The Medium Shapes The Messenger: Authorial Voice And The Mode Of Writing

Posted on | February 27, 2008

Last night I sat down to write one of the closing chapters of Jera’s Quest, a sort-of prequel to the next Aimee novel, and as I was working my way through a critical scene, the first face-to-face meeting of Princess Jera with the long-lost Prince Niav, whom she has just rescued and about whom there is much contention among the Imperial factions, both within her court and within his.

When I first envisioned this scene, I wanted it to be adult-style romantic. Jera has spent the last third of the novel looking for Niav (while dodging multiple conspiracies working at cross-purposes). She had silly teenage romantic notions about meeting him in the beginning of the book but she’s grown up a lot in the year since she first learned he might still be alive, trapped in some magickal gaol. Now that she’s lived through so much, she’s not quite so naive, and some of what’s happened to Niav since he went missing is deeply shocking to her. And yet, she finds herself still deeply attracted to him, despite what he’s become during his ensorcellment, and by the end of the scene I basically wanted the two of them necking madly.

I have two versions of this scene. The first I dictated into my voice recorder. I like to go walking in the woods behind my house and try and capture the voices of my characters. (I’m sure if someone came upon me while I was doing so, they would think I was mad! Mad! I’ll show them! I’ll show them all! Muahahahah… ahem) Since this is told entirely from Jera’s point of view, I dictate her lines, and his responses, and just enough supporting beats to tell myself what details need to be fleshed out of the surroundings: food, clothes, the room, stuff like that, as well as blocking[?].

The second is one I set down to write over lunchtime. I’d left my voice recorder at home but I figured that just write it; I remembered enough of the dialogue and I knew what the scene was about.

As it turned out, the second draft is much less sympathetic than the first. While I was writing at the keyboard, my mind was whirring ahead, considering the consequences of everything said, and the way my characters started reacting was much less romantic and more cynical. A lot of my sympathy for their new plight dissipated because they were thinking too hard.

[info]omaha suggested that the first time through, I’m concentrating on the POV character. What the character says, thinks, what comes through the eyes, and so her wants and needs, her immediate desires, and how they’ve been frustrated and may continue to be frustrated, come through loud and clear. In the typewritten draft I have much spare time to think about what I’m doing, and what I’m setting up, and that’s leaking into my characters in a way that ruins their characterization. I think she may be on to something there.

Has anyone ever had this problem, where the mode of getting the story out of your head, be it dictation, long hand, or word processor, has actually shaped the way your characters act and think?

Comments

One Response to “The Medium Shapes The Messenger: Authorial Voice And The Mode Of Writing”

  1. Callicrates
    March 7th, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

    I see the same effect when I’m writing whether it’s fiction or a letter. Things I write with a keyboard will tend to be wordy and long. Things I write with a pen will have a lot more care in the language and will leave a lot more unsaid but implied.

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