Sunday, 26 August 2012

Let the characters speak

I'm writing the ninth chapter of my novel as we speak (or whatever you call it - you know what I mean) and I came across a problem: I needed to write that my characters are travelling through the forest, but that it's too quiet to be natural - something is wrong.

Okay. No problem, right?

So I wrote that days passed and it was quiet (too quiet...). I wrote that no birds were chirping and a lot of other things that should be there, but weren't.

Doesn't sound too bad.

But as I re-read it, I couldn't help but grimace, as if I'd eaten a half-rotten citrus. I felt nothing. No emotion. No depth. And I couldn't hear my characters - the ones that carry the story forward.

So I deleted it (don't worry, it was only three paragraphs, I'll live) and re-wrote it - letting my characters speak instead of me.

This is the outcome:

“Is it just me, or is it too quiet?” Suki asked the following afternoon as they trekked deeper into the Forest.
They were struggling up a hillside scattered with pines; Nahui nearly fell as he stepped on a pinecone that gave way under his weight. Aquene grabbed hold of his arm just in time.
“I’m serious,” Suki continued when no one answered him. Being the tallest gave him the advantage of his long legs easily carrying him up the hillside; Nahui and Aquene struggled behind him, panting from exhaustion. Sweat pressed Nahui’s shirt against his back. “We should’ve heard something by now. Where are the birds?”
“It is a bit spooky,” Aquene agreed with him, eyeing the trees around her as if she waited for someone to jump from behind a trunk, bow in hand. “I mean, it’s the Forest. It should be livelier.”
“Everything was normal when I hunted the boar,” Nahui said. “Maybe this part of the Forest is deserted for some reason?”
“Wildlife doesn’t desert a perfectly healthy habitat,” Aquene said, her face grimacing with confusion. Her thick braid swayed from side to side as she forced her legs up the hill, her face flushed with exhaustion. “Something is wrong.”

Better than my first try, I hope?

Letting the characters speak is important - the author is the tool that carries their voices onto the page, not the almighty storyteller. Am I right?

It does make a difference.

Finally, my Creative Writing course has taught me something! (I think... Or did I know this before, and only not acted on it? Hmm. Yeah. That's it. I was just too lazy to do it. Ah, well!)

So let the characters speak!
It's their story, not yours.

That is all.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah. Totally love the updated chapter. You point out the silence while still having a silent mood in the extract. Awesome! :-)

    Oh. And I seem to have misplaced the email with the texts... again. Could you send them to me (again)? :'D