Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Voice void

In college, when I took the one acting class UT allowed non-drama majors to take, I had to play Blanche in a duet from A Streetcar Named Desire. I kept practicing and it kept not working for me. For some reason, though, even though it's very southern and Blanche is very southern, having never seen the show before, it didn't occur to me to give her a southern accent. Finally, shortly before we were due to perform it for the teacher, it dawned on me to try a southern accent, and everything fell into place with a satisfying click. The teacher raved about our performance and gave us an A, so I knew I'd found what I needed.

Normally, my writing projects start with a voice, and that's what drives them. I mean literally, they often start with a character talking in my head, telling me what's going on in his or her life, and I just take dictation. I don't necessarily know where the ideas come from, they just appear.

My current NaNoWriMo novel, on the other hand, started with an idea, years ago, in the back of my mind. I let it gestate some, adding characters and ideas and a few plot developments along the way, but 16,000 words in, it still just seems like a random collection of words with a few fairly solid sections sprinkled in. I still don't think it has the right voice. I do think it has the right protagonist, but I haven't quite found her voice yet, the way I hadn't with Blanche. I am more convinced all the time, though, that this book cries out for unusual formatting--e-mails, lists, poems, lyrics, etc.--maybe to the exclusion of regular prose. Maybe the right format, when I find it, will prove to be the right voice. I'm not sure, I'm just wondering if, at this point, what I really need is more words like the ones I've already written, or if I need to pull a NaNo no-no and start tweaking structure first.

In any case, what I have now is nothing like what I want to have when I am done. And yet I see just enough promise there, under the surface, that I feel an intense need to find the true voice and tell the story.

No comments: