Nathan. The beloved main character of my precious, first manuscript. I know him better than anyone, obviously, and sometimes refer to him as my fourth child. It’s been over a year since I wrote his story and am constantly trying to do him justice. I am a significantly better writer today than I was one year ago, at least when it comes to picture books, so I know it’s improving. There’s still something missing though; a disconnect that I haven’t been able to put my finger on. He actually came close to getting shelved, since I last blogged about him, except I promised him a contest entry at the end of this month. That makes me panic because he’s still not ready.
I have a critique partner who often says, “I love your voice!” when we swap emails about writing, mom-ing and all kinds of other unrelated randomness. If this weren’t an electronic friendship, I’d think she was making fun of my thick Cajun accent. (Which thankfully not many of you have heard that yet! (I hope you find it ‘charming’ when you do.) I know what she’s saying, I’m animated and excited when I’m writing authentically. I use A LOT of exclamation points, and I write what I speak when it comes to easy correspondence. I’ve known for a long time, that when I start trying too hard, my writing comes across as serious and stuffy. It’s the difference between polite birthday party conversation and having a cup of coffee with a good friend. It wasn’t until she said this, and did so more than once, that I had a bit of a writer’s revelation. I think his voice is missing.
Sure, you could argue that his voice is actually my voice, but it’s missing none the less. Here’s what I realized, going way back to the beginning. I thought that writing in rhyme, which is how Nathan’s story started, was a good disguise. A cute, rhyming rhythm was a way to glaze over the fact that I have a serious tone and limited knowledge. Fast forward a few months, I learned a lot and shed the rhyme. No doubt, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, but it left holes in my story. I’ve filled in many of the holes but never made it around to this one. Like all great critique partners, she issued a challenge. Write the story from his perspective; tell it in his words. So, that’s what my next move will be. I’m going to take my third person story, and write it in first person, from the angle of a five-year-old boy. I don’t imagine it’ll stay like this, but I do believe that it will reap great rewards. I’m even cutting this short and sweet so I can get to my homework assignment. The contest opens July 15, I’m writing on borrowed time!
Thanks for reading, come back anytime!