Bastille Day open thread

Happy Bastille Day1! When you’ll be reading this, I’ll be out of town ogling old airplanes and shooting a variety of targets with rifles. I may have test-fired my trebuchet a second time, now with sufficient counterweight, but I’ll talk about that next week (possibly even with another video).

Rather than describe my upcoming weekend in more detail, I’m going to use this post to write about writing, and I don’t mean in a way that’s helpful in the general case. Specifically, I’m going to write about writing in the skypirates universe, and about the pulpy style I’m trying to develop.

First: I’ve been aiming to describe things in color. I didn’t do much of that for We Sail Off To War, not as a deliberate stylistic choice but because I just neglected to. A lack of color does help paint a picture of blacks and grays, lit only by the red glow of displays and the orange flicker of fires, but that’s a fringe benefit. I’m less able to ignore color in the Nathaniel Cannon stories, in part because the 20s and 30s call to mind sepia tones, and also because the world is intended to feel larger than life. Vibrant colors and vivid images help with that.

Second: dialog and character voices (obviously I have some things to say about Lachapelle, but that’s going to get its own paragraph). My watchword so far has been differentiation—even among the characters without obvious phonetic accents, I want them to sound distinct enough to tell them apart on the strength of their words and diction. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, and I probably won’t be until I finish this story and come back to it, but as an exercise it’s been interesting. I’ve been having dialogs aloud in my characters’ voices. Fortunately nobody’s given me anything more than weird looks for it (I guess I’m surrounded by people tolerant of insanity).

Third: narrative and suchlike. Obviously, I can’t say too much about this for fear of giving away the plot, but suffice it to say that pulp doesn’t have to be about the twist that seems out of left field at first blush, but makes more and more sense the more you think about it (I’m terrible at those). It doesn’t bother me if you see where I’m going with these stories, so long as it’s a wild ride getting there. I’m planning ahead more than I ever have before and making a conscious effort to be economical with plot points, and I don’t intend to introduce many details that won’t be important later.

Fourth and finally: pulp tropes. There are a few of these. The bar fight is probably the most obvious one so far—there’s something essentially pulpy about a good brawl in a colonial bar, and this one, at least, comprises pulp cliché from start to end. Less obvious is Lachapelle in his entirety. Phonetic accents take a lot of flak for reasons TVtropes mentions in more depth than I’m willing to, but that page mentions the caricature effect as a downside. I see it as exactly the opposite for a story like this: while Lachapelle (and for that matter, all of the characters in this story) have depth and motivations, even if they’re not on display here, I’d certainly be hard-pressed to argue that Lachapelle isn’t a pastiche of French stereotypes, too. For that matter, the other characters all fall along pretty traditional lines. Cannon’s the fearless leader with a Blofeld complex2, and Joe’s his loyal3 right-hand man who he trusts to keep him from killing all his allies with overcomplicated plans. Emma’s the bruiser you don’t see coming, Iseabail’s a mad scientist from Scotland, and Choufeng is the typical wise old Chinese fellow. There’s a lot more to all of them than those short descriptions suggest, and in between rollicking tales of adventure and derring-do, I want to tell the tales of how they came to throw in their lot with Cannon. You have that to look forward to, I guess, and so do I.

In entirely unrelated news, you haven’t heard Snavely talk yet, but when he does, picture David Mitchell’s voice.

1. Although I question the wisdom of the French in commemorating an event that led directly to one of the more brutal regimes in history, its anti-monarchical symbolism notwithstanding.
2. That is, a penchant for overcomplicated plans, not a fondness for cats.
3. There’s a reason for that!

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