Voices

Sometimes I’m reading and I think ‘I could stand you forever’, and other times I want to toss the book aside from waiting for the character to change. But each character, and narrator, should have their own unique voice. Because, the narrator isn’t ‘you’. You are an actor playing the part of the narrator–and the characters–when you put the words down on the page.

I started reading Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, which is a set of six stories from six different characters points of view, that are all related somehow. The book is described as ‘a puzzle’ in several reviews, which I found appealing.

However, the style in which the first couple sections are written, is quite daunting to deal with. The ‘old style’ of language is difficult to parse, and I really have to think about it in order to understand what is going on. It appears that each character is a bit further forward in time (I just began the second section, and it’s much easier so far), so I expect clarity will improve. But it was quite a difficult voice to start with.

I’m hoping to learn a lot from this novel, because my next project will involve several characters telling their story (six at the moment, so it happens) and I want them each to have a unique voice and way of looking at the world.

 

Brainstorming

I finished the short story I was writing, and now I’m already planning the next novel. Shorts are too short! I want to dig in and put some real thought and effort into something again.

This one is going to be a murder mystery… in space. It has a lot more characters than I usually work with, and each will be a POV character for a short while (I know, I know I just went over how too many POV’s suck, but I think I’ve got a gimmick to make it work,  you’ll see!) I’m spending a lot more time than I usually do figuring out who they are, what they want, etc. And it’s a lot of fun so far!

I know I said I wasn’t sure I could ever write a mystery, since I don’t do the whole ‘outlining’ or ‘planning’ stuff. But, I really want to give it a try. Sure, it might be a huge waste of time, but so what! Let’s live for today, tomorrow may never come. I think it will be fun to write, and if it turns out like crap at least I’ll have learned something.

 

The end of the world

But which world is ending? I have just finished Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and over all found it thought provoking and entertaining, if a bit obscure.

There were a lot of ideas in this novel, some strange, some confusing, some interesting, some mundane, some–seemingly irrelevant. We follow two sides of one consciousness. A ‘data shuffler’ , a person who encrypts data using a part of his mind that is locked away from even his own awareness, to ensure that no one can decrypt the data without his help. And things get weirder from there. Creatures of midnight appear with no sound–and are never explained.

A lot of this story seems arbitrary. Weird just for the sake of weirdness. Or maybe I’m missing a lot of symbolism.

None of the characters have names, which I found trite.

I did like the characters though, and it was an enjoyable read and much different than your regular sci fi. A refreshing splash of difference in my book diet.

I will most likely try another Murakami novel, but maybe not for a while.

 

 

Tomorrow is always one more day away

“Ever read The Brothers Karamazov?” I asked.

“Once, a long time ago.”

“Well, toward the end, Alyosha is speaking to a young student named Kolya Krasotkin. And he says, Kolya, you’re going to have a miserable future. But overall, you’ll have a happy life.”

Two beers down, I hesitated before opening my third.

“When I first read that, I didn’t know what Alyosha meant,” I said. “How was it possible for a life of misery to be happy overall? But then I understood, that misery could be limited to the future.”

 

The above is a quote from the current book I’m reading, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I skimmed The Brothers Karamazov in high school, but I don’t remember any of it. I did find this quote spoke to me, though.

How can you live for tomorrow when you curse the night and day? It seems to me, what the author might have meant, is that regardless of your situation it is possible most of the time to be happy in the moment. If you don’t look too much at the horrible or difficult things coming your way, you can enjoy the thing you are doing right now. The cold beer you are drinking, or the sun on your face, or the conversation you’re having–regardless of what awful things lie around the corner.

If you can enjoy the moment, you’ll enjoy your life, even if that moment is surrounded by a past and future of misery.

A job?

Is it just a fantasy? Could writing ever make ends meet? Sometimes I feel like money’s got me crawling on the floor. The things we love rarely pay the rent, but we do them nonetheless.

Don’t quit your day dream.

You should love what you do, not do what you love–bullshit.

Can we manufacture passion? Can we choose who we love anymore than what?

Don’t settle. Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing.

Finishing things

I feel as if I have a new super power, ever since finishing a draft of a novel. I can finish anything! Short story? Cake. Novella? Pie. Another novel? Doable. All it takes.. is starting.

It’s like I blinked and the sky moved ever so slightly, and now I can do things I couldn’t before.

Required for writers of all kinds: write a novel. Even if nothing ever comes of it, the powers of determination it will imbue you with are worth it.

Transitions? Forget about them

The obsession with transition negates a basic truth about writing, a magical truth. You can get anywhere from anywhere, always and almost instantly. – Verlyn Klinkenborg

We’ve all been there: cold moon, dark sky, watching our minds disappear as we try to figure out how to get our character from point A to B. She’s just found the clue hidden in her safety deposit box in Seattle, and now she has to fly to Cairo to search a secret tomb.

Shoot, that’s far, how do we get her there? we think. Let’s see, she has to buy a ticket, she has to pack, she has to get to the airport on time, she has to find her seat, she has to get through the terrible in-flight meal, she has to fall asleep, she had to get off the plane, she has to get through customs–NO, STOP.

You are a writer. You can do anything. So just go to where the next thing of importance happens, without all the fuss of getting there. I promise you, the reader won’t mind.

So how do we get her across the world in the span of a sentence? Try: “24 hours later, jet-lagged and sweating, Jane stepped off the plane into the dry heat of the Cairo streets.” Or, if you want to get even more to the point: “One terribly long flight, three taxi rides, and two hours of wandering unfamiliar streets later, Jane approached the home of her secret contact, and knocked tentatively on the door…” And there, done, now you can move on with your story, minus all the boring stressful aspects of travel.

If only we could move about so easily in real life!

The same goes for movement in time, or between character viewpoints–just go to where you want to be–the reader will keep up just fine.