Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stained or Translucent

You enter a cathedral.  The pews are crafted from the best wood carved by master craftsmen.  They sit on a floor of polished marble.  Mass is orthodox and appreciated (or at the least put up with) by people of all ages.  Light breaks as it streams through the elegant windows, the glass stained with Biblical scenes.

You enter a newly built Protestant church.  The pews are more like comfortable benches with backs than anything else.  They sit on a carpeted floor.  Mass isn't called mass, it's a worship service, streamed along by a praise band that brings in children from all around.  The windows are clear glass.

These two extremes have their own pluses and minuses.  A cathedral is grand, but has a bit of a weakness in the main event, while a new church is simple, yet draws in crowds with its incorporation of media into scripture.  The two extremes for writing can be thought of as viewed through the windows of each, that is, stained glass and translucent.  If you are a writer of literary fiction, you will probably lean farther toward stained glass writing.  The prose is breath-taking on its own without any regard to the story, rather like the atmosphere of Mass in a cathedral.  On the opposite side, where I reside, writers of fantasy and other speculative fiction genres go for more translucent writing.  The plot and setting are mystic and brilliant, while the sentence-to-sentence language is plainer, coinciding with the standard appearance albeit fun experience of a band-headed worship service.   As a writer, you should experiment a little with both sides, and use your findings as a base.  To create great literature, you will need to find a balance between the two, a perfectly glossed pane.

Patrick Stahl

Where do you lean?


  1. Patrick, this is a really great post! I'm glad you linked us back to it, because I agree with you so much in the example you've given here, the comparison you've made. I've never really thought of it like this, not even with a different example, but you're right. My project so far, I would like to think, lean more towards the translucent writing. However, I'm not opposed to giving Literary Fiction a shot. I went to a Catholic primary school, so I've been inside the cathedrals and they are a magnificent thing to behold, but the sermons are boring as anything. While I'm sure there are examples of literary fiction that isn't boring, and 'translucent' writing that is, in generally, I would have to say that you are so right.

    Sorry, I think I got a little excited there and started ranting. You gave me something interesting to think about! :)

  2. That's fine. That's what my writing posts are for. Feel free to go through and rant on all of my old writing posts. ;)