Friday, June 25, 2010

I Have Very Little to Say on the Subject...

...except that I am not accustomed to being called "ridiculous" by my professional colleagues.

Publishing, alas, has as many petty personalities as academia does. I already knew that about non-fiction, but I was mad enough to hope that the fiction scene would be better.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Eye of I

Award-winning children's novelist Richard Peck cheats at first person. There's no other way to put it. Sometimes the first-person protagonist describes the thoughts or feelings of another character as if it were known fact. In lesser hands, these oversteps would be circled in red by the editor as careless errors of Point of View.

The more I think about Peck's cheating, the craftier it becomes. His first-person protagonist can't see inside everyone's mind, just a few people very close to her. To test this approach's viability, I consider my own life. Often I can tell by the face and body language of my husband or a parent what he or she is thinking, no matter what he or she actually says.  So it's true: for people with whom the main character is very close, a limited first-person omniscience is arguably correct.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Delicate Force-Feeding

This new novel was supposed to be a fluffy, silly romp. Needless to say, I'm now doing all kinds of arcane historical research to strengthen and enrich the book. Two issues have surfaced out of this to destabilize my confidence:

First, I'm stymied by the prospect of dribbling a touch of this research into the novel without alienating or boring the reader. In my last novel, I jumped in knowing it was historical fiction for gifted kids. This one was meant to have a broader audience, so I must proceed with great caution.

Second is the timing of my research viz-a-viz the progress of my writing. I was keeping to a strict schedule of drafting two chapters per week before I realized I wanted more historical background. Doing secondary reading and digesting enough info to help the story is a distracting matter. Plus, I really can't write more until I have this research done and organized. So much for two chapters per week.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Autonomy of Fictional Lives

Some novelists advocate intense exercises to pre-determine a character's personality before one starts to write. These explorations get down to such details as the character's favorite color, food, and music. For me, this approach is too abstract and artificial.

I find that my characters reveal their personalities to me scene by scene, just as one gets to know a person over time in real life. Somehow, the people I invent are not entirely controlled by me, but develop as they are faced with (or cause!) new situations in the plot. The way they constantly surprise me is a wondrous, miraculous thing.