Posted by: Natalie | June 15, 2010

Personality Fail

There are some things, in writing, I really struggle with. Yes my spelling can be atrocious and there are many words I don’t truly know the meaning of, but I think my worst habit is being over-wordy. I am sure some of you have thought this when reading my posts – this was one of the reasons for blogging in the first place; get my over-wordy needs out of the way first thing, use up as much vocab as possible so that my language is much more streamlined for the daily chapter. It doesn’t always work – particularly while writing from one particular character’s point of view.

One of the things I personally like about my current project is that the story is being told from various points of view, allowing me to portray feelings, emotions and voices from a wider first person range. On the whole I enjoy this – it provides an outlet for my multiple personalities! Schizophrenia aside, I think it keeps the story fresh and flowing. However, one particular character is driving me insane!

This one is a young, rather naive and immature, spoiled yet polite and friendly, young man. He has come from a seemingly privileged background, but unlike his poorer counterpart, has not made the most of opportunities granted to him. He has had more than a little bit of tragedy in his life switching his over confidence into a trembling shell of insecurity and fear. He’s a bit of an emotional wreck and a liability in his own right. I have a very clear image of how he needs to be portrayed, and when writing in third person, this character is obvious and three dimensional. Likewise, when other characters are narrating, you understand him clearly. So why can’t I get his voice right?

The answer is simple – I like words too much. I can see on the page when my concentration has slipped a little and my own voice sears through. I try to use too much description, too many words and too many complex sentence structures that are just not appropriate to the character. He would not talk like me, he certainly wouldn’t write like me – the kid’s illiterate for God’s sake! But I find it so damn hard to pull back. I did take the tack of writing more than necessary and then callously crossing through huge chunks of this boy’s spiel to make it more child like, but that too didn’t work. It just made him sound unhinged and stupid when in essence he isn’t really either.

I have no issue dumbing down the vocabulary and shortening sentence length but this doesn’t seem to be enough. How can I write all the detail I want, paint wonderful pictures in the readers imagination and add the correct amount of suspense when I am so limited? I guess this is where I am gradually learning the writer’s craft – it’s just so hard! Yesterday I think I screwed up and swore at fifty different versions of the same 600 words. What I think I might do however is this, just to get my head back on track . . .

Tomorrow I’m in school, right? So, why not ask one of the children I feel closest to my desired outcome to help me? Why not read them the section then ask them, in their own words, to retell the story? I could listen to the language they use and the pauses they add. Mark the mannerisms and body language. Its always an option, but is this cheating? If I inadvertently (or deliberately) use some of their retelling, is it classed in some obscure way as plagiarising? I just don’t know. All I do know is that this character, at the moment, is heading for the bin. His voice is a necessary one, but if I can’t find it then it weakens then entire structure. But, I had it strong once, I shall find it again – and when I do I am immediately sitting down with ALL his sections and carrying that thread through relentlessly until every syllable is correct. I just hope that’s soon before I end up murdering him completely and deleting his existence from the world entire.


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