The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I pulled all the myth/slant sections out and put them into their own document, so I could play around with them and see them more clearly. Immediately they started taking on a snarky, vitriolic tone that almost addresses the reader directly. Then I had to stop and go pick up a kid from school and I was thinking along the way that maybe the way to tie the whole thing together is to switch the Helen parts to third person present rather than first person present.

At first glance this seems like a promising fit, because the main thing that bothered me about doing this particular novel in this experimental format--one of the things that made me think GN in the first place--was that Helen's voice feels smarmy to me. I did half of Beating Heart in a floaty kind of lyrical first person, but that has always felt wrong here, like more of the same, like the inside of my head is turning into a cute Disney ride and I need to go take apart a car engine and get grime under my fingernails and grease in the creases of my knuckles.

The irony is that I've been comparing Helen's voice to the dead girl's voice in Beating Heart and feeling icky about it, when now it looks like I should have been thinking of the other viewpoint character in Beating Heart, the living guy.

Because his parts of BH had the same d*mn problem. The exact same! I couldn't figure out how to do his parts because they felt smarmy and icky compared to dead Cora's lyricism, so--I swear, I did this--I wrote all his parts out as a GN. That gave me a foot in the door to start thinking about his half of the story in a different way. The GN was a step that I had to go through to get my head going in a new direction. It led me to trying his half as a very flat, matter-of-fact, third-person present that in no way competed with Cora's evocative voice.

I can't believe I didn't notice this before.

The thing is, even just working on this revamped Helen idea for a little over a day, I can tell that the whole project is forcibly trying to take a strong 90 degree turn and become about the issue that drives me, which is not Helen's story (that's why I have zero interest in world-building for this ms, and why it has never wanted to have traditionally set scenes; the fictional world doesn't interest me much and I don't care about drawing the reader into it).

The issue that propels me with this ms is unfairness; the way people rewrite history and situations to make themselves look better by scapegoating others. The unfairness comes in because traditionally it's the ones who do the writing who get to set the stories down in stone--which for the most part means white men of property and education. Everybody else in history pretty much gets badmouthed, condescended to, and blamed.

I think for now I'm going to let it proceed with the vitriolic snarky tone, and let Helen's parts fall into a neutral third person, and see where that goes. This is not my usual kind of thing, because (I was just telling some students this a couple of days ago, ironically) most of the time I don't like to make a big moral deal out of a book and tell people what to think. Most of the time I like to ask questions and leave them hanging, and the reader can either extrapolate from the rest of the book what my own opinion is...or not.

So if the ms continues this way, it will be a far cry from my other books, and perhaps more like my private e-mails to friends, in which I am vitriolic and snarky a goodly portion of the time. Of course, what with all the sex and violence and the lack of good role models and the weird form, that means this ms will be a tough sell. However, I work better that way. I work better out on a limb that's half sawed off, especially when the work means turning around to saw that limb the rest of the way through.

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