Mea Culpa: It's Not You It's Me
If I'm Breathing, I'm Cheating
It was just a matter of time…
Before you panic, please know that I’ll still post at least a couple decent articles each week, maybe more. Beyond that, the heart wants what the heart wants, and I’m wildly swept up in a new idea, and this is like a honeymoon, like being seventeen years old on a honeymoon with someone you just met and married in Las Vegas, who’s way-out-of-my-league beautiful and exciting, and well—Now at least you know.
When a new book strikes, sometimes it’s the idea: The little machine of plot and premise that you know will escalate to chaos. A big “what if?”
Other times, a new book begins with a crazy voice in your head. It talks to you in the middle of the night. Seriously, I wake at 3:32 or 1:15 and scribble in notebooks until lunch. Then, I begin to keyboard my notes and keep working until dinner. Then, I’m awake at 1:15 the next morning with the next torrent of voice. This go-round it’s the voice that’s driving me. And I never seem to get tired, and it’s probably not healthy.
The idea is important, but the way into the story can be the most difficult challenge. The type of language, high or low? The consistent slang and tics? The nonfiction forms that will dictate transistions? The naming conventions for primary and secondary characters? The narrator’s Body of Knowledge?1 When a book begins as a voice-driven project, all of those elements seem to occur as if by magic. It’s as if you’re possessed by a character, and your patterns of thinking conform to those of the character. The plot is impossible to anticipate, but it seems to arise organically from that oddball voice. And typically it’s the voice-driven stories that are hardest to synopsis.
So if I seem distracted lately, blame it on this intense short-term addiction to a new voice. It’s the “shell” I always look for protection within. For a few weeks I’ll get to be a horrible person like Tyler Durden and see my world as that other person would. It’s nothing less than a seismic break in my day-to-day. That said, I’m still around and will still respond and post. Next up is an article looking at whether to kill or not kill an animal in fiction, and what’s to be gained by either choice. And there will be a test on this next week, so stay frosty. And there will be prizes, of course.
This is when writing feels like a vacation from being me.
The lens of education and experience through which the narrator sees the world. That Body of Knowledge highlights and distorts certain details.