Monday, December 29, 2008

So it's come to this... blogging about writing.

For the sake of believable narration I've spent the past four days fiddling with wording in a story. I've got the normal problems, how to reveal the setting and the setup without seeming forced. On top of that, I've settled on first-person narration as the ideal point-of-view and the main character is a fourteen-year-old girl.

And to be perfectly honest, even back when I was a fourteen-year-old girl I had a great deal of trouble getting the impression of a fourteen-year-old girl across in my writing. It's my reading history. I started out with the antiquated children's fairy tales we all did, Alice in Wonderland, the Chronicles of Narnia but rather than make my way into more modern and realistic fair I cherished the dreamy atmosphere brought about by a slightly old-fashioned narrator. When I floundered around for older reading material I found myself hunting down Sherlock Holmes stories. I went the way of the goth otherwise, devouring Edgar Allen Poe and other Victorianized literature. Kept to the same fairy tales, though the interpretations I read continued to grow up. I burrowed into the depths of the nonfiction section of the library to consume acres and acres of classical mythology and world folklore, almost all of which is recorded in the antiquated style. When finally I broke free of that library to explore the deeper realms of horror I gravitated towards HP Lovecraft rather than Stephen King.

And somewhere through all of this I developed that sort of voice. That antiquated, slightly dusty voice to my writing (and yes, even my speaking at points) that is just tough to shake.

I know that old and creepy are all acceptably mainstream geekeries, and I'm not saying for one second that I'm the only one suffering from this affliction. (There's certainly enough of us to make it a geek stereotype.) It's just disconcerting to realize that this style of writing and speaking comes so naturally that it's your natural voice, particularly when placed against the voices you hear every day at work, the normal rythm and cadence of human conversation that suits the modern mainstream era and that capturing that is what's necessary to capture the character you're trying to write. It just feeds this paradox where if you write what comes naturally to you it sounds off when you read it back, but you can't seem to naturally write what sounds right when you read it back and I needed to stop and vent a bit about that.

This is ultimately why nonfiction comes more easily. The voice sounds somewhat academic and authoritative and sounds very natural when analyzing art and literature. As part of a work of fiction? Well, this voice was developed in the reading realms of fantasy and horror from narratives specifically aimed towards creating an atmosphere of fantasy and horror. It is not a character voice, at least not for fourteen-year-old girls who aren't already little goths.

Sticking to nonfiction won't do me any good if I want to be anything more than a one-story wonder, though...

Maybe I should go with third-person limited in the future. The normal, natural voice is easier to get across in small snippets of dialogue.


  1. Why not give a 14-year old girl that Victorian voice? She just happened to read the same books you read when you were growing up. If people have trouble understanding her because of this then you are already halfway to creating a memorable character.

  2. There is nothing wrong with a Victorian voice. Or a Regency voice, or an Elizabethan voice, for that matter. Plus you get to use words like gadzooks.