This is the second in series of the blog posts cum notes that I’m writing while reading Damini Kane‘s debut novel The Sunlight Plane. I took notes about the first chapter in the last blogpost.
The want to start with an observation
Damini’s book feels like a super hero story, in that usually, the world of two 9 years old children — what they think, how they feel — is often not known to adults upfront. It’s like Matrix’s code, one has to develop an intuition to see what might be happening in their minds and hearts. The super power Damini gives the readers through her story, is that everybody has a direct access to the lives of these children.
ABOUT CHAPTER 2
I scribbled about in the book like a mad man. I’ll only be able to jot down a subset of everything in this blogpost. Reminder to self — while writing the final review, consult the scribblings as well.
Oh, where do I even begin. Let’s start with an example of the observation I made above. Tharush’s father says “I think it’s worse for a child to live with two people who are always fighting each other. It doesn’t create a good home environment, you know?“
to which follows the following text —
“Home environment”, Tharush repeated, because he had never heard those two words together, and they combined to form a concept he had even considered. Homes had environments?
He thought back to all he’d learnt in school about the environment. That it was polluted, that there was acid rain, that a healthy environment was important for life. The implications for that inside a home… For him, home was where it was safe and cool, where there was food and love and his toy fighter jets.
“Do we have a healthy home environment?” Tharush asked suddenly.
See what I mean? This automagically allows humour to jump right in. Honesty precedes humour (I think?)
I’ve observed a writing style pattern that Damini uses to cut out the need for adverbial dialogue attribution (as Stephen King so suggests),
and I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere else. It could be because I have not read many books altogether, but whatever the reason, I’ll explain the writing pattern with the help of an example of an excerpt from her book itself —
(Tharush asks this in the middle of a conversation he has initiated with his father, to know what a divorce is) —
“So what happens to the children?” Tharush asked, and his father gave him this look, as though saying, NOW you’re thinking.
The this in the above sentence is a solid placeholder and escape hatch from the temptation of using an adverb. This pattern, of placing placeholders and actually showing the reader exactly how a person might be thinking or what they might be doing, instead of redirecting that work to adverbs which would, in most cases, only be able to give a hint of that action or feeling is amazing. Adverbs are indirect, one step farther in trying to give an adjoining and explanatory hint about the verb they are trying to embellish, if that makes sense. I’m going to try this writing style in my writing, everywhere that I can. Another example of an adverb saved (without the placeholder) —
“No!” he cried, his voice high and panicked. “I didn’t do anything! I found it like this!”
Another one(without the placeholder) —
“Don’t be silly”, his father replied, prompt and warm.
Another one, and this one is the most genius of all —
Tharush let out a noise he didn’t even know he could produce. Some combination of an explanation and a wail. His fingers dug through his sweaty hair to somehow contain his excitement…
Another one?(without the placeholder) 😁 —
He lowered his eyes in some mixture of shyness and guilt as he awkwardly kicked the floor.
Hence less is not always more, especially in writing long form fiction.
The part of a dialogue that comes between the the words of the dialogue —
“Okay.” Tharush let out a breath of air he didn’t know he’d been holding. “Good”
I can practically see the breath gushing out while he said Good.
Deferring what happened to the latter part of a fragmented sentence, instead of writing it as a description in the beginning —
“Freak!”, Vikram suddenly shouted, and all at once, Tharush felt the wind expel from his body as the football collided brutally with his ribs.
A bad sentence (that in all likelihood I would have written) would have been a descriptive sentence that Vikram threw a ball towards Tharush immediately before where the bold part of the sentence above starts. But deferring it til the consequence of that action makes the reader excited and gets on reader’s nerve to rush to the end of the sentence. Talk about sentence turners (analogy to “page turners”). Another one —
“You can’t just cower before him because of what he might do, you know,” his mother replied, but her tone was appeasing.
The bold part keeps the reader up on his seat, still, looking for the behaviour of her tone, because she had shown, in the sentences previous to the above (not written here), irritation and annoyance towards the bully who had bullied her son, and her mother. So it was likely at the start of the sentence above, that she might have said this in an irritated, or angry tone, but the tone of the sentence was left hanging in surprise well up until the end.
Emotionally Charged Sentences —
“It’s…” Tharush began, his voice sounding raw and scratchy. His throat hurt. He wanted to curl up and cry, but he wasn’t going to give Vikram that power over him. Taking a brave little breath, he finished, “They’re idiots”
This complemented one thing so nicely — Tharush’s will to become strong and willed, because he wanted to fly fighter planes, and how could he fly them if he was expelled because he was weak. Another one —
…”Now why would you lie about that”?
He blinked, blinked, blinked, but that was useless against the burn in his throat and the sting in his eyes. “Vikram did it,” he muttered, wiping away before they got any worse.
The bold sentence could have been poorly written as a description, premeditating the fact that his eyes were becoming watery and stingy and his throat was burning. But instead Damini showed what was happening as the consequence of that. We all try to hide our tears from anybody present in the room directly looking at us, by trying to constantly and repeatedly blink in a futile attempt to not let tears fall down. He blinked, blinked, blinked. Again, PURE GENUIS! Another one (a person who has unexpectedly been caught doing something he was not supposed to be doing) —
Aakash jumped violently and turned, shoving (I’d have used a weak ‘hiding‘) one of his hands behind his back as his wide, terror-stricken eyes locked onto Tharush and his lips parted to form barely intelligible stutters.
In the first glance, one might think that a fragmented dialogue showing Aakash stuttering would have added upto this. But the fact that it is so detailed testifies that, that could have been an overkill.
Playing with colours —
His red shirt looked almost orange in the yellow light of the building’s lobby.