Saturday, September 25, 2010

Danger! Torment! Chills!

First of all, I’m going to rush out and get myself one of those voice recognition programs immediately (see Peter’s entry below). I’m badly in need of a cure for all my bills.

The uninitiated may think that writing is an occupation without physical peril, but in truth it’s very hard on the body as well as the mind and spirit. Like Peter, I too am bothered by lots of physical problems when I sit too long in front of the computer. I get eyestrain and backaches and numb-butt. I always write with a brace on my right wrist, since I once was afflicted with such an awful case of carpal tunnel that I was unable to type at all for a couple of days (note photo of author on Nov. 14, 2009, entry on this web site). I was near the end of a manuscript at the time, so it was a very uncomfortable situation. I tried to deal with the problem by dictating into a tape recorder with the idea of transcribing the text onto the computer as soon as my wrist was functional again.

It was surprisingly hard to do at first, full of stops and starts, ungrammatical phrases and long moments of silence. But after fumbling around for a few minutes, something very odd happened. I discovered that if I forgot about narration for the moment and concentrated on dialog, I became possessed by the characters. I “wrote” a thirty minute conversational exchange between two characters, a male and a female, that flowed out of me like water, and when I listened to the tape later, it was like eavesdropping on two people who had nothing to do with me.

My voice, accent, and grammar changed utterly, which I promise I did not do on purpose. In my head, I was writing a story, not acting. In the end, I got quite a serviceable scene out of my dictation, but to this day, every time I listen to that tape it creeps me out.

In a related aside, Dear Reader, some thirty-five years ago, during a family gathering, I met a woman who my sister-in-law assured me was a psychic. She seemed like a very pleasant and normal person who spoke of everyday matters, but during the course of the evening she put her hand on my arm and told me that someday I’d write books, and I’d do it by dictating them into a tape recorder.

Now, I was already writing books at the time, so that was no revelation, but I had never tried to “talk” them. I was intrigued and amused, but I avoided tape-recorder-writing thereafter. For after all, how could she have “predicted the future” when it was she who gave me the idea in the first place?

I thought of that incident when I did my transcription experiment. Would I have tried it had the psychic not put the thought in my head a lifetime ago?

Tomorrow’s guest blogger is handwriting analyst and mystery novelist Sheila Lowe. Sheila is a court-qualified handwriting expert who testifies in forensic cases and has written two books on the subject. She also writes a mystery series featuring forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose, who uses her expertise to help solve crimes.

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