Sunday, August 29, 2010

Author voice vs character voice: I seem to like to start certain dialog with “So, blah blah…” It becomes a problem when I let my tendency to type that run a little wild, showing up in more than one character. It can be a speech pattern in one guy, maybe two if the writing’s good enough, but readers will quickly start seeing the author’s voice if that same pattern keeps popping up.

This post may not be as organized as others; I've got a headache this morning.  A general thing I've noticed as my writing has improved: continuing to improve is getting harder.  I'm more concerned about a whole lot of things that I either didn't know about before, or didn't realize were really so important.  Author voice is an example.  And I'm still wrangling with Neal's language; exactly which words might he use when?  I have to jog my own memory to keep up with stuff happening behind the scenes.  "Off camera", and mentioned briefly in the story from time to time, Neal reads a lot.  I haven't specified what, though earlier chapters mentioned the L.A. Times and unnamed Spanish-language newspapers.  I referred once to him getting fiction from Sam, the drum tech who gave him his first look at what roadie-ing is about. 

Maybe I need to mention that more in the story, because if I forget that he's continually reading a lot of stuff that would affect his language, readers might too!  There's so much to remember and check for and beware of while writing!  Not only do you have to keep your characters' voices separate and unique, you have to stay grammatically correct, unless you want to draw attention to a phrase.  You try to avoid stereotypes and cliches, unless you have a good reason for using that.  You try to come up with unique ways of saying things, that will still make sense to most readers. 

Writing seems to be something you have to balance: picture a scale like that often used to depict the zodiac sign Libra.  You load "stay grammatically correct" in left-side pan, but then the right-side pan is too light.  You load exceptions in the right-side, but it overbalances, so you have to take some out.  On and on.  I was born under Libra so maybe this should be easier than it is ;-)

With all that going on, it's easy to get overwhelmed with the details.  Sometimes my brain locks up because so many options present themselves and I don't have a knowledgable person sitting right next to me who can offer advice.  Then it's time to physically walk away from the laptop.  Even 15 or 20 minutes helps.  I like to get some cookies, or tea with honey; sometimes just go walk around outside the house.  I let the words and questions finish bouncing around in my mind, let the echoes die down, and look at the paragraph again.  If it's still not sorting out, then I know I have to put it away till tomorrow. 

Having said that, I still love to write.  That geis I mentioned before is as strong as ever.  I'm so focused on my characters' world that when I hear half-sentences in conversation, it sounds like Spanish (even when it's not), and I automatically think of musical contexts for words even when people are talking about something else.  I'm sure this is what some writers mean when they say they inhabit another world while working on a novel.

I love feeling so close to my characters that I can touch them sometimes.  Hearing their unique voices -- clearly enough to glance sideways to see if, maybe, they popped into my universe -- is one thing.  Seeing the stage, and the audience spread out in a hazy, smokey sea, from Sandy's viewpoint during a live show is something else.  The closest I've come to being on a stage has been seeing filmed events where a few brief shots let me glimpse what performers see.  I can get myself in the right frame of mind to close my eyes and flick into a moment or two of a Sylvyr Star show, right there with the drum kit spread out in front of me, the lights in my eyes, and the first few rows down in the crowd jumping, waving, and screaming like their lives depend on it ... because for that short time, it does.  That's how I come alive :)

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