Saturday, April 24, 2010

Brainstorming Day 8 - Prewriting

As I mentioned yesterday, I am experimenting with writing a kind of omniscient first person narrator. I'm having fun with it, and I think it could actually work well... but I don't think I'm going to use it.

The issue is that the strongest and most fun element is also a detriment to other things. That's normal, I suppose. Everything is a trade off.

The element in question is "author intrusion." That's something we usually try to avoid, but it really depends on the voice. If you remember last fall, I was looking at opening lines for various books and I mentioned how Dickens opened A Christmas Carol with that wonderful opinionated author intrusion about just how dead Marley was and how important it was to remember that.

The reason it works is because it brings the voice of the narrator - the storyteller - to life. And that's what is fun about Lady Pauline as a narrator. She is lively and opinionated, and her intrusions could work very well.

For instance, last night I played with a pair of scenes that reflected one another. It's when they first meet Commander Zuzo, Pauline makes a disasterous attempt to charm him, and is booted out in a roar of anger. (Zuzo is channelling Tommy Lee Jones or Samuel L. Jackson here.) Lily realizes she has to repair the situation and though she is very timid, she womans-up and tries herself. She takes a different approach and has a very different result.

Now, Pauline was not there for the second scene, but she does a good job as any author in creating a vivid scene and telling the story like I might. But she is very much present in the voice, and has no fear of intrusion, so when Lily says exactly the right thing to Zuzo as her opening line, Pauline comments on it: "It was obvious. If I had been there I would have bashed my head against a tree for the idiot that I am."

Since I imagine the Pauline who tells the story to be elderly and much much wiser, I find I can get her to pull back on too much intrusion, and respect the story.... at least ninety-nine percent of the time. There are certain subplots that I have in mind where I feel as though Pauline's opinions, even kept to herself, would be intrusive. The awareness we have that the ghost is watching and interpeting might be too distracting, no matter how much she pulls back.

But I haven't tried yet.

I titled this entry "Prewriting" and here's the deal about that: Pauline is a difficult character to get right. She's a little annoying, and she doesn't let you see her vulnerabilities, at least until she has armored them up properly for public view. Having her narrate scenes she should be ignorant of gives me a chance to push her into a corner and see her better. To see what she really thinks.

And once you have really seen the things a character hides, you can much more easily display them, no matter what the technique you use. Forcing a character to tell stories they might not ordinarily tell is a great prewriting exercise. It's almost like one of those therapy or acting exercises in trust and all that. It gets you working together with the character.

So I'm going to push on with this experiment a little bit. I may end up with the perfect tone and voice for the story... or I may just know my heroine better.

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