December 08, 2003

giving voice

Thereís this short story Iíve had in my head for five years, ever since the event-which-can-be-altered happened. I sat down two years ago and wrote a paragraph. Stretched it to a page. Stopped. Too melodramatic, too full of portent. Bad bad bad.

Sat down again a year and a half ago with a new approach. Wrote five pages with great difficulty. Got stuck. The next bit was going to be lots of non-verbal woman-with-crying-baby angst. The way I was writing it, I worried it would bore the reader. Hell, it bored me. So I put it down, but the story nagged. No, hounded. Write me, write me, Iím here and Iím not going away, damnit. I hate when fiction does that. On the other hand, thatís why Iím writing my novel. That too is a story that never left me alone. So maybe this is just how I work.

But still, even though the story seed tickled and wiggled in the back of my brain, I had no way in and so every time it poked its head out: ďIím still here! Write me!Ē Iíd stuff it back inside. ďIím not ready, go away. I may never be ready. Shut up and find yourself someone else to write you. Anyone want a story idea, cheap at twice the price?Ē

And so it went. But one day last week or maybe the week before Neil Gaiman mentioned in his blog that he was starting his new novel. He talked in passing about finding the tone, and how itís got an easy, conversational voice, much like he has in his blog.

Ah. Yes. My novel has a poetic sort of style. It works for the subject, I think; it lends a certain dreamlike quality to the action (or at least thatís what itís supposed to do). But this short story needs something completely different. I hadnít been consciously going for poetic, but everything I wrote had a studied quality, like a late Renaissance still life. Attention to detail, yes, but everything so carefully placed and so quiet. When youíre writing about how excruciating long stretches alone with baby feel to a new mom, that doesnít work so well. (Donít worry, I am in fact not giving anything away about this story.)

That was that. In the car a few days ago, the opening came to me. And the next part. And the bit after that. Because now I have a voice for it. Not a portentous, slow voice nor a bittersweet, poetic voice. Something more blunt, more ironic. And now Iíve got three pages written. I even wrote over the weekend. Every time I open the file to take a peek, I write more even if I donít mean to. I wrote a paragraph or two sitting at the dining table yesterday afternoon keeping Damian company while he devoured a grilled cheese sandwich. I never do that.

This is of course premature to say and Iím tempting the writing gods by posting this, but I think I have the story licked. Finally it can get out of my head and onto the page. Fully fleshed out at last.

Posted by Tamar at December 8, 2003 01:32 PM