When I started my Nano project this past November, I was shocked at how easy it was for me to capture the voice of my protagonist. But there my character was, flesh and blood, breathing life on the page. I wondered why can’t it always be like this? And I asked myself why things were coming together so smoothly for this particular story.
To some extent, I think it has to do with the genre I’m writing – YA Contemporary – compared to my other projects in historical romance and speculative fiction. Instead of imagining the future or envisioning the past, I’m drawing on direct experiences and emotions from my own years as an angsty teen (with a fictive spin of course). Because of this, I emphasized with my characters right out of the gate instead of having to get to know them first before I’m able to direct them on the page. Big difference.
I’m also writing the YA novel in first person, where all my other novels have been in third person limited. Maybe that also contributed to the ease of subsuming myself into the world of the main character and finding their voice.
Based on feedback and my own instincts, I know character voice and reader empathy are weak points in my other stories. I’m just not going deep enough. And for a long time, I wasn’t sure what more I could do besides revising and reworking until the words blurred into nothingness. I made progress, yes, but it’s an arduous time-consuming process.
But now I think I know how to tackle this issue: by writing in the first person, even when I know I’ll revert back into 3rd person at some later stage of the project. By stripping away the artifice of she’s and he’s and making it all about me me me, I hope I’ll be able to strengthen my own engagement with my characters and up the emotional intensity and interest for my readers.
I can’t always control what genres I write in – stories just are – but I can control the POV I use when drafting. And that, my friends, is my New Years resolution. What’s yours?