Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rhythm and Voice

I spent the last hour and a half reading aloud Based on a True Story (Part 1). To myself. As I paced back and forth in my den.

It’s a technique I learned years ago. Reading aloud forces me to slow down, to actually look at the words, and (of course) to hear them. When said out loud, the words become alive with a flow and rhythm. Any snags or falsehoods are evident in the way the words click together in a string of sentences.

This final edit is slow frustrating work. And terrifying. Now and then, after hours of writing and editing, I still stumble across silly, tiny mistakes: “wees” instead of “weeds” or “further” instead of “farther.” Yet it’s all part of the process. Sharpening the focus. Attention to detail. Take care of the small stuff and the rest takes care of itself.

For me, the ultimate goal is all about the “voice” of the story. Can you hear the character in your head? Do the words form a recognizable seamless pattern? I want that voice to have a natural rhythm. Something you feel without even recognizing it.

The end result is supposed to be storytelling, right? Our written words are simply an extension of the art of the village memory. Instead of the community sitting around the fire hearing of a past shared history, I imagine a small group of people sitting in a candlelit room. It’s no longer their history, but the shared human experience. They absorb what’s said and done and how it connects to their own lives. To accomplish this, the story must seem natural. It must read as if it’s meant to be spoken.

Maybe all this sounds too arty? Too much of  a poser? Except that’s really the way I feel.

I want to tell a story that does connect to your own life experience. Adds to it in some way. Is that silly? Or better yet, do I have the talent?

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