Thursday, February 15, 2018

Little Voices Inside My Head

The little voice in the back of my head began whispering to me around page 200 of the novel I’m writing. I’ve heard the voice before, and like the other times, it began like a bad radio transmission: static muffling a cryptic message.

As always –– when I plant myself in front of the computer to compose, print the hard copy, read that with pencil in hand, and compose again –– the whisper isn’t so distant. Static fades. Eventually the whisper turns to a shout. Plot twists and turns come into view.

I grew up on a steady diet of Conan, Agatha, and detectives like Spenser and Kinsey. I experienced all kinds of plots, from the traditional mystery, to the intricate and complicated, to, dare I say, even the outlandish.

Plot, I’ve come to believe, is simply the natural sequence of events done by people whose personalities dictate said sequence.

Common sense? Of course. But I’m a genre writer (proud to be one, in fact), and even though I consider myself a character-driven writer, I know there’s an unspoken agreement between my reader and me. I’m tasked with having something to say about a contemporary issue, creating a characters you want to spend time with, and keeping you on the edge of your seat while we follow the story together to the end. These tasks are things I’m more likely to be aware of before I start a novel. When working on the book, the end game changes: I’m focused on telling the story as clearly and economically as I can.

So now, around 200 pages in, the little voice is shouting: Would he say that so easily? Wouldn’t the suspect have acted differently? Should she say this?

Revision turns to rewriting. Revision, thanks to the whispers, is truly a re-envisioning of the work. I'm adding scenes and rewriting to make suspects better drawn and clarify the logic behind the sequence of events.

Because of this, composition rarely feels like forward progress. Rather, reclining on my sofa, manuscript pages on my clipboard, pencil cutting words, adding words, drawing arrows, the voice becomes louder and writing becomes clearer and more focused. And I trust that the plot will come into light.

Sometimes, all it takes are the voices inside my head.

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