Monday, March 26, 2012

In Tense

I've been struggling to find my narrative voice. I never had a creative writing teacher that challenged me (except the exceptional Dr Byrd) and so I've had to find my own voice and my own style when it comes to my writing. It seems like such a natural, why-should-anyone-have-to-worry-about-that sort of thing.

For the last ten years, I've cultivated my "screenwriter" voice, a voice that speaks to directors, producers, and actors. It tells everyone involved in the filmmaking process exactly what they need to know, painting a vivid picture of the scene, explaining why and how it's happening, but ultimately leaves the specifics up for interpretation. For a screenplay, that's fine. For a screenplay, that's great. But I like prose that's vivid. I like words that come alive and transport you somewhere as they paint intricate scenes, characters, and locations. While books are a medium for the imagination, I crave specificity.

Which is why I've been struggling with the opening chapters of Oasis (its working title). The words aren't connecting. Everything feels clunky and everything sounds like I'm trying so hard -- which is, quite frankly, something new for me. Writing is easy. It's exciting. It's relaxing. It's freeing. It's not hard work.

Kelly kept telling me to relax and stop thinking about it. "That's when you write your best stuff," she said, "when you just have fun with it." But I couldn't. I couldn't have fun with it. I wrestled with every sentence, despite the fact that the story I'm telling is a fairly light one, filled with drama and childhood trauma, sure, but I want to veer more into adventure than horror.

Then I figured it out. I needed to let my characters tell the story. Specifically, I needed to let Benjamin Blakeney, the eyes and ears of the story, tell the story. He needed to use his own words. Switching from third person to first person was a game-changing decision that has made all the difference in the world. Now the scenes and the dialogue just flow from my finger tips, as usually do.

I just needed to stop trying and just do.

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