Sunday, 9 March 2008

Hearing Characters

There's a great thread just started over on the CompuServe forum about how writers hear their characters speak (the thread is called Open Question). Here's my little contribution:
Sometimes I hear or read something – a word, a phrase, a lyric – and it starts the ball rolling, whether action, dialogue or monologue, and I have to write it *now* or I’ll lose it. These are the ideas that come fully-formed, often at the beginning of a new story, and are generally the roughest stuff – need a lot of hacking through in the editing process.
Then there are the linking scenes, every place in the manuscript that says [need link here] – these are the short, bridging scenes that I have to write to make the story flow, but where I know I definitely don’t want to say “they all went to bed and woke up the next morning” :-) These take some craft to pull through.
Then there are other times when I have to force the characters to talk – in a scene where I know what happens in the beginning, the middle and the end, but just can’t seem to write. These are usually the times when my inner critic is speaking much louder than my inner muse. For me, this usually centres around dialogue. That voice starts up: “this is crap dialogue, five year olds sound more sophisticated than this, what are you doing, give it up.”
But the story must be told. I love this little book, I have to make it the best I can so I can put it out into the world. And I force myself to sit and write. This is where Diana Gabaldon’s idea of kernels and digging where the ground is soft come in – that’s exactly what I do with fiction and what I do even with non-fiction – find a place to start. I might look through my research books, or listen to music or even clean the house or be sitting at the office or something – but all the while the scene is rumbling in the back of my head and I’m trying to get a feel for what’s going on... And usually a line or an action bubbles up, giving me a place to begin exploring.
There’s never a "perfect" time to begin; it’s the act of actually setting pen to paper (or, for others, fingers to keyboard) that leads to words. Words may be silly, blunt, unemotive or wrong – but they can always be edited. You can’t edit what’s not there in the first place...
Edited to link to Snail's Tales - hearing snails!

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Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • The War of the Jewels - Book 11 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Hierophant by Lee-Ann Dalton (short story)
  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
  • 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (reread)
  • Lonely Planet guide to Switzerland
  • Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
  • beta read!
  • Ode on Venice by Lord Byron (poem)
  • Little Miss Scatterbrain by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Little Miss Lucky by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Little Miss Trouble by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Homage to Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway (short story; reread but I really don't remember it after 20 years)
  • The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier (reread)
  • Sing a Long Children's Songs
  • Emily's First Christmas
  • Up At the Villa by Somerset Maugham (novella)
  • Telling Stories by Tim Burgess
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Marble Collector by Cecilia Ahern
  • Sophie's Throughway by Jules Smith
  • Baby Animals (Little Golden Books)
  • The House That Jack Built (Little Golden Books)
  • Scuffy the Tugboat (Little Golden Books)
  • The Saggy Baggy Elephant (Little Golden Books)
  • Morgoth's Ring - Book 10 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Who's A Pest by Crosby Bonsall
  • Mine's the Best by Crosby Bonsall (reread)
  • The Case of the Hungry Stranger by Crosby Bonsall (reread)
  • extracts from the diary of John Evelyn (Volume 1 of 2)
  • extracts from Lord Byron's letters about Villa Diodati
  • Pippin the Christmas Pig by Jean Little
  • Ite Missa Est by Anthony Martignetti
  • The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Red Angel by G. K. Chesterton (essay)
  • Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • The Boy Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was by the Brothers Grimm
  • The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • secret beta read!
  • Preludes by Wordsworth (extracts read aloud)
  • Little Miss Scatterbrain by Roger Hargreaves
  • Dance Me A Dream by Kait Nolan (ARC)
  • Once Upon A Coffee by Kait Nolan
  • England and Switzerland, 1802 by William Wordsworth (poem)
  • Once Upon A New Year's Eve by Kait Nolan
  • short story by Becky Morgan (http://forums.compuserve.com/discussions/Books_and_Writers_Community/Writers_Exercises/Becky_Morgans_December_X/ws-books/85291.1?nav=messages)
  • Blood In Blood Out by Brenda Novak (short story)
  • That Hell-Bound Train by Robert Bloch (short story)
  • Distraction by J. L. Campbell
  • Humble Bundle Peanuts collection (strips by Charles Schulz)
  • Peanuts Volumes I to VI (bought via Humble Bundle; very disappointing as it's mostly new strips -- how is that even allowed?!)
  • Sandals and Sangria by Talli Roland (short story)
  • Over the Hump by Talli Roland (short story)
  • issues of Journal of Inklings Studies and Amon Hen and Mallorn (Tolkien Society)
  • Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matt Napier
  • Babar and his Family by Laurent de Brunhoff
  • Illusions Lost by Byron A. Maddox (short story)
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • Lost My Name book for Emily (https://www.lostmy.name/)
  • Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne
  • When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne (reread)
  • Neil Gaiman comics on Sequential app
  • Moranology by Caitlin Moran
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2015/12/annual-books-read-statistics.html
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2014/12/books-read-in-2014-review.html
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2014/01/toast-to-professor-books-read-in-2013.html
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-hobbit-review-and-year-end-books.html
  • see the 2011 statistics on http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011-statistics-fourth.html
  • see the 2011 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011.html
  • see the 2010 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2010/12/books-read-in-2010-listed-here.html
  • see the 2009 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-ii.html
  • also in 2009 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-iv.html
  • see the 2008 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-ii.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-vi.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-iv.html