Tales that Witness Madness Blog. The Painted Bird

28th August. 2021. Another blog post here, post-breakfast. I’m going to try and get a good whack of writing done today. I’m trying to finish this short sci-fi horror story from 2017. The one that’s set in Edinburgh (if you had read the last blog post). I’ve been mostly changing the voice in my older writing. Earlier on this year I found out that I was writing using a passive voice. I found this out by using the Hemingway app when I put extracts from my vampire novel into it. Did I mention I was writing a vampire novel? Well, that is another blog post in itself.

Anyway, the Hemingway app is a very good tool. It’s not always 100% correct but it is very good at pointing out some inconsistencies in your writing. It kept pointing out the fact that my writing was predominantly written in the ‘passive voice,’ which I was almost unaware of beforehand. After I found this out it all made sense: it was so clear then as to why my writing wasn’t as engaging as I thought it was. Unless your story is written from a flashback point of view then your story will be better served written using an active voice.

Here’s an example from my writing. The first sentence was written the old way I used to write, in a passive voice. The second is in the active voice.

When our laughter subsided I reiterated to the staff and customers to go take a fucking look out the windows on the second floor restaurant…

Our laughter subsides. I reiterate to the staff and customers to go and take a fucking look out of the windows on the second floor restaurant…

Strangely enough, I wrote another short story last October and finished it in December and I discovered that I had written that in the active voice. This was months before I found out about the Hemingway app. It seems that my writing changed at some point to a more active voice on its own. I put that down to reading. I’ve been reading three times more than what I normally used to read. It’s like Stephen King says: be a voracious reader. If you want to write (better) you have to read a lot. It makes sense, really. You can’t be a good racing driver without getting out on the track every day.

Most of my work is written in the first-person point of view. A lot of the books I like do favour the active voice. Anyway, if there’s something to take from this post it would be to try the Hemingway app. If you’ve not used it before then give it a try.

Other than that, I watched The Painted Bird (2019) last night. It’s a black and white foreign-language film, set during World War 2. It’s about a young Jewish boy who’s staying with his grandmother (somewhere in Eastern Europe) way out in the sticks. She dies and so he has to flee the cottage and roam the countryside, seeking refuge. Each segment is like a little vignette, using a title card with the characters he meets. It’s nearly 3 hours long. It’s very good, very atmospheric.

I watched it on the projector which certainly elevates any movie and makes it feel exactly like the cinema. The film itself does drag a little bit, but the attention to detail is great. And the black and white photography makes it feel like one of Tarkovsky’s movies at times.

When it finished watching it I found out that it was based on the novel of the same name. It was published in 1965 by Jerzy Kosiński. He became quite well known in literary circles at the time and claimed the book was an autobiographical account of his experiences. This probably helped its acclaim and success, although it was later proven that it was mostly a fictional tale that he had made up. There’s a whole Wiki page on this.

Personally, I don’t know why he didn’t just state that it was a work of fiction from the outset. I mean, if you’re going to tell a lie as big as that then at least put some truths in it. It was later found out that he had spent the war years in hiding with a Polish Catholic family. And it looks like he had plagiarised an earlier novel that was never translated into English at all: The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma, a 1932 Polish bestseller. The film is definitely worth a watch though. It’s got a real atmosphere about it.

Anyway, back to tweaking the sci-fi horror story. Feel free to comment if you’ve seen the movie. If you do give it a watch then let me know your thoughts. If anyone wants to hear about the vampire novel then drop a comment and I’ll post stuff on that in the next blog post.

Lastly, the featured photo (below) is from 13th January, 2017. Orchard Park, Edinburgh. Shot on my old Canon 600D.


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