Author Topic: Pointless architectural detail  (Read 888 times)

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  • outspoken diva
Pointless architectural detail
« on: December 10, 2018, 10:03:12 AM »
So I was trying to read Brian Lumley’s pulpy vampire novel Necroscope, and I became frustrated in the first chapter by him doing this fucking thing:

Quote
‘Central in a densely wooded tract of land not far out of the city - where the Serpukhov road passed through a saddle between low hills and gazed for a moment across the tops of close-grown pines towards Podolsk, which showed as a hazy smudge on the southern horizon, brightly pricked here and there with the first lights of evening - stood a house or mansion of debased heritage and mixed architectural antecedents. Several of its wings were of modern brick upon old stone foundations, while others were of cheap breeze blocks roughly painted over in green and grey, almost as if to camouflage their ill-matching construction. Bedded at their bases in steeply gabled end walls, twin towers or minarets decayed as rotten fangs and gaunt as watchtowers - whose sagging buttresses and parapets and flaking spiral decorations detracted nothing from a sense of dereliction - raised broken bulbous domes high over the tallest trees, their boarded windows glooming like hooded eyes.

The layout of the outbuildings, many of which had been recently re-roofed with modern red brick tiles, might well suggest a farm or farming community, though no crops, farm animals or machines were anywhere in evidence. The high all-encompassing perimeter wall - which from its massy structure, reinforced abutments and broad breast walls might likewise be a relic of feudal times -showed similar signs of recent repair work, where heavy grey concrete blocks had replaced crumbling stone and ancient brick. To east and west where streams ran deep and gurgling over black boulders, flowing between steep banks which formed them into natural moats, old stone bridges supporting lead roofs green with moss and age tunnelled into and through the walls, their dark mouths muzzled with steel-latticed gates.’

Can I just say to any aspiring authors out there: please do not do this. I know you might think you're flexing your writerly muscles by showing off all the architectural terms that you know, but guess what? It's boring and no one cares. No one wants to hear about your minarets and parapets and buttresses and abutments. It's pointless detail and you should be focusing on a character-driven story.

I hope you all have the good taste to agree with me about this.

Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2018, 11:42:56 AM »
I dunno, it can work:

Quote
Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

Default to the negative

  • outspoken diva
Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2018, 03:35:50 PM »
That's a bit different.

I haven't read the Gormenghast books but as I understand it, the layout and segregation of the city is important to the story. Which is a more worthy type of description. Probably.

It doubt it's like Brian Lumley or Stephen King using 30 pages to tell you how spooky the ancient castle was, where the spooky thing happened.

Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2018, 08:44:24 PM »
It's especially annoying and unwelcome in books about architecture.

gilbertharding

  • Not even the rudest man in the Beatles
Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2018, 02:37:16 PM »
As someone who is an actual architect* it's doubly distracting, because I'm constantly wondering if the writer means joist, or is it actually a rafter? The word 'mullioned' is particularly susceptible to misuse like this. I suspect it's mostly used by writers to mean those windows with the diamond-patterned lead-work, when in fact a mullion is the structural post which vertically divides a window. It's ultimately irrelevant, but as I say: distracting.




* I am not an actual architect, as the title is protected by law - but I do have a degree in architecture, and have worked as an architectural technician for more than 20 years.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2018, 10:15:17 PM »
Finnegans Wake has a little bit of a parody of this, as may have appeared in travel guides:

Quote
[HCE]walked as far as the Head where he sat in state as the Rump; shows Early English tracemarks and a marigold window with manigilt lights, a myrioscope, two remarkable piscines and three wellworthseeing ambries; arches all portcullised and his nave dates from dots

Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2018, 11:24:19 PM »
It's especially annoying and unwelcome in books about architecture.

Genuinely got a bit annoyed one of my friends admitted they skipped every other chapter in The Devil In the White City to focus on HH Holmes; by the end I'd gotten more captivated by the Worlds' Fair story.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

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Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2018, 07:42:55 AM »
Opening post,  I liked the first paragraph but the second was ott, it could have been broken up with character work in my opinion

Glebe

  • So here we are, then.
Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2018, 01:32:31 PM »
[tag]Richard Osman comments on BBC set.[/tag]

Twit 2

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Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2018, 11:08:40 PM »
So I was trying to read Brian Lumley’s pulpy vampire novel Necroscope, and I became frustrated in the first chapter by him doing this fucking thing:

Can I just say to any aspiring authors out there: please do not do this. I know you might think you're flexing your writerly muscles by showing off all the architectural terms that you know, but guess what? It's boring and no one cares. No one wants to hear about your minarets and parapets and buttresses and abutments. It's pointless detail and you should be focusing on a character-driven story.

I hope you all have the good taste to agree with me about this.

When you read Calvino’s Invisible Cities you’ll shit bricks.

imitationleather

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Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2018, 11:33:38 PM »
Genuinely got a bit annoyed one of my friends admitted they skipped every other chapter in The Devil In the White City to focus on HH Holmes; by the end I'd gotten more captivated by the Worlds' Fair story.

I'm reading this at the mo. What your mate did is just cheating. You can get through the H. H. Holmes ("Herman Webster Mudgettttttttt" as the incongruous barbershop quartet in that documentary about him sing) stuff in like a couple of hours. Ring your mate now and tell him I am not impressed.

Hey, Punk!

  • Dead styles in the imaginary museum.
Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2018, 11:40:43 AM »
I completely disagree with this thread, literature that focuses upon a place over characters is the way literature needs to go. The dogma of the 'good story' really needs to fuck off. Give me systems, not people.

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Pointless architectural detail
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2018, 11:43:10 AM »
So I was trying to read Brian Lumley’s pulpy vampire novel Necroscope, and I became frustrated in the first chapter by him doing this fucking thing:

Can I just say to any aspiring authors out there: please do not do this. I know you might think you're flexing your writerly muscles by showing off all the architectural terms that you know, but guess what? It's boring and no one cares. No one wants to hear about your minarets and parapets and buttresses and abutments. It's pointless detail and you should be focusing on a character-driven story.

I hope you all have the good taste to agree with me about this.

Lumley is a master of scene setting though. Ive not read Necroscope but his short stories are brilliantly immersive, if somewhat pulpy