If I’d ever met Ian Fleming, I would have slapped him. There I was, merrily writing away thinking I had written an elegant, yet interesting description of my characters. Then I read To Russia With Love. In the words of Shultz I realised that, “I know nothing.” (You must say that line in a bad German accent)
Fleming has now made me question everything I’ve written. Slap.
If you are a fan of the supremely strange Mr Fleming, you’ll know there is nothing like reading about a James Bond character. He uses graphic and evocative scenes that work with the descriptions to build a personality for the character.
“A blue and green dragonfly flashed out from among the rose bushes at the end of the garden and hovered in mid-air a few inches above the base of the mans spine. It had been attracted by the golden shimmer of the June sunshine on the ridge of fine blond hairs above the coccyx. A puff of breeze came from the sea. The tiny field of hairs bent gently. The dragonfly darted nervously sideways and hung above the man’s left shoulder, looking down. The young grass below the mans open mouth stirred. A large drop of sweat rolled down the side of the fleshy nose and dropped glittering into the grass. That was enough. The dragon-fly flashed away through the roses and over the jagged glass on top of the high garden wall. It might be good food, but it moved.” -Ian Fleming, To Russia with Love, Pub1957
Shudder. The man in the paragraph is a cold blooded killer – even the dragonfly is scared!
His descriptions of his characters are sometimes unpredictable; handsome killers, beautiful exotic women who harbour a naive nature, hardened soldiers with a soft side; but it’s the way he blends action with physical descriptions that make you lose yourself in the story.
Here is a one of the introductory descriptions of Bond, from the point of view of his enemy who is looking at his photograph;
“It was a dark, clean-cut face, with a three-inch scar showing whitely down the sunburned skin of the right cheek. The eyes were wide and level under straight, rather long black brows. The hair was black, parted on the left, and carelessly brushed so that a thick black comma fell down over the right eyebrow. The longish straight nose ran down to a short upper lip below which was a wide and finely drawn but cruel mouth. The line of the jaw was straight and firm. A section of dark suit, white shirt and black knitted tie completed the picture. General G held the photograph out at arms length. Decesion, authority, ruthlessness – these qualities he could see.” – Ian Fleming, To Russia with Love, Pub 1957.
Sigh. Although General G uses factual language and tells us nothing of Bond’s thoughts or past – we have a very distinct picture of a striking, very alpha man.
So back to editing. Time to play with my own characters and find ways of incorporating evocative scenes and different points of view into the story to make them come alive. Thank you Mr Fleming. Slap. There’s another for good measure. Very good sir.