Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Your Voice

To quote Ursula (Because we live and breath Disney in my house): What I want is your voice.

I've been thinking a lot about voice lately. The topic of voice is one of those old writing chestnuts that have newbie writers tied up in knots -do I have a voice? Is it any good? Where do I find it?- And seasoned writers grasping to explain it -voice is... well you have to... Ah, hell, I don't know!

And is it any surprise? Given that an actual human voice is in itself almost impossible to describe?

I've known my husband for eighteen years. I could pick his voice out of a crowd. I hear it in my sleep -sometimes in a most nagging fashion. But can I describe it? Er... well it is soft, deep, prone to sonorous rumbling when he is moved. Now, can you pick my husband's voice out of a line up? I thought not. I might have been talking about James Earl Jones, for that matter. And I assure you, my DH sounds nothing like JEJ. The fact is, voice is not something one describes; voice is something one hears, and knows.

Still, the subject of voice can sit under a writer's skin like a splinter, causing irritation now and then, and the driving need to pick it out, settle the matter once and for all. What does my voice sound like? Where can I find it? Do I have Voice at all?

But in the wake of finishing my second novel, something occurred to me. Perhaps I had the idea of Voice all wrong. Perhaps Voice isn't style at all. Our voice is a tool. We use it to say something. I'll repeat: to say something. Often in life, when we lack confidence, we lack the ability to say something on a matter. We freeze up. Those with confidence speak up, make themselves heard, and make themselves understood. How provocative is the man/woman who speaks with confidence? We sit up and listen. We long to hear their thoughts.

So now, in my eight year of learning to write, I believe that Voice is confidence. The confidence in your writing chops to sit down and let the words flow, knowing that whatever story it is you are telling, you have the ability to make yourself understood. Writers with confidence have a distinctive voice because they operate without fear and their natural thoughts and inclinations come through on the page. Fear bogs us down. And by fear I mean?

  • Worrying about sentence structure, plotting, dialogue, craft. Best to learn the craft then let 'er rip. This is why voice usually comes to seasoned writers.
  • Will I find and agent? Be published? Finish? Good questions. Worry about it AFTER you are done!
  • Constant worry over is this thing any good? Again, worry about that later. Let your beta readers tell you! Then you can cry in your soup.

This is just the tip on the fear iceberg but you get the idea. And I know about fear. Fear made me take six odd years to finish novel number one. I love my first novel. It is my child. But it was a hell of a thing to finish. Agonizing, really. Should I do this? Or that? Rip it apart? What plot line? Etc. Fear had no part in my second. No part. I could give a ripe shit about fear when writing West Club Moon. It took me five and a half months to finish the first draft of WCM. Is it a better novel than PETAL? Who knows? I love them both. Was it easier to write? Hell yeah. I found my voice with WCM, I found my confidence.

For all those worried about voice, for all those slogging through a novel that you never seem to finish, write for writing's sake, write for the joy of it, the story, write to say something, and push all that fear, the nagging doubts, whatnot to the curb. You'll be happier for it.

And best of all, I'll be there, bright-eyed and busy-tailed, just dying to hear what you have to say.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I've Never Keep a Journal

It isn't as though I haven't tried. Believe me. I have a whole stack of beautiful journals, some with embossed leather covers, others of suede and gold lined sheets. And all other them basically empty save for those first five to ten pages where I have diligently written down a daily account. This journal, I say every time, will be the one I finish! Ha.

Now is it any wonder that I haven't written a damn thing on this blog since December? After all a blog is an on line journal. Why didn't I remember that when I started?

The funny thing is I am a writer. I write almost every day of my life. Except I've realized that I'd much rather write about other people than report on my own, rather dull life.

So this post is really just a little mea culpa to myself.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Slow going

I've been terribly behind on my posts! Anyhoo...I see that I've been tagged in a round about way from my fellow M:A ladies.

So without further ado, my Christmas antics:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. Beautiful but definitely a chore to do.

2. Real tree or artificial? Both. A real one in the family room -a big Fraser Fir. Fake in the living room -small 4' white one from target. :)

3. When do you put up the tree? The first or second weekend of December. As we are going to Disney World this weekend (yay!), it will go up on the second weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? Hmm...when it turns brown and the needles are all but gone. I know, I know...

5. What do you do with your tree after you take it down? Kick it to the curb, try to hide the needle evidence. And LOL, Rachel, I've given up on the box long ago. Into the attic the fake one goes.

6. Favourite gift ever received as a child? Tie between a large wooden doll house, complete with furniture, and a remote control car!

7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad. He usually asks for one or two things (which are always horrible) and there are four of us! Hello four yellow ties.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My sister, Karina -we have the same taste!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? When I was little. My kids wouldn't even know what to make of one now.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Both. I admit to being really bad with cards in general.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? My grandmother always sent us black tube socks for Christmas. :-P Into the fire they went. Not really. Mom always rescued them just in time.

12. Favourite Christmas movie? A Christmas Story

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Total last minute shopper here. You'll see me scrambling on the 24th!

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Does giving to Toys for Tots count? Now as for receiving recycled gifts...grr...

15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies.

16. Lights on the tree? The more the better!

17. Favourite Christmas carol? Tie between Bing's White Christmas and Cole's Christmas Song.

18. Travel at Christmas? A twenty minute drive to my sister's house -when it isn't my turn to host.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Of course! Sheesh! :)

20. Angel on the tree top or star? Rotation. Angle, star, and that pointy thing, which I have no idea what it's called but looks like the top of the St. Petersburg Cathedral.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We follow Norwegian tradition; open presents from family and friends on Christmas Eve and then a big present from Santa on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? I'll ditto Rachel's observation. (g) Oh, and Christmas nay sayers...yes, I get it, we are all horrible materialistic, blah, blah, blah...

23. Favourite ornament theme or colour? Old fashioned Christmas toy ornaments, red, green, and gold, in the family room; white, silver, and gold in the living room.

24. Favourite for Christmas dinner? Norwegian meatballs (NOT Swedish -grrr) and scalloped potatoes.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?A pro style digital camera so, you know, I can actually get a good picture of my fast moving kids. Sigh. But I'm not holding my breath with the economy being what it is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And because I'm in the mood...

I shall throw my finial cache of pictures into the mix. The first is done by an obvious professional, with true talent. The second is clearly a juvenile doodling of a rank amateur, i.e. me.

First: When I found this, I immediately thought of a young Molly, perhaps around age fourteen or fifteen. There are differences between my Molly and this girl; Molly's eyes are more almond shaped and tilt upwards, her lips are fuller and there's the cleft chin. But it is very close.

And lastly, and please try not to laugh, here is my hackneyed attempt to draw Molly. I did this months ago, when knee deep in edits, on the idea that she'd help me to the finish line. Anyhoo...this is my version of Molly. Perhaps one day I'll try to get a professional artist to flesh this out and, you know, make it look real.

Hehe. Seeing that gives me a little chuckle.
And can you tell I have my characters on the brain?

More portraits

Here are a few more portraits. The first one initially stopped me because I thought the couple looked very sweet. The feeling behind it makes me think of Molly and John. Too bad the couple looks nothing like them. But on closer inspection, I noticed that the woman's dress is extremely similar in style to Molly's wedding dress.

Pic 1

But the dress in this portrait is pretty much the exact fabric I had in mind for Molly's wedding dress.

The overskirt frothed like a cloud about me. Endless flounces made from runched white tulle, shot throughout with silver threads, cascaded down over the silk skirt. I had never seen a dress its equal...

Well crud, I'll have to add a link for this one. LOL.


So put the first and the second dress together and there you have it: Molly's wedding dress.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Art and Characters

Yesterday, I spent a good amount of time perusing online images of old paintings and photographs. Truly, I could spend days looking at these things. Their dress, faces, the rooms in which these people moved, all of it is fascinating. During this frenzied -some would say obsessive- search, I happened upon some images which reminded me of my characters.

The woman in the portrait below, while not looking exactly like Molly's cousin Karen, reminded me of her just the same. She is very similar in regards to hairstyle and dress. In fact, her dress is exactly like the dress Karen wears in her debut scene -well, as I imagined it some five years ago...

--Karen came home shortly after five, fresh from her rounds of afternoon tea and card games. She glided into the parlor in a cloud of rustling peach silk and rose water....She wore her shining black hair parted severely down the middle to spread like lacquered wings over her ears before swooping up in a large knot at the base of her neck. She was more exotic contessa than western girl. --

I have no idea if I'm allowed to do this and the Internet police might come banging on my door but I give you Karen Morgan:

More images tomorrow...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A new title

On the small chance that anyone reads this blog, I'll announce here that I have a new title for my ms...

The Petal Falls

My agent hated the original title (Above the Vaulted Sky). So out with the old and in with the new.

Hey wait, you say. Isn't that the name of your blog? Er...well yeah... (g) That little bit is very convenient to be sure.

I always liked my blog title. It sticks in my head. So it got me thinking. I needed a line of poetry for the ms -the old one I had,for various reasons, no longer worked. The new poem I found just happened to have "the petal falls" in it.

Heck, let me just put up the small scene:

...I handled only the smallest corner of paper as though it might actually bite me. The paper was thick, coarse velum, folded in fourths to a neat one inch square.

What was a piece of paper doing in the back of Mam’s necklace? The cloying scent of verbena drifted through the air. Mam. Mam’s perfume... And then it was gone. Instinct told me it was not Mam who hid this paper within the necklace but…Father. I could see him now, writing down words with his smooth flowing hand.

Quickly I opened it, frantic to find some message from beyond, an apology for the wrongs he’d done. It was in Father’s hand but not what I expected. In small, tight script he’d written: My Dearest Molly, ‘The apple blossom exists to create fruit; when that comes, the petal falls.’ In creating you, I’ve exceeded my greatest dreams. It is your time now...

So great, "The Petal Falls" can allude to Molly's father dying and it being Molly's time now.

The actual line of poetry refers to life being an act of creation, which I believe and always wanted to underlie the entire story (in a very subtle, almost subconscious way).

It also alludes to the whole question of "he'll love me, he'll love me not..." Good. That is a huge question plaguing Molly in regards to John.

And lastly, the phrase, the petal falls, carries a certain tension. What will happen when the petal falls? What is the question asked of it? And will it come true?

The act of plucking petals from a flower is, in essence, a method of divination -though frivolous and totally unreliable. But how many of us have done it in a lighthearted moment of temptation? I know I have. We all want some way of knowing what the future will bring. And yet that desire to know brings with it anxiety, for it takes trust, the ability to release all doubt and feel in your heart that everything will work out. Which, in essence, is what my story is all about.

So it's all good. (g)