An author’s tone, symbolism and imagery have transported me to the desert. She transformed it into an oasis that I wanted to visit. S.A. Chakraborty caught me in her magical world for the second time in The Kingdom of Copper. And I am deeply envious of her skill.
Writing style is the manner of expressing thought in a language that is characteristic of the period, an individual, a nation or a school. It is the flavor of the work.
I may have watched Aladdin more than once while I was growing up. Alright, I can sing along to A Whole New World. Aladdin’s dialogues may have been my anchor on the speech patterns of desert dwellers.
More than a Genie
The author’s choice of words and sentence construction immersed me in this other culture. Her descriptions of the world of the djinn had me seeing them as more than the blue-skinned stand-up comic from my childhood fairytale. In Ms. Chakraborty’s weaving of language, they became three-dimensional characters that I fell in love with. Each of them with a conflict that I could relate to, driving them to make the decisions they did.
This author’s skill at generating the right kind of imagery flabbergasted me so much that I went to her website then found her reading list. The titles were explanation enough. Immersed in the culture, the history and mythology of what she was writing about. How could she not reflect it in her writing style?
A Study of Culture
Research is not one of my strengths as a writer, which is why I gravitate to fantasy. And that is a big problem because I want to incorporate my own culture in my work. Unlike other Asians who have long since immortalized their identities in their novels and films, Filipinos have chosen to adapt. To the point where I can’t distinguish what was native from what is foreign. But S.A. Chakraborty inspired me to study my culture the way she studied hers. To wheedle out what I can from resources that are available online or in books. And then I can stop saying we lost our identity as a people and bring it to light. And maybe the next generation of Filipinos won’t feel so confused.
I do not have all the answers. When I can’t think of a better word to use or do not have first hand knowledge of something, I google it. But the on demand answers often strip out tone, symbolism and imagery. When I’ve read old texts and mythology, I was transported to a time before I was born. As a writer, you need to immerse yourself in the language of the time. In the myths that make up your culture. In the history that made your people who you are. And, in turn, you will grow your roots deeper while you reach for your dreams.
As a first step, I ordered The Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology by Maximo D. Ramos from Amazon and have just started reading it. I also found a website called The Aswang Project, with posts about the deities and creatures from different provinces in the Philippines. And I have a sample of Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions by Virgil Mayor Apostol on my Kindle app. From the titles, you can probably already guess the type of book I want to write.