Tag Archives: narrative voice

A new voice

So despite all of the crazy busyness of the last couple of weeks, the novel has managed somehow to hold its own. In fact last week I was flying – on Thursday and Friday alone I managed five thousand words, which helped me get my head well and truly back above the water.

It wasn’t just about the words, either: plot points fell into place, my characters led me through some tricky resolutions, and my head was bursting with ideas about where I wanted to take things next. Out of nowhere I had found some much-needed momentum, and just for a while it felt as if the story was writing itself.

But of course that didn’t last; I knew it wouldn’t.

The downhill cartwheels that were powering me through were gathering speed as I grew closer to an ending: the end of my protagonist’s childhood, and also the end of the section of the novel that is set in the (not so distant) past. But it is not the end of the novel. My task now is to get to know the adult she has grown into, and that is a whole new challenge.

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Yesterday, I mainly scribbled notes – adding to the initial ideas I’d had about those almost-present-day chapters and hovering my pen over emotions and actions that suddenly didn’t feel right. I thought I knew her, adult Catherine, but it turns out that maybe I didn’t.

I suppose it is only right that having spent several months (and sixty seven thousand words) travelling through her teenage years the woman who I am faced with now at thirty three is different to how I had imagined. She’s much more rounded, which is good. Initially when I was planning I only had the outline of the tumultuous events that had shaped her, I didn’t know exactly how she would respond. So I am almost starting again, in some respects, mapping out those future echoes with a preciseness that was previously beyond my reach.

Much of the details will come out in the writing itself. I began a scene today which, when I let it, filled in the gaps for me. It’s slower work though: finding a character who is changed and yet consistent, a tone which is complementary and yet not just more of the same.

I’m trying hard not to get frustrated.

I can see that 24th May deadline that I set myself looming up fast over the horizon, and I suspect I might not meet it. I don’t even know right now whether ninety thousand words are going to be enough to tell the story I want to. There’s definitely going to be some serious editing when it comes to the next draft, but I suspect the raw material may spill over once I’ve found my flow again.

And ultimately, I have to remind myself what’s important. The deadline was only ever a cursory one, the word counts plucked out of the air to give me something to aim for. Part of me is impatient for the next stage. I want to see how all of these parts are going to fit together, how the story will weave its way between past and future. But I know I need to get the whole of the story down before I can do that.

So I will carry on, listening hard to the voice of this damaged and disillusioned woman at the dawn of the new millennium. After all there is nobody else that can tell me the rest of her story as well as Catherine herself.

 

Another voice

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As I’ve been working through my draft, chopping and changing and adding and tweaking, there’s something I haven’t quite been able to reconcile.

On one level, this novel is a thriller. Something bad is happening – right from the beginning. Except my protagonist doesn’t know about it, and we’re seeing things from her point of view. I need to create a growing sense of dread, a sense that all is not right in the world – but from Grace’s perspective, for the majority of the time at least, everything is unfolding as it should. There are moments where her intuition tells her to be careful, but it’s hard to really work these without things seeming ham-fisted. And besides, she’s not stupid: if she was really uneasy then she wouldn’t take the steps she needs to for everything to pan out as it does.

When I was in the planning stages I thought perhaps I could tell the story through multiple voices, weave the different versions of reality through. I soon concluded that this wouldn’t work, that it would give too much away where I wanted to leave the reader guessing.

Except now I’m not so sure…

I wrote a character exercise last week to explore things as my antagonist sees them, and it turns out his voice is so strong that I don’t think I can silence it. He can’t have equal airtime in the novel – it is not really him that this story is about – but I think there can be flashes, moments of insight into the dark mind at work behind the scenes that will colour the reader’s interpretation of the rest.

That’s where I’m at right now anyway. I’m going to see what happens if I let him have his say at a few key points, whether I can manage to craft his interludes so they create that sense of dread without giving too much away. If I can pull it off it should add an element of dramatic irony as things unfold, give the reader a smidgen more knowledge than Grace has herself to filter their reactions to her through.

And if nothing else then just the process will give me more of an insight into what’s driving him, and that can be no bad thing.

 

Muddled Manuscript