I received a check-plus on my first fiction writing assigment (the equivolent of an A). He liked the pure voice, the original introduction of the characters, the catchy phrases I invented, the fact that I made up a word and wasn't afraid to toss it into the soup of my writing. The word, by the way, was "beginingless". Awesome.
But I can't feel great about this story. I cheated, you see. This is a fiction writing class, and I was writing about something very, very true. How can I help but having a pure voice when telling about something I actually feel, actually live with? The challenge of fiction is maintaining the pure voice through a lie you're loving to tell.
I want to do that, badly. First, though, I must shed this ridiculous non-fiction voice I've developed for myself (and I'm afraid the blogging is partially to blame).
As part of a generation between Gen X and Gen Y, and as an individual who feels her entire existance is unfortunately less than extraordinary, and as a person who still finds so much to say, and as a young woman with ambition to be a writer, it's hard to believe that on occasion I lose my sense of self.
Personal definition is important, always. And most people chose to define themselves in the relative sense, utilizing a series of comparisons to describe what they are and what they most definately are not. I do that, too.
For example, I can neatly package myself into the following social compartments:
Marital Status: Married
Profession: Student/Insurance Broker
Religion/Faith: Christian - Non-denominational
Misc: Non-smoker, animal-lover, meat-eater, Jeep-driver, Audrey Hepburn fan, Friends-watcher
That's enough. It's boring. True, but ultimately not the stuff of history. And all of it relies strictly on a series of comparisons: me v. everyone else on the planet.
It hits me.
As an author my job is to blend in with the wallpaper while my character throws her tea party. No one should be able to feel me in my work; if they do, my job as a writer of fiction has not been well done. Beyond that, I only know about forty people on earth who are in touch with me enough to hear me in my writing. The rest of the world would have no idea that the forty-year-old Iranian hair stylist at the local salon, mother of three teenage girls (one of whom is pregant!), struggling with her smoking addiction and her on-going grudge with God... who I invented, has any hint of Audrey Jean Camp in her!
Will I ever be able to write about anyone who does not look, sound, act, express themselved exactly the way I do?
A good fiction writer does that. Every day. Today I tried something during a writing exercise in class. The prompt was "A visit to the doctor". Figuring there would be, amongst my twenty gifted classmates, a smattering of the typical cancer stories, childbirth scenarios, etc., I acknowleged that this was my chance to find a different voice. We only had ten minutes, but I wound up with the story of a girl with a headache. Her real problem, though, was anorexia. One soccer practice and one slightly unorthodox visit to the doctor later, I had myself a quirky story with a sweet undertone and a moral waiting at the end. Okay, the moral was a little lame: always eat. But I was proud of the rest.
The first two pages of our first to-be-workshopped story are due on Monday. I have five days to write something amazing. No pressure. At least I've figured out that I must, first, lose my own voice before letting a new character speak. Good luck, me.