04 August 2011
One Voice, Too Many Heads
I got to read two books at the beach. The first was my autographed copy of Maybe This Time, by Jennifer Crusie. I've been on a self-imposed Crusie ban since I started writing my novel. In the beginning, I lacked confidence in my "voice," or style, so the last person I wanted in my head was my all-time favorite author. But I thought I owed the woman my attention after she so kindly signed the book, so I dove in one afternoon. I went to bed at 2 AM that night. When I get the chance to read, I do it until my eyes burn.
However, now when I read, I find I am doing it for research as much as for pleasure. I am wading in, testing the water, figuring out what the author does well, and what I find jarring. When I was reading Crusie, I paid close attention to point-of-view. Crusie, the teacher, forbids what she calls "head-hopping." A story can only be told from the point of view of the hero or the heroine. No one else can weigh in. I have a problem following this rule.
Apparently, the constant chatter of my daily life has infected my writing. I spend half my day as a detective, and the other as a referee. In the midst of all the squabbling, I must deduce who has committed the crime, and then negotiate a truce. As you can imagine, there are varying points of view in these disputes. I give everyone a chance to share their feelings, before I mete out punishment. I think it's only fair.
But it's not about equality in my manuscript. Most of the critical comments I've received from contest judges focus on fixing my POV, so that my readers can more easily immerse themselves in the story. I just got my reviews from the final, I swear, contest I entered, and they were very complimentary, except on this issue. I already knew the problem, so I wasn't surprised. I did have a laugh, though, when one kind judge suggested I read some other authors to get a feel for point-of-view. "But not Nora Roberts," she said, "because she can get away with anything." So, I shouldn't write like one of the most prolific, successful authors in the business?
I wrote a little on vacation, stealing time at a small table in my bedroom, my laptop propped up on two books, three fans running in the background, to keep the heat and noise at bay. Hemingway in Cuba it was not. But it was me, still, my "voice" uninfected by my brush with Jennifer Crusie. I considered that quite the accomplishment. I'm proud of what I've written, even though I know there will be revisions.
I just may have to spin my awesome secondary characters off into their own book. To be fair.