Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hearing voices

I was talking to a couple of fellow writers about POV and visualization and the first splash of creation across the canvas.

This came outta the exercise I'm doing for November in Books and Writers. An exercise on deep POV. Here. In that exercise I list some of the common techniques folks use to slip us into deep POV and ask everybody to go through a snippet of their own writing and recognize what techniques they're using. It's an opportunity to assess the technique matgrix, and maybe pick up a new tool or two, and a good chance for me to nip in and spot errors in POV presentation.

Anyhow. Talking about writing with these folks, comfy in the coffeeshop ....
One of my writer buddies has trouble moving her writing along because she is beset by voices in her head saying, 'No. That's not right. Fix it. Make it perfect.' I asked her if she'd read Bird by Bird, which some perfectionists find liberating, and she had, but it didn't. So she gets held back by the heels by this chorus of critical voices.

The other writer buddy has, I believe, a problem getting the internals on paper. She gives us dialog and description and action ... but not what people are thinking, feeling, planning, worrying about, intending and so on. We went through some pages of Anneka and she could point to the lines she, herself, wouldn't think to put in. The lines she lacked were of the backstory/internal-chatty/stream-of-consciousness sort – one set of the inside-the-skin stuff going on in the scene.
This writer is productive. I can't judge her writing because I haven't seen it, but a common crit seems to be that the writing feels 'flat' and the reader doesn't get to know or understand the characters.
I think she sees the interior of her character, but immediately 'edits out' the most private part of what's happening inside the skin. She never writes it because it's not 'relevant'. Her internal editor clicks in too early and too efficiently.

Just as an aside, her problem picking up internals suggests an exercise to me. To have the group pick a 500-800 word segment and give us only the stream of consciousness of one of the characters. Good for POV. Good for characterization. Good for visualization. Good for layering. Good for running several threads of approach through a scene.
Sounds like a nice little exercise. December maybe?
Such an exercise might be useful to my friend, assuming that is her problem and she has a problem at all which is a sizable couple of assumptions.

Moving along to what I wanted to say about mental noises and our visualization of scenes.
One friend is impeded by her internal critic. The other applies her internal editor too vigorously, too soon, and prunes out part of what she needs.

So I asked myself what internal voices I'm listening to.
I keep getting distracted by other stories. As soon as I 'tune in' to that particular level of consciousness, I can sink into a dozen possibilities. It's hard to keep myself telling the story I'm writing right now. Like a badly-trained hunting dog, I lose the scent and go chasing off after rabbits or mice when I'm supposed to be coursing deer. (And the others are more fun because they don't involve all that pesky typing.)
Discipline. Discipline. Discipline.


  1. Evelyn Alexie3:56 PM

    One way to deal with the inner critic is to go through another writer's blog and read entries about the trouble she's having with her mss. and her characters. It's like schadenfreunde, except instead of 'delight in the misery of others' it's more like 'encouragement in the misery of others.'
    I read things like this and tell my inner critic "See? And she's published books and everything, so shut up already. It's Not Just Me."
    (Doesn't really shut up the i.c., but does reduce him to mumbling in the background for a while.)

  2. We're all in this together. I hear that so much and it's so true.

    Doesn't matter where you are in the writing journey, just about everybody has the same problems and the same small successes.