I’ve always thought writing novels must be a lot like acting. You’ve just got to get inside the character’s head to be able to portray his or her every move, word and action convincingly. You’ve got to stop being you and be the other person while you’re writing him or her. Even if all characters ultimately have their roots somewhere in your own subconscious, you have to stop being the everyday you and take on the mantle of somebody you have never been and, if they’re the other gender, could never be.
The problem with a novel is that you’ve got to do this for multiple people rather than just for one. And, while I can happily reside in the heads of a couple of people – the two main protagonists of my novel – trying the ‘method’ on three or four is a far tougher proposition.
There is a character in the wip who has been given insufficient of my time. Or I think she has. On the other hand, it may be that she has been hiding herself, waiting to reveal all in one climactic scene. Clearly, though I say ‘she has been hiding’ I mean ‘my subconscious has been hiding her’, my subconscious knowing better than my conscious brain that she should not be in front of the camera, as it were, the whole time. She should be keeping her mystery.
But the question is – is she mysterious or just underdeveloped? I need to read what I’ve written as a whole to really know, and I don’t want to do that at the moment as I need to keep up the momentum to the end of the book. Or it think I do.
I know that the received wisdom is that you just carry on, plough through until you’ve reached the end of the action and then go back and fix the details in the rewrite – what an electrician would refer to as a second fix. But this is my fifth book and that’s never really worked for me. I’ve always been the kind of writer who needs to be pretty happy with things as they’re unfolding, rather than thinking ‘doesn’t matter, fix it on second draft’ because one of the problems - if you’re writing essentially character-driven stuff rather than plot driven - if you haven’t got the characters right, then the story’s not going to work.
All of this may simply be rubbish of course. I may just be feeling wobbly because my whole writing rhythm is off at the moment now that the boys are done with school for the summer and are at home when I’m used to having an empty house to write in; an empty house which I can pace around looking for my characters, wondering what makes them do things and what will happen as a consequence. Wandering around a house full of young men (the UFF, the B and their friends) trying to listen to my characters inside my head is a little like trying to watch one of those overhead TV’s in a service station – you catch the odd thing but mostly you can’t hear what’s going on and the actions you see onscreen are meaningless without the words and background.
If only the garden were big enough for a shed…