven backwoodsmen (or six because Howard Keel aka Adam doesn’t dance anyway) dancing their little slummicky hearts out. Right. So the big barn raising number instead demonstrates the “gentility” of the society in which they’re outcast (ie the dark haired, nearly ethnic looking townies dance to their little hearts’ content) and gives the brothers an opportunity to fail before showing off the strength and swarthiness that makes them the better men. Complete with hatchet throwing and other feats of balance and precision that one would expect from men who live in…Oregon. (Come to think of it, you should be a wiz at the whole tree-fellin’ thing by now, Andy.)
SO. I was thinking of this because this month has been full of lessons for me. I won’t say writing lessons because I’m not bestowing writing advice because, well, you know by now how I feel about that. I’m all for learning from the mistakes of others, but in art, that’s not quite as valuable. Anyway! So, my defiantly-untitled novel is YA and as you might imagine, is from a first person perspective. It’s been quite humbling in general but particularly in the fact that much of my work is literary and omniscient. I’m not sure I frequently “smell the roses” when it comes to scenery and I’ve certainly never done any world building. But here I am writing a steampunk scifi – did I mention dystopian – and guess what. There’s a lot to say for the beauty and contrast of this place. But this girl is pretty jacked up and stilted, internally. She’s not gonna just start waxing poetic about the otherworldly aspects to which, for the most part, she’s already accustomed. She’s got a lot on her mind. And maybe a shadow or two behind her. So, how do you (I) keep it from being literary in terms of absolute density and turning off fans of science fiction who love the splendor and gadgetry. Welcome to my world.
In the end, I have to take a lesson from Seven Brides… Yes, it’s obvious but guess what, this blog entry is about meandering, I mean. O_O Smelling the roses. I’m not cryptic. On purpose. So I’m spelling it out. In short, my girl’s internal chaos or whatever (see the precision there?) has to be relevant to the description. For this particular book, memories (or false memories) can layer over the present day landscape. Her companion who slumps to bended knee wears the veil of a weeping willow across his shoulders, further demonstrating his crushing failure. (That one probably makes more sense in context, but you understand or will pretend to, yes?) I can’t just say what everything looks like – with the exception of the city she’s never seen, perhaps – because it’s a first person narrative and SHE doesn’t have time to smell the flora.
What CAN’T you learn from Howard Keel movies?! “What do I need manners for? I already got me a wife.” Oh, you ridiculously charming cad, you.
P.S. I’ll never forgive Alice for her delivery of the line, “I love to hunt eggs”, nor will I understand why Caleb apparently had a singing double but Ephraim got to belt out “Sun’s gettin’ shattery” in all his pitchy, oversung glory.
USELESS UPDATE: Since you’re all doing it and I should not like to be not doing what you’re all doing, in this post,