Philea continued to dominate my recent writing sessions. During yesterday’s effort, she took me down paths that had me cringing. It wasn’t the sort of stuff that I generally write. It was contrary enough to my normal voice and style that I considered whether it should be continued. I wondered if she’d breach the series’ borders and was taking off into the wrong direction.
This prompted a guidelines review in my post writing walk. They were good reminders.
- Write like crazy. I’m still finishing this book and series. (The series is Incomplete States, and this novel, the fourth, is Good-bye, Hello.) Basically, open the doors, portals, floodgates, valves, lit the fuse, whatever metaphor works, and let it go. Editing is for later, when it’s all done.
- The characters are allowed latitude to explore themselves and the story. This has the additional benefit of allowing me to explore the story and characters.
- I’m an organic writer. While I know where I expect to end up, the paths I follow are being created as I go. That’s the same with the characters. A compass is used to keep us going in the correct general direction, making corrections as necessary.
- Let the readers decide. Readers bring all kinds of conceptions and ideas to stories they’re reading. They find their own interpretation of truths and myths, and apply them. They won’t all enjoy the same books, or even the same parts of a book.
That last point, about readers deciding, emerged from early critique groups. I’d noticed several biases develop in a writing group. Not surprising, as they’re all readers before they’re writers.
- Some like to be told everything. They don’t want any gaps in what was said or happened. They don’t want it to be abstract. Others prefer that their imagination fill in the gaps, or that, this is like life, and we don’t always know all of the answers.
- Some writers/readers like a leisurely style. The want to slow down and breath in the atmosphere.
- Some prefer style over substance, or substance over style.
I tend to write in a very active voice. It’s my preferred voice. But, I use multiple POV (sometimes first person, but third person dominates). In giving latitude to characters, I notice some of them don’t like a direct, active voice.
After thinking about that, I realize, well, of course. I don their skins and minds when writing from their POV. When I do that, I try staying true to them and their voice. Just like real individuals, they have styles of observing, thinking (and applying knowledge and lessons learned), interacting, and taking action. They carry emotional and physical baggage. These traits direct their voice when the story is being told via their POV.
This wasn’t something I developed on my own. I’m always developing on other writers’ shoulders. This specific point came through an epiphany I had while reading J. Franzen’s The Corrections about fifteen years ago. I later cemented my impressions while reading Wally Lamb, Michael Chabon, Louise Erdrich, Tana French, Kate Atkinson, and others.
Of course, in a qualifying pause, I change up styles to reflect pacing and tension. I use shorter sentences and words in confrontational scenes, epiphanies, fights, and arguments. That brevity contributes to a more direct and intense feel, speaking for myself — yeah, it’s my blog post, right, so who else could I be speaking (or writing) for? — as a reader and a writer. Your preferences might vary.
As a reader, I’m not married to any one style. I like enjoying books and taking what I can from every one of them. Many books end up surprising me, and I like that most of all, as a writer and a reader.
So I cringed and wrote Philea’s part about Holes and The Stipulations. I won’t predict whether it’ll make it into the published version.
Time to get back to writing like crazy, at least one more time.