Friday, April 23, 2010

[Book Update] Hearing Voices

I recently finished a cut of Chapter 6b. It wasn't right. It was done, but it wasn't finished. I read through it and instantly saw what I'd done (again) - too much tell, not enough show. It was another chapter that was mostly narration and not enough action or dialogue. Ugh.

I had a problem, though - as much as I'd love to introduce this new character (who I had pulled forward from Chapter 13 and quickly discovered was a more important character than I'd initially realized. A MUCH more important character, actually) though dialogue, I couldn't see any way to do it. There was simply NOBODY in the book that this guy would have any interest in talking to, certainly not with any degree of honesty. He's a villain and he despises pretty much every character I've introduced so far, or would be likely to introduce into the setting where the story is currently taking place.

Luckily, I had an idea that worked extremely well - I gave him a companion. A very special companion who is both useful as a character in his own right and absolutely perfect as a sounding board for this unique individual. Problem solved!

Until it was time to sit down and tear up the chapter, turning narrative text into natural-sounding dialogue that conveyed the same general information, perhaps in different words or different order. I wrote a single line of dialogue, then found myself stumped. I couldn't hear the voice of this new character. I couldn't come up with anything interesting for him to say, or a way for him to say it.

It may be that I was having some trouble cutting into the words I'd already written - like a surgeon who knows his patient is sick, but hesitates to slice through his smooth, healthy-looking skin to get to the problem beneath. Editing's certainly not my favorite thing to do, especially when it means taking text that I feel is well-written and changing it, possibly (if I don't edit it perfectly) losing some of whatever it was that made it work before. It's certainly not beyond me to edit something that's good and turn it into something that sucks.

That was a week ago. I had to give up on that chapter for the afternoon - I just couldn't get it. I went on to my karate test and left it sitting, abandoned and unedited.

The next day... it was still sitting, abandoned and unedited. But as I wrestled a pile of freshly-washed karate uniforms out of the washer and hung them to dry, I started to hear voices. They were the voices of my villain and his new friend. And they spoke and spoke and spoke. So much so that I was afraid I might forget it all before I was done. I quickly hung everything up and raced off to my computer, typing up the dialogue with lots of "blah blah" references to the text I needed to intersperse between the chunks of conversation. Woo! I was back on track at last, thanks to the voices. Call it crazy if you like, but I think this time, hearing voices worked to my advantage.

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