Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Insecure Writers: Let Me Inside Your Head!
NOTE: It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! For those who don't remember, it's an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. Most of whom are insecure. So we support each other from the safety and comfort of our desks.
It's NaNoWriMo (ahem, that's National Novel Writing Month) time, so naturally, this post has a little bit to do with that venerable event. I'm not going to talk about it much, though, or really at all, at least beyond my introductory sentence, so this entire paragraph is a big, fat tease.
Not to worry, though, this is still a post about insecurity.
SOOOO, in honor of the aforementioned event that I will no longer discuss, I'm trying to move waaaaaaaay outside of my comfort zone, and work on my next novel without an outline.
Yeah, it's not going very well. Readers of this blog will know that while this method of writing (also known as 'pantsing') is a valid approach, it makes my head spin round and round in nauseating little circles while elves of anxiety tap dance in my stomach, and I subsequently produce nothing but nonsensical garbage.
None of which is the point of this post, but it's atmospheric. Y'know, setting the scene.
Which is this: See, I have this idea that in one of the stories in this new book, the narrator's gender is never revealed (an idea I am gratefully taking from Jeannette Winterson). The whole book is really a love story between two souls, and while it jumps from lifetime to lifetime, the souls are the same. It's also about love, and fear, and faith. And what better way, what more interesting way, to talk about all of this, and to explore how our souls love, than by taking gender out of the equation? I mean, does a soul have a gender? We as humans are so gender-focused that it's hard for us to think outside of that paradigm, but it's such a fascinating issue and question that I want to raise it.
Which means that I can't write this section in my favorite point of view, third person limited, which is what I used when I wrote Cloudland. I can't write it in third person omniscient, either, because anything in the third person would require serious and absurd diction gymnastics to avoid ever saying "he" or "she". No, if I want the narrator's gender to remain unspecified, I have to write in the first person.
MAN, is that harder than I ever expected. There are a lot of reasons for this, including my own lack of familiarity with this POV. But to write in the first person, you have to find the voice of your character. Not only how he or she speaks, but how this person thinks. And it's so easy, it's in fact way too easy, for that voice to sound insincere or forced or false. Because really, what you're doing is moving outside of your own head, and into someone else's. Not kind of/sort of into someone else's head, like in the third person limited, but really in there.
Add to this mess the fact that this narrator I'm creating is by nature a very private person, and you have a recipe for a lovely and explosive writing disaster. I mean, how can you be inside the head of someone who is intensely private??? Right - you can't. They don't like. They kick you out.
So this is my major insecurity for today. Can I pull this off??? Can I write in the first person? Or am I trying to do something beyond me? And even if I'm capable of it, will this character let me?
Time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, any and all advice, words of encouragement, dire warnings, and other thoughts are much appreciated.