Friday, August 10, 2007

Curse all learning experiences

Nicola Griffith at Booksquare on the challenge of writing a series character (her third novel about Aud Torvingen has just been published):
The books are narrated by Aud in first person, which means the narrative tone and style has to change as Aud does.

It’s embarrassing to admit how long it took me to figure that out.

I was used to reading series books about people like Travis McGee and V.I. Warshawski, Spenser and Robicheaux; they stayed pretty much the same, book after book. They appeared to react to the same kinds of events with the same kind of action and emotion; the authors used the same kind of narrative structure, the same metaphors and vocabularies to tell their stories: the sandy-rumped girls, the cypress house with its gallery and bass jumping in the lake, how a guy with a size 16 neck can still cook. Over and over again.

I hadn’t set out to write a series character (I was halfway through The Blue Place before I understood the novel was merely the first act of the play that was Aud); I’d never really considered how it might be to write more than one book from first person. I wasn’t ready. So when I sat down to write Stay in the same bullet-train, cold-edged, urban-metaphored style as The Blue Place, I was shocked that it wouldn’t work. Aud was not only in a different geographic and emotional place, she persisted in seeing and responding differently. I kept writing then throwing away chapters, and then one day, duh, it hit me: change the metaphor systems, change the focal length, change the expectations. That is, change the voice. Just don’t change it too much.
Hmm, got to check out these books...

(Thanks to Gwenda for the link.)

1 comment: