The following written piece which you will read is a result of my first attempt at testing out an approach to writing advised by the exceptional Ursula K. Leguin. For the first exercise, Leguin chooses to focus on the sound of prose and its importance. Reminding us that prose does not have to be poetry to sound great! She gives a few examples of texts where the sound of prose aids greatly to make the reader feel what is going on and to set the entire atmosphere of the piece. How for example, certain sounds or alliterations are used to translate ideas of sadness or of joy or of action. And explain the intricacies of the ‘movement’ of prose.
Here is the result of my first attempt of the first exercise of
Steering the Craft […] by Ursula K. Leguin, she suggested two plot possibilities to try out the learned techniques (Climax of a ghost story or Inventing and Island and events which occur on it) :
On an island in the far-off ocean called Pumpernickel, a lone man washes ashore. Time passes unperturbed until, finally, he wakes. George was this man’s name. And George was a man of little words. He had been a fleet admiral on one of Her Majesty’s many vessels when suddenly, a storm broke out, sinking his ship and throwing him along with his crewmates overboard and to the mercy of the oceans capricious currents.
And, as George rose from the sandy beach to take in his surroundings, he wondered how he had survived and whether any other survivors had been carried to this little piece of land.
George was a tall and lanky man. He often stood a head higher than most of the men he had come across in his lifetime. But now, George had no one to be taller than. And the absence of other human beings was a feeling quick to wash over him as he circled the islands’ coast for hours before returning to the same spot having met no one other than, his own shadow.
He was left with no other option but to accept the unavoidable: He was alone, and he was lost and soon he would be hungry too and in dire need of shelter. He knew he had to make a swift decision as the sun was dimming on the horizon and its light would slowly dwindle until naught remained but the afterglow.
So, George opted to build a house first for rain might come during the night and without a roof he would get wet and getting wet would give rise to sickness. Which would in turn leave him in no state to be rummaging around the island for nourishment.
George built himself a small hut out of palm leaves and sticks in front of the entrance to the islands’ forest. As floor and bed, he used sand which he brought from the beach. And in the comfort of his improvised hut, George lay comfortably resting on the sandy floor. He employed carefully the time before sleep arrived to take him away from this nightmare, by trying to guess where he might be. He had been sailing on course for the West indies and had just about completed half the journey before the storm broke out. But, the storm had carried them way off course for a while before the ship sank. So, he could not ascertain where he had been. And putting his memory through hard and strenuous work he attempted to recall all the courses Her Majesty’s vessels took when heading for the West Indies. He hoped one ship might pass by the island on which he was marooned for provisions or a quick rest. Then, perhaps, he might be rescued.
George shivered. Not from the cold. He knew how unlikely that scenario was. Yet, he hoped all the same for a miracle. But he was tired, and his bones still ached from the ocean waves his body had been rumbled through. So, he went to sleep hoping that night would bring him many a solution.
– By Issa Dioume