Thursday, September 6, 2012

A 15-second word sketch

In the last blog post, I talked about voice in a little snippet of Disciple. I also want to draw a connection here between this and my blog post about seeing. So here is a bit of context for that snippet. This is an example of my "practice seeing" put to use -- this is a 15-second word sketch:
He fixed me with a steady look and spoke slowly. “We meant to bring the Elect, but lacking him — this is no place for a girl that’s not discipled to Saint Woden. So keep your hood up. We’re hunting lamia. That is what you’ve been told.”

My head cocked, on reflex, weighing that. There was more to come, I didn’t doubt. “Yes, m’lord,” I responded, quietly. “I see.”

I thought I saw the corner of his mouth pick up a little, at that.
What I'm trying to sketch, here, is the connection that my MC making with another character -- by way of what she's not being told, the existence of which she's acknowledging. This establishes that they understand each other, without them saying it to each other and, more importantly, without me telling the reader straight out.

That's the really important part, because I dislike (on a gut level) narratives that spoon-feed me everything that's going on. I don't want to be told, in narration, "We agreed that there would be more to the story later." The characters saying it out loud is even worse. I want to figure these things out for myself.

The body language does most of the work. I show it to the reader because we are all sensitive to body language (or we ought to be) and I trust them to see what I see. This makes me prone to writing down my characters' every twitch, though, so I have to keep an eye on it.

I've now spent two blog posts unpacking the content of a hundred words (less?) in a minor scene -- and I bet it's not much surprise that I could do that. I bet you could do it with any hundred words of your story: explain what's going on grammatically, its voice, the character-building context, the world-building ("a girl that's not discipled to Saint Woden"?), how it's moving the plot... I didn't even get to those last two.

Part of that is because as its creator, I could talk about my story all day long. It's also because every bit of a story is important; every bit has several jobs to do and should be treated as such.

One more note: the voice I use in Disciple is very different from the voice I use in my science fiction stories, but no matter what I write, I'm always going to assume that the readers are paying attention and seeing the things that I don't tell them directly. That's a part of my personal voice that I've identified and I'm going to stick to it.

What aspects of your personal voice have you identified?

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