Week 46 | Speak about someone else’s WIP
So I’ve already kind of done this for S.E. Berrow’s The Mayor but I’m gonna be sneaky and repost it on here as well.
So You Want To Read The Mayor, huh?
I’ve known Sally (or S.E. Berrow to you mortals) for the better part of a decade. A friendship that has bloomed to the point where I am trusted to read her WIP is an honour I don’t take lightly!
The Mayor is a deceptively simple tale. Plot-wise it certainly might appear to be: an insular community has a violent shake-up from a new arrival, but that is where the simplicity dies. What you’ll be exposed to is some very complex characterisation.
I’ve said to her many times that she has a way of inhabiting her characters’ state of minds to a near-uncomfortable clarity — you really get a sense of the emotional and physical state of them, feeling the “lived-in” experience, almost as if you are there. Every ache and blemish is computed. I love the melodrama, the witty (and sometimes crude) dialogue, and how easily this could sit on the screen. Honestly, I can see actors in wigs and 18th century-finery charting the slow and dramatic collapse of the relationships in the tale. BBC drama, wherefore art thou?
The characters are satisfying to observe. By far my favourite is Jonathon “J-dizzle” (my addition) Carson, the wayward younger son of Jeremiah Carson, a rake who wishes for freedom and experience unlike his more fastidious brother Jaspher. Between them is the manipulative and bored Melora Winship, best friend of J-dizzle and subject of deep infatuation to Jaspher. All of the characters are pitiable as their stories unfold, all except for one swaggering monstrosity: William Goddamn Kale, aka. Bill, aka. Distasteful Creature, aka. Fuck That Guy.
I have created a holiday to help temper my searing hot rage: International Fuck Kale Day, a daily holiday where humans all around the world come together to express their intense hatred of him. Such is the skill of Berrow’s writing to create a character so distasteful but not to feel like he is a caricature. Cold, ruthless, calculating, competent, he is all you want in a villain. And, loathe as I am to say, he is one you love to hate (I’m never going to hear the end of this). His machinations pave the way for the wider story and he will be the linchpin to their unveiling. I usually can predict where stories can go, which isn’t a problem for me*, but I really lean in when I can’t easily guess. The wider story is a mystery to me and I can’t wait to explore its depths.
From the coastal colony setting, with pirates and magic surrounding it all, there’s a very Robin Hobb flavour to it all. This is something to her credit: many years prior, I read Hobb’s The Liveship Traders upon Berrow’s suggestion and the influence from Hobb is unmistakable. The setting, and focus of character…
The Mayor is also much leaner.
I’ve read the draft so it’s very much unfinished even with The End being written down on the story. When she pares down the wordiness, smooths the edges on some of the characterisation, and polishes it up, we will have a very good book become a brilliant book. Did I mention the characterisation? Damn her characterisation.
*It’s not a problem for my enjoyment, I think I meant to write here
This is a fine case of Past Oran providing for Present Oran.
Until next time!