Observation Journal: 5 Things to Steal from A Surfeit of Lampreys

This observation journal page is a list of 5 Things to Steal from Ngaio Marsh’s A Surfeit of Lampreys (previously mentioned here: Read and Seen — August to November 2020).

Double page spread of observation journal. Tiny handwritten observations and a sketch of toilet paper rolls, and notes on Surfeit of Lampreys.

It continues to be a good way to quickly process thoughts on a book (and other things). Five is enough of a stretch if I’m stuck for thoughts, a reasonable distillation if I have too many, and sufficient to fill a page.

As usual, I expanded each note of something I’d like to steal by outlining how to “steal” it— that is, how to adopt or adapt a trick or trope or glancing idea into my own illustrations or writing. This both gets it out of anything in the realm of copying, and pushes me to actually record if not begin working on some ideas and next steps.

For example, for “a family impervious to dramatic events”, there’s a reminder to play with the idea of “hauntings fail to break through squabbles”, and also to try a picture of “person walking like that photo of girl in street but unruffled” (presumably, given the broader context, surrounded by ghosts or monsters).

Somehow I recognised this as a reference to “An American Girl in Italy” by Ruth Orkin — here’s an article about it

The application notes are mostly shorthand references to various projects, but here are the elements of Surfeit of Lampreys that particularly struck me:

  1. The structure of a family impervious to dramatic events, continuing through chaos with only minor variations.
  2. Minor point-of-view character gets romance with charming dilettante for whom there might yet be hope.
  3. Several perspectives on the main characters (always fun), but leavened by an unfavourable view held by a sympathetic character.
  4. Magic (the supernatural) not directly affecting or even terribly relevant to story (see also Sayers).
  5. Clever, ridiculous, untied family, and benefits thereof (and difficulties of breaking in/exclusion? or do they adopt others freely?)
Tiny ballpoint sketch of couple with linked arms
have fun storming the castle

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Tiny ballpoint sketch of toilet-paper rolls
What can I say? It was 2020

1 thought on “Observation Journal: 5 Things to Steal from A Surfeit of Lampreys

  1. Pingback: February 2022 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

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