here I am, treading on your brain

not a novelist: writer talk

Found! Superhero Nation: focuses on comic/fantasy/superhero writing, but has lots of great general writing advice. I particularly like the series of common first-time novelist mistakes. And the Mary Sue test, because my characters tend to be too sweet/good/unflawed.

So after many months of fighting both starting the novel in my characters’ teenage years, and writing it in first person, I have caved in. Why do I fight these things?

First-person feels so intimate! It’s a million times different than third-person. It’s like, here, let me take off my shoes, I’m going to walk around inside your brain for a while! I knew my characters. I knew them well. But now I’m trying to feel what it’s like to be them. And crap, that’s weird. It’s like watching them from the outside for the past six or so months, and then crawling into their heads and thinking, am I allowed to be here?

But then, lol, I’m their god, so of course I’m allowed to be here.

I’m finding out things from first-person that I didn’t know from third, obviously. I’ve only re-written the first chapter so far, but already, I’m surprised. For example, I didn’t know Danny was SO sad! He should be, given the circumstances, but I guess he kept it hidden from me just like he keeps it hidden from everybody. Man! I can’t wait to see what I find out about Lexi in the next chapter. I did rewrite a couple paragraphs for her, and found out one thing already. She likes to play games! She’s a bit of a tease even. LOL, you can only imagine how those two are going to conflict 😉

I wonder how this is going to change the story, yet again…?

But it will work better, I think. I don’t pretend to know these things anymore. One thing I do know is that first-person naturally remedies any kind of syrupy/sentimental description phrases I might try to write. Because people just don’t describe things that way in natural voice.

Another thing I’m changing in this go-around is the structure, a little. Short evenly-alternating chapters between Danny and Lexi (at least to start). This is at my hubby’s brilliant advice. Because, he says, you can’t spend 30 or so pages falling in love with one character and then be dropped in another character’s head, and be expected to love her the same. Hubby is not a novelist (but thinks he could be, if he had the time – and doesn’t everybody?), but has read a lot, and is a movie buff – so he knows about good stories. 😉

Courtney’s writing challenge:

Courtney, I’m sorry I’m so late on your writing challenge. My whole manuscript is kind of in shambles right now. This paragraph is both a paragraph I like and don’t like:

Lexi had an asthma attack when we were eight, and that was something I didn’t care to ever see happen again. Her mother asked me to keep her calm when it happened, as she put a nebulizer together and strapped the mask to Lexi’s face, as Lexi’s lips turned an ashy kind of blue. “Keep her calm,” her mother said, holding the phone to her ear while she ran around, throwing random things into a bag. Keep her calm? I was eight, and I thought Lexi was dying. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. So Lexi’s mother took hold of me, sat me down, leaned Lexi back into my chest and she said, “Talk to her. Just keep talking.” I didn’t know what to say, so I sang her a song. And the only song I could come up with was some French song my mother sang sometimes. “Dites-moi pourquoi la vie est belle?” Lexi’s chest heaved and caved in underneath the breast bone, caved in around each rib, like she was trying to fill her lungs through a straw. I held her at the shoulders, not wanting to put any more pressure on her chest than was already there. The song was a short one, and when it was over, I started it again, these French words I didn’t even understand. Her mother hung up the phone and said, “That’s good, Danny, can you keep doing that in the car?” So I did, all the way to the hospital, for as long as I was needed.

The process: this memory just kind of fell out of me when I had Danny in a mall, seeing Lexi again when they haven’t been speaking for years. He notes that she obviously managed to grow up without him – and this was the memory that came to mind.

I like it because I think it conveys the closeness of their friendship as children. I like it because (I think) it feels kind of intense, because it’s one of those traumatizing memories that stick in your brain and you never forget.

I don’t like it because it’s a flashback and I don’t quite know where to work it in. I’m trying to work it in as soon as I can, because when Danny is talking about this girl who ditched him when they were eleven, I want the reader to feel how close they were, and why it matters to him so much. But I’m also fighting with establishing the scene first, before going into flashback. Tricky, tricky. I’m also wondering if the pronouns are clear enough for the two different females in the scene, because in some places, I can see where they wouldn’t be?

Toddler calls…