I actually halted working on the book for about a month. Mostly because I’d reached a point in the narrative where the focus shifts to the villainous faction of the story. There was a question I philosophically wrestled with during that time on whether the (impartial) third-person narrative voice should adopt a tone for this chapter that’s in any way different from earlier chapters that focused on the hero and his trusty sidekick. On the one hand I really want to convey the innermost workings of the antagonist’s head, but on the other hand I want to avoid telling the audience what to believe about him. A certain equilibrium between the two would be ideal. It’s a matter of knowing when to lean to one side and when to lean to the other. Not the easiest hike, but I’m forging ahead with it.
One of the things I miss about the SILVER BROWN experiment is drinking the essence of the people’s vibes whenever I threw pages of the manuscript out into the Twitterverse. I’ve been itching to do something like that again in 2022. Unfortunately, my current work in progress is not yet at a point where I’m comfortable with the idea of other people reading it — it’ll need to go through a few drafts before it gets to that stage, and I’m still in the middle of writing the first one. In order to scratch the aforesaid itch, I shall dig up one of my oldies that I started writing in 2008 and eventually forgot about.
Years ago, in the days when people still met in person, I used to attend writers’ critique circles that were advertised on Meetup. At the first meeting, I showed them the first few chapters of HE WITH NINE TOES — the manuscript I was working on at the time. If I recall, the reception was glowing. The only beef they had with it was the choice of vernacular. These chapters take place on an agricultural planet, where the locals speak a dialect that is heavily influenced by the Scots language. In their reviews, my fellow scribes told me that they frequently couldn’t make heads or tails of what the characters were saying. But aside from that, they loved it.
I never got around to correcting the issues they brought up, abandoning HE WITH NINE TOES to try my hand at writing something that wasn’t space opera. But I think it’s in decent enough shape to amuse people if I were to show it to the world at this time, warts and all. Starting on the 7th, unless something comes up. If it helps lighten the mood this
apocalypse tax season, it’ll be totally worth it.
My last two literary attempts were told from the point of view of the main character. Mostly for utilitarian reasons. It was an approach that satisfied certain mental needs I had at the time. There’s definitely something therapeutic about creating a hypothetical being you become as you write, like a literary David Bowie performing as Ziggy Stardust.
However, one of the downsides of using a first-person narrative mode in fiction is that the main character must necessarily be involved in every scene. Which becomes a problem if you want to add spice to the story by inserting sleazy underhanded happenings behind the scenes that the protagonist shouldn’t know about.
I tried a number of workarounds to that problem with my previous work in progress. Like writing a few chapters in epistolary form, or having the point of view suddenly shift to a different character. Such methods can make for a jarring and confusing read if they’re not done right. With my current literary attempt, I sensed there was no need to make the narrative any more confusing than it needed to be, in part owing to the fact that one of the major characters is an artificial intelligence whose language is comprised entirely of sound effects. So I went with the tried-and-true third-person mode this time. This is a narrative voice I haven’t used in years, so it involved a bit of getting used to at first. But I appreciate the fact that I can get inside any character’s head. That’s a good power to have.