Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 2 Update - Plain and Fancy Speakin'

Today's Progress: 1800 Words.
Running Total: 3431 Words - to complete Chapter 2.

3431 / 60000 words. 6% done!

Today's progress was mostly a matter of transcribing old notes, which is good, because today is a long day at the Day Job, and tomorrow will be even more so.

Transcribing old work is a good way to get back into the rhythm of a story, and back to the voice of my narrator, Mick. In some ways it's an easy voice. Mick is a chatty kind of guy. Sure he can be a plain spoken westerner, but there's another side to the western "voice." A certain formality and respect for the twists and turns of a clever sentence and the beauty of words.

I really enjoyed watching the Coen brother's new version of True Grit, and one thing that really impressed me was how well they handled the formal language of period lit. The characters speak with a lyrical quality, sometimes earthy, sometimes clever, sometimes straight forward and sometimes speaking in loops.

While Mick doesn't speak with that formal awkwardness, he does have a playful way with words. And he talks a LOT. He goes for effect with repetitive patterns, and drawing comparisons and using parallels which are often unnecessary. But those loops of words are also a part of the point. Editing will always be a trick because I have to respect the voice. I've got to let him talk his way around a corner and back again sometimes.

At the same time, I have to tighten it. So far I've found the only way to do that is multiple passes. I've got to let the language settle in on me. I play around with a bit here, and leave the rest. And then the next time through I can see more places to tighten it up. You can't do it all in one go, the way you might non-fiction, or even with a more straight forward voice in regular fiction. You can't just slash away unnecessary verbiage.

In this case, each word IS carrying a weight, and that weight has to be shifted to other words and phrases. The editing process becomes like archaeology. Instead of digging, you scratch away with a feather to unearth the treasure.

Voice is one of my favorite things about writing. I like to discover a world through a character's point of view. And a detective, of course, has to be particularly observant of his world, and able to draw conclusions from it. (Perhaps that's why the other character I have trouble with is Karla. She too tends to think in loops, drawing conclusions and phrases out of the corners of every thought.)

Tomorrow is my longest day at work, but I have more "easy" transcribing to do and should be able to keep to schedule. On Thursday, I might jump ahead and start working on some new material.

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