Feverishly working over the new workshop piece, worrying every line. Not because I want it to be perfect, but because it has to work. Like setting up a line of dominoes that won’t correctly splay into their patterns if they aren’t placed just so.
I’m orchestrating five main characters – or rather, two main characters and their three integral close friends – but there needs to be a supporting network of secondary characters that fit as well. Everyone needs to be up front, no surprise visits down the road. Five distinct characters, believable and funny. It has to be funny. Those were the first words I wrote about this story when I decided to tackle it: “First, it has to be funny.”
Not in the instructions to myself but equally challenging: third-person. After years of writing first-person viewpoints and honing the voices of characters I have left the crutches behind and am standing on my own two wobbly feet of omniscience. There’s no other way to tell the story, I have to be inside all these heads. It wouldn’t be as funny, and the reader would miss so much because there’d be so much I’d either have to leave out or have the main character explain.
My ill-at-ease over the third-person POV is offset by my internal conflict over YA in general. I have these YA stories to tell, yet at the same time feel that young adult readers should be expanding their reading beyond the marketing and into the wider world of fiction and literature, a world that doesn’t require a qualifier in front of the word adult. Third-person omniscient is the adult voice, the seasoned voice, the voice not only of a narrative authority but of the storyteller, not the story maker. It’s a suit that’s never felt comfortable to me before, always a little itchy, like stiff new wool.
And so I’ve been fussing over lines, over flow, over making my presance unobtrusive while at the same time in control. The rudder, beneath the visible surface yet guiding the visible ship. But is it headed in the right direction?
Suze thinks so. I don’t think I’ve ever handed off so green a set of pages before, but yesterday I needed to know: is it even funny? Are the characters distinct? Does the first chapter work? I’ll grant, family cannot always be the most objective judge of a writer’s work because there’s too much at stake. But at the very least a close first readers can buoy hopes against a hostile nation of critics. At least someone likes it, the writer can say. But Suze didn’t like it, she really, really liked it. It was almost disarming how much she liked it. The characters are there, the humor is there, the storytelling is there. One quibble over who is saying what in one particular place, a small fix in a single sentence, but otherwise…
So today I feel better. I feel as if the glacial pace of writing these past few weeks paid a huge dividend. Those hours trying to get a single paragraph down in writing were worth it. I may be setting myself up for a huge let-down in workshop come January, but I’ll have a few months to gird myself for that. Right now, in the now, I’ll take my strokes.