The Baroque is a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, and music. The style began around 1600 in Rome, Italy and spread to most of Europe.
Yes, literature. This really came to me while writing the review for Pillars of the Earth, a Ken Follett book. I jumped from him to one my my favorite authors, China Miéville, a brilliant writer who makes me curse when I read his books, the wording is so clever.
Follett’s writing is very methodical. Miéville is very artful. I went straight from Pillars of the Earth to The City & The City and just blinked over the latter’s phrase, “a coil of seagulls”. Think about that one word and how it implies motion, direction, and action. So perfect.
But this is the decision a writer must make – not everyone likes baroque writing. I do – I read (and reread) H.G. Wells, where an artillery-shelled Martian is slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven. I crab and strain to come up with words that work, that throw a hundred toggles in the reader’s mind, that convey a scene and moment so perfect, they get it. And if anything will make me pause and moan in rapture, it’s when another writer does it to me. Like coil. >Shudder<
But, yes, it can be a turn-off, as the webmasters of the popular Penny Arcade point out below…
So this is the trick – most people don’t chose to write this way. In fact, most writers are blunt hacks that don’t put a lot of stock in what it takes to be a true writer (most just grind out the same stories, over and over, and don’t even really read to see how others might craft). Me, I’ve loved writing and enjoy a story that tells its tale with efficient (i.e. baroque) words.
It’s not a decision to make lightly. Facing facts, most writers work the young adult angle since kids don’t worry about clever writing as much and, if they do like it, you’ve got an instant viral marketing campaign going. Adults (those who read, a diminishing number) don’t seek out the unique and different. They actually count the stars on Amazon and read what’s safe, not what’s unique.
You’ll have to make a decision, whether you’ll write safe or true. After all, it’s got to go into an envelope and to a literary agent, one who is going to scowl over your clever words and decide whether they wish to place this before a flatline market. Me, I’ve made my choice – I write what I write, with Wells and Miéville in mind. They’ve done it and perhaps I can too.
At least I’ll stand out.
And at least the writing will be more than just a string of words in acceptable sentence structures.
My choice. And your’s, too.