Friday, January 29, 2010

Phriday Phun Day!

Aww, doesn't work without physics thrown in there. And I swore I'd never go back to physics after high school...damn you, Newton. Damn you.

So! Let's talk about first person narrative. I read a good post the other day on Janice Hardy's blog The Other Side of the Story. If you are a writer and you don't read her blog, go subscribe right now. She gives excellent advice on the writing process from a published author (and she's represented by Agent Kristin of Pub Rants fame, which makes me like her immediately). In her post she wrote about false starts on stories and gave some helpful hints about what to watch out for, including choosing the wrong character POV.

That got me thinking about first person narrative. I love the concept, but I'm learning that execution is a much hairier beast (whom I love, incidentally). I am currently writing a YA (I know, aren't we all) with a first person POV, and I really do feel that the story can't be told with an omniscient narrator. But for some reason, I'm having trouble getting in the headspace of a 17-year old girl. It's like she's a real person whose brain I can't access. And I am definitely more of a plot-driven writer than a character-driven writer, so it's frustrating to know the plot outlay and not the character herself. Frankly, I'm finding it hard to make her not me. It's hard to keep writing "I" or "me" and not start inserting myself. And while I am fantastically interesting and endlessly witty, I am not 17 and I am not facing the problems she is facing. So her approach should be all like "ahh! no! scary!" whereas mine is "say what? dumb."

I want to write an authentic person (not just an authentic teenager, but an authentic person), but I can feel her voice vacillating between these one-dimensional character traits that I've restricted her to, and it makes her come off like old soda. I've restarted this story about five times now (I'm like the surgeon on TV on the table, thumping on people's chests shouting "don't quit on me, damn you!"), and I refuse to give up because I love the concept so much. And I like this character, I do. In fact, I'm almost positive that she's staring at me from within her made up realm going: "Really, JEM? Really? You're going to play me like that? Ultra lame." Oh, wait, that's what I would say. See?! I'm doing it again.

For any of you first person POV lovers out there, what is your approach? How do you get inside the head of someone who is not you and play around? Is it like being a Power Ranger? Do those still exist? Kids are still into that, right?

Side note, I saw the Power Rangers movie with my Dad when I was a kid. The sacrifices our parents make...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Oh, the places you'll go!

I discovered something this morning as I was getting dressed.

Don't be gross.

My pants were made in Vietnam. I recognize that the majority of the clothing I own wasn't made here in the United States, and I've noticed when an item was made in a particularly exotic locale - Israel, Sri Lanka, etc. - but for some reason it struck me with particular interest this morning. Maybe it's the writer in me, but I was intrigued.

My pants have traveled farther than I have. Think of the adventures my pants have had (before me, thank you), the markets they've seen, the countries they've traversed, the oceans they've flown over. Did they get here by plane, train, automobile, oil tanker, seagull? What about their pants buddies? Where are they now? Scattered across the country, or the world? Did my pants have to overcome impossible odds to become the pants they are today? Are they more worldly and cultured now? So many questions, so few answers. Mainly because my pants can't talk.

But think of where your clothes have come from, the hands that have touched them, the whispers of another culture woven into their fabrics, whether overt or subtle. It's such a global culture we live in that we tend to become blase about the wonders we're privy to, but we're still a vast melting pot of cultures on this rock, and sometimes it's fascinating to take a step back and really appreciate the travels our possessions have made to get to us.

I don't know, just food for thought. Or pants for thought, I guess.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm bringing sexy back

It'll be gone and he'll bring it back!

Mariah's post over at Constantly Risking Absurdity got me thinking. There are some words from our history that deserve a celebrated resurgence, like Mickey Rourke or Tab soda. I'm determined to bring these words back, among them:

scuttlebutt: So I always thought this word meant rumors, but apparently it means an open casket for drinking water in a nautical sense as well. Weird.
gams: As in, "Tina Turner has a fine set of gams on her."
cat/kitten: My sense of the word? "A devotee of jazz." Snap snap snap.
doll: Forget boo, forget woman, I'll always be a doll.
cracking wise: I'm just that kind of girl.

I'm noticing a pattern here...

What words are you bringing back, JT-style?

Friday, January 15, 2010

A unique editing technique

Or: How I Fixed My Plot Problem by Locking Myself Out of My House

It was a cold and blustery day this past Saturday. My partner in crime was out doing some procuring of goods (the legal way, sadly), and I was holding down the fort at the secret lair. My faithful sidekick, Scout, and I were investigating some suspicious noises coming from the lair behind us. We tried the backyard first, but no luck. Then I had the brilliant idea to try looking from the patio that comes off of the master bedroom on the second floor. Up the stairs we raced, Scout and I, and out onto the patio. I pulled the door closed behind me to prevent it from blowing open, and there began my troubles.

A little background for you. When we first purchased our secret lair we discovered that the door leading to the balcony had two locks. How did we learn this, you ask? Because my partner in crimed locked himself out on the porch, that's how. The door had a deadbolt and a lock in the handle, but you could still turn the handle from the inside even when it was locked, so we didn't know it was locked. Oh, fine reader, how I laughed at my partner in crime that day. Apparently karma took note.

As soon as the door handle clicked I realized the error of my way. Scout was too busy trying to eat my jalapeno plant to notice, but we were trapped. I had nothing: no cell phone, no computer, no key, no way to get down from the balcony. Nada. We were now pawns in a game of the fates, held prisoner to their whims (and my partner in crime's need for new clothes).

I wallowed in self-pity for a few minutes, huddled against the side of the house trying to lure Scout into my lap to share her body heat. She caught onto my ruse soon enough, though, and made time with a discarded piece of siding. Then I tried walking around in circles for awhile and counting my steps. After about 500, though, I got bored with the counting and maybe a little winded.

And then it hit me. I'd been avoiding editing the first draft of my WIP for months, starting and abandoning several other stories, all the while eyeing my completed manuscript sidelong. But out there on the cold, unforgiving boards of my temporary prison, I knew I had no other choice. With nothing else to distract me, and nowhere to run, I began to mentally revise. And one hour, two thousand footsteps and a few frostbitten toes later, I had a much stronger plotline. In fact, when my partner in crime did finally show up, the first thing I did was race for my laptop to get all of the new ideas down before television stole them from my brain.

So universe, thanks for locking me out on the balcony. You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, a locked door will give you what you need.

And what have I been doing for the past week? Avoiding the implementation of said plot fix. Sigh.