This month, I’ve been dipping my toes into the water of a brand-new project, taking the first steps on the looooong road that will eventually (I hope!) lead to a finished novel. I actually love this part of the process. Doing loads and loads of research reading, letting myself daydream as I read (or do dishes, or watch my six year old practice handwriting), racing to my computer to type notes into my ‘ideas’ folder as they occur to me. It’s a little like decorating a Christmas tree at this stage of the game. Every day I unwrap a few shiny ornaments–a setting, a plot twist idea, a deeper understanding of the hero’s emotional baggage and journey– and tentatively decide where they might hang. I don’t have a vision of the whole tree, not yet–I may not until the moment when all those shiny ornaments are unwrapped and hung and I type ‘the end’ at the close of my first draft. But it will come.
One of those shiny ornaments that I haven’t quite gotten unwrapped (I swear I will give up on this metaphor before you’re all thoroughly sick of it!) yet is the narrator’s voice. That will come, too, I know–it always does, when the time is right. There are many guidelines–many very good– out there with tips on how to strengthen your narrative ‘voice’, but to be honest, I don’t typically use any of them when I’m writing or outlining. For me, there’s an element of almost magic in uncovering a character’s unique voice and style of narration. At some point in my reading and research, the main character’s voice simply starts sounding loud and clear in my head. A lightening bolt strikes, and that’s the moment when I know I’m ready to start typing.
Which is great, but not especially predictable or helpful in terms of giving other authors advice on how to find their own voice. I really enjoyed Lisa Cron’s post here last summer on the subject of ‘unmasking the muse’. Essentially, Lisa suggested that the creative force that drives our writing isn’t some external ‘muse’ beyond our control, that even when it seems a question of magical lightening bolts striking and bringing characters to life, it’s really our amazing subconscious minds at work. So this time around, I thought I’d try to pay attention and delve into the process a little bit more. Where exactly do these voices come from, these characters’ voices that we hear so loud and clear when we’re telling a story? How do we make them striking and unique and ensure that they come alive on the page? [Read more…]