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

  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • 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***
  • Lethal Lies by Lara Lacombe
  • The Mansfield Rescue by Beth Cornelison (skimmed)
  • beta read!
  • Killer Exposure by Lara Lacombe
  • What Makes My Cat Purr (board book)
  • Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (love this!)
  • Things That Go (board book)
  • Peppa Pig Visits the Hospital
  • Peppa Pig and Friends
  • Ox-Tales anthology
  • Colton Baby Homecoming by Lara Lacombe
  • Traumphysik by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • The Cookie Jar by Stephen King (short story)
  • short story by R. W. (unpublished)
  • The Rose on the Ash-Heap by Owen Barfield
  • English People by Owen Barfield
  • "Come Sing ye Light Fairy Things Tripping so Gay": Victorian Fairies and the Early Work of J.R.R. Tolkien by Dimitra Fimi (essay)
  • Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by J. K. Rowling
  • A Closed World: On By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Emily St John Mandel (essay)
  • Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  • The Summing Up by Somerset Maugham (reread)
  • The New Adventures of William Tell by Anthony Horowitz
  • Gambled Away anthology featuring Jo Bourne, Rose Lerner, etc.
  • The Dust That Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres
  • The Bog Girl by Karen Russell (short story)
  • Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
  • The Favour by Clare O'Dea (short story)
  • Wizarding History by J. K. Rowling (short pieces on Pottermore)
  • Jack Palmer by Amanda Palmer (essay on http://myoldman.org/jack-palmer-by-amanda-palmer/)
  • All Fixed Up by Linda Grimes
  • One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • various issues of Amon Hen
  • How do artists make a living? An ongoing, almost impossible quest by Monica Byrne (essay)
  • The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy (poem)
  • Traitor's Purse by Margery Allingham
  • Kill Me Quick by Meja Mwangi
  • A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie
  • Little Miss Twins by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Mr Rush by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Mr Funny by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • The Mzungu Boy by Meja Mwangi
  • By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • secret beta read!
  • Where the Exiles Wander: A Celebration of Horror by R. B.
  • How to Write about Africa by Binyavanga Wainaina (essay)
  • A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert Gertrude Bell (compiled by Georgina Howell)
  • Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome
  • Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A River Town by Thomas Keneally
  • Free Fall by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  • New Europe by Michael Palin
  • Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
  • The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie (possibly a reread)
  • Husli the Dwarf
  • Winter Birds
  • Walkabout by James Vance Marshall (reread)
  • Wish I Might by Kait Nolan (novella)
  • A Walk in the Countryside A B C (National Trust and Nosy Crow Books)
  • My First Touch and Trace 1 2 3
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Weep Not, Child by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  • A Secret Vice by J. R. R. Tolkien (edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins)
  • A Pocket For Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The Narrow Corner by Somerset Maugham
  • Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham
  • Le gout d'Istanbul (anthology) (skimmed)
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  • Blue Nowruz by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
  • secret beta read!
  • The Road Home by Rose Tremain
  • The Mewlips by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem; reread)
  • Just for This Moment by Kait Nolan
  • To Err is Human -- To Float, Divine by Woody Allen (short story)
  • the collected works of Beatrix Potter (Folio Society edition, over 30 books)
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman) (only half read)
  • At Home by Bill Bryson
  • Millions of Cats by W Gag
  • Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
  • Discovering You by Brenda Novak
  • Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson
  • Report from the Interior by Paul Auster
  • Dream Days by Kenneth Grahame
  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (reread)
  • They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
  • The Creatures of Number 37 by John Watts
  • The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter (reread)
  • A Mother's Confession by Amanda Palmer (lyrics and liner notes)
  • Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean
  • Guide to the Names in the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, in A Tolkien Compass
  • Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay (poem)
  • For my Wife, Navid by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • An Evening in Tavrobel by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem; reread)
  • The Lonely Isle by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem; reread)
  • Bilbo's Last Song by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem)
  • Ancrene Riwle, preface, by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley (poem)
  • Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Peoples of Middle-earth - Book 12 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • The Young Magicians edited by Lin Carter (anthology; includes two poems by J. R. R. Tolkien and all of rumble rumble rumble rumble drum belaboured by C. S. Lewis, referred to in The Last Battle)
  • Black and White Ogre Country by Hilary Tolkien
  • The Devil's Coach Horses by J. R. R. Tolkien (essay)
  • Guido's Gondola by Renee Riva and Steve Bjorkman
  • Save Our Public Universities by Marilynne Robinson (essay in Harper's Magazine)
  • Edmund Campion by Evelyn Waugh
  • Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
  • Career by Yevtushenko (poem)
  • Human life in this century by Yevtushenko (poem)
  • Willow by Anna Akhmatova (poem)
  • Sonnet LXVI by Shakespeare
  • Sir Walter Raleigh to His Son (poem)
  • Fair Jenny by Robbie Burns (poem)
  • MacPherson's Farewell by Robbie Burns (poem)
  • World's End, the collected Sandman No. 8 by Neil Gaiman
  • O Wert Thou In The Cauld Blast by Robbie Burns (poem)
  • The War of the Jewels - Book 11 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • The Rolling English Road by G. K. Chesterton (poem)
  • The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
  • A Tradition of Eighteen Hundred and Four by Thomas Hardy
  • 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