Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WiP Wednesday: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Journaling

Sort of a wordy title for a post, but I'm feeling wordy today. I apologize in advance.

You may know I've been working on my urban fantasy lately—currently titled Parallel, although I'm not sure if that gives the right impression... Just another thing to second guess, like I used to second guess my pov choice for this novel. Well, I'm here to tell you that pov is one of the few things I'm doing right in this urban fantasy. I'm certain of that now.

If you're wondering why I'm getting so worked up about a little thing like pov choice, it's because I've written Parallel in alternating first person with four separate pov characters.

Yeah, I know. Why would I do that to myself? Don't I know people will be confused? Don't I know that writing four distinct voices is a huge challenge?

Yeah, I do. And I'm doing it because I think that it will be the best choice to serve the story. I've already written the story in third person (the first half of which was originally in alternating first before I chickened out and rewrote it in third), so I'm not concentrating on story this time around. I'll get back to that later, but first, I need to rewrite each section in a way that better reflects the attitude and personality of the pov character.

Looking at the manuscript as a whole and rewriting as I go has proven to be a daunting prospect. All those words bearing down on me kept me from thinking straight about the way each character would be thinking about what's going on around them.

So I decided to shut off the computer (NOOO!!!) and grab a new journal. (The paper of this new journal is made of limestone and aside from its obvious eco-friendly pros, it's also got zero drag and you can write like greased lightning on it if you've got a good ergonomic pen. ) I started off by dividing the notebook into sections and creating a word bank, a list of words and phrases the character commonly uses. I also added words they'd never say, just to round things out, and made of list of books, movies, tv, food, etc. that they liked.

From there it wasn't that difficult to think of a scene in the book that I felt needed more "voice" and I started writing. At first, I stayed in one character's pov, just to get the voice right, added some passages to the manuscript, reread it, and when I was finished, then I'd move on to the next character. I also made little timelines in the notebook of what was happening in and out of that character's pov. I needed to know how each character was feeling even if it wasn't their turn to tell me.

Not only has this method helped me to get voice right, it's helped me feel more organized about the story. And I love to write in that stone-paper notebook. ;)

For Strings, voice came pretty naturally, and since that was my most recent first draft, I'm pretty happy about that. But I think Parallel can be saved, and I'm going to try my damnedest to do it.

What tricks do you use for voice? Do you have to think about it, or does it just come naturally?


Abby Annis said...

You rock, Tere! Just reading about all the extra stuff you have to do to keep track of everything gives me a headache. So awesome that you're tackling such a major project. :)

As for tricks I use for voice? I don't know that I have any tricks. I just think the most important thing is to really know your characters. And if you know your characters and can get into their heads, the voice will come.

Great post! :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow. I love seeing inside your process like that. Fun post! My current MC has my son's "voice" so I just run with what I know. He he. :-)

Susan R. Mills said...

Sounds like a great tool. I admire you for trying the four different pov thing. My second project (which is hiding under my bed) is written in an alternating three pov. I gave up after the sixth chapter. Maybe I'll go back to it and try again. I think it could be a great story, but I do need to work on getting all three voices right.

Anissa said...

Four POVs! Girl, you're a superstar!! Your process is incredible. I don't have any voice tricks. I wish I did. But I may have to try your journaling. Thanks!

Lisa and Laura said...

What a fabulous idea! We have a student in our writing class that is struggling with POV as well. We'll have to share your secret. I love this!