Two weekends ago, a friend invited me to the Montreal International Pyromusical Competition. This annual competition is the largest event of its kind in the world and to win a Gold Jupiter here is equivalent to winning an Oscar. Sort of. I was lucky to attend on two counts. The first was that my friend is a judge at these events and so I got to tag along and benefit from some of the perks (free parking, all the junk food I can eat, free rides on the Ferris wheel) as well as witnessing first-hand how these events are judged. Secondly, the team from Fireworks Spectacular Canada who designed and produced the Canadian entry this year put on a splendiferous performance. http://www.fireworksspectaculars.com/
After the show was over my friend, along with the other judges, got busy filling out forms. As I examined the criteria used to judge the quality of the fireworks, I thought that some of them could apply to my writing.
For example, one of the criterions was luminosity. The New World Dictionary of The American Language defines luminosity as something clear, readily understood, intellectually brilliant. That’s pretty much what I should be aiming for.
Then, my eyes fell upon “dead times”. It didn’t take much imagination for me to see how that could be related to my own writing. I mean, if I myself am bored with what I write imagine the reader. Dead times. Yawn. Yawn.
Then came fluidity. Here I thought I’d be brilliant and compare the flow of my writing to water. Is it like a stormy ocean that makes the reader seasick? A brook that is too calm with nothing much happening? A stagnant swamp? An artificial lake with its pretentious language? Or a scintillating river with streams that take one to unexpected and remarkable places. Brilliant, isn’t it?
Special effects were also on the judges’ list. How did this apply to my writing, I wondered? Did it mean being poetic? Using hip-hop slang? Or perhaps it meant not taking the reader where she wants to go. Or inserting a good hook.
Finally, there was soft versus strong moments. Am I over-writing? Does my writing convey different emotions? Is my writing gluttonized with oracular adjectives and sciolistic adverbs that leave my reader flummoxed?
And if this was not enough to satisfy my craving to be spectacular I started in on pyrotechnical vocabulary and came upon bombette (a mini-shell). Now, here was a word to use in describing a semi-bombshell in a Chandleresque type novel. Or what about punk (the wick for lighting small fireworks) which led me to write this sentence: Anyone can light a punk, just as anyone can write a sentence, but it takes product knowledge, excellent structure and great control to pull off a piece so that the reader will go WOW!
So that’s what I was trying to do. I was going for WOW! Then, I realized that my writing could never be as spectacular as the fireworks. Because, unlike these theatrical pyrotechnical artists for whom the sky above and the lake below is the canvas upon which they illuminate their choreography, mine is a blank screen in a boring office in my home.
And, no matter how hard I might try to dazzle my readers with outstanding descriptions or power grilled sentences what really matters in the end is whether I have a story to tell.
So, I forgot all about trying to be impressive and original and luminous and adding special effects.
I went home thinking of how hard these pyrotechnical choreographers had worked…an entire year for thirty minutes…and understood that before I could sparkle, my writing would take lots of devotion and persistence. If I was not willing to do that then all I could expect out of my writing was a little cracker.
For anyone interested in learning more about pyrotechnical vocabulary you can check out Tom Smith’s Fireworks Glossary at http://www.saxtonsmith.co.uk/