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Mornings, Journaling and Channeling

May 25, 2010

Last week I talked about how I’ve picked back up the habit of morning pages. In the week since, I’ve kept up the practice, though not religiously (I think the reason that I lapsed several years back was that I never allowed myself a day off). But since my last post I’ve happened into a specific use of the pages that I’ve not tried before.

In the last several years I’ve become enamored with the first person POV. I can trace this fascination to three books. Beginner’s Luck by Laura Pedersen, and Steel Beach and Red Thunder both by John Varley. The narratives in these three stories turned what would have been fairly run-of-the-mill storylines into stories that felt like I was hearing them directly from the protagonists’ mouth. Years later I have now reread each of the three several times, trying to pick apart how the authors achieved such power. And while I understand that some of it is the gift of a natural storyteller, a significant part of their power is how real the characters are—how completely the author is able to get into the skin of their fictional construct.

Right now I am in the process of revising three stories, all of them in first-person. And with each of them I am having trouble, because I’m not fully into the characters’ head. I don’t have their voices solidified into a real breathing human being who is telling a story that is important to them. Instead it sounds as if I’m the one telling their story. I’m still using my own expressions, my own rhythms of speech. So the characters come across somewhat two-dimensional.

But then last week a friend (who is not a writer, but a painter) suggested that I try to write my morning pages in the voice of the character–as if they were writing in their own journal. The first day was surprisingly difficult, and it read as if I was just wearing someone else’s skin. But in the days since her voice has become clearer, more defined, more feminine but with an underlying strength…more her…less me. And in my head, not only does she have a clearer voice, but she also become a more real character to me.

So far I’ve only tried it with the one character, but I’m looking forward to repeating the experiment with an irascible spaceship pilot, and a agoraphobic musical prodigy.

Dale is also enjoying the therapeutic benefits of setting aside 20 minutes each morning to reacquaint himself with pen and paper.
  1. May 25, 2010 3:44 pm

    Great job. I’ve had a similar experience recently. I have never been a big fan of first person narratives so I had never written any stories from that POV. Last week, however, I started writing a first person story (for some odd reason) and kind of turned it into a letter from that character. When I started writing it as a letter, my character’s voice really came alive.

  2. adampb permalink
    May 25, 2010 9:10 pm

    This has given me good insight into creating authentic characters. I am in the planning stages of my first novel and beginning to add flesh to the bones of my protagonists in order that they may live beyond the words that I give them. I hope that they actually speak for me instead, so I don’t have to do a lot of the thinking.

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