I’m writing a novel. I’ve been working on the outline and premise for well over a year, but work and life and relocating to the other side of the continent have all been barriers to my efforts of actually writing. Work is steady, life is what it is, but the relocation is done, and the muse that used to drive me to write twenty thousand words in a weekend (in my fanfiction-writing heyday) is back from her vacation in the South Pacific and is, once again, encouraging me to write actual fictional words about actual fictional characters. Finally.
As a writer, I’ve learned that inspiration is unpredictable. I can go months without having a single moment where ideas and thoughts flow, and then, in a heartbeat, the floodgates open and I’m overwhelmed. Joyously overwhelmed.
I worked on my manuscript last night for the first time in months!!!
As I have stated in a previous entry, I’ve had a long-time ban on books written in first person POV (known as FPPOV for the rest of this entry). That ban ended, though, upon giving in and reading Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless, because then I read Slammed and Point of Retreat. This past weekend, I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which is another book written in FPPOV, and also another book that had a gutting, heart-wrenching effect on me.
So all this crying I’ve been doing over these books lately – all written in FPPOV, no less – have me thinking: is FPPOV the new “thing” in popular fiction? Because all of these books that have knocked me to my knees with emotion are best sellers, and they’re all written in first person. Is that where it’s at now in the world of fiction?
I’m struggling to write my own book. Each and every sentence feels like a monumental task because I’m still trying to find my characters’ voices. The idea of just one voice, flowing so freely in “me” speak, is appealing. But I’m a third person kind of girl. I love third person. I’ve embraced it my entire writing life. Third person POV and the Oxford comma are my two favorite parts of the writing process. Can I write my story, and tell it as authentically as I want to, if I’m only inside one character’s head and only sharing her voice? One of the reasons I love writing romances is because I have two characters who are world apart at the beginning who have to find their way to a spot where their orbits intersect. If I’m only sharing one voice and one character’s thoughts, I can’t do that.
So what’s the answer – is FPPOV the way to go now? Do readers have a particular narrative that they prefer? Am I using this debate as just an excuse to put off writing even more? I need answers!
I feel like I’m never going to be a productive writer again. I have tiny, fragmented ideas for three separate novels bouncing around inside my head like fireflies on a summer night. Nothing is longer than a few lines, and the scenes are fleeting at best, coming and going before I can even begin to write them down. I have no idea which one to settle on and how to ignore the other scenes from the other stories once I start working on one particular idea. UGH! How does anyone ever get anything done?
…do you ever feel like you’re going to drown in all the stories that are tumbling around inside your head, just waiting to be written?
I do. There are so many, and they come at me in flashes and tiny snippets. Moments of dialogue. Flares of pain from a particularly sad monologue. The connection to the characters are fleeting because as soon as I’m invested in a scene that’s playing like a Spielberg flick inside my head, it fades away and makes room for another one from a completely different story, with yet another set of characters who have a story to tell. And they come at me, firing like a barrage, when I’m at work, perhaps counseling an employee or working on a spreadsheet and can do absolutely nothing about them other than jot down a few notes and try to refocus on my day job (the thing that makes me money.)
When I finally do have a few quiet moments to write (after the mundane chores of daily life are done), I have to listen to who’s the loudest, which story is burning inside my mind during that particular moment. Then, I can finally pound out a scene, where I imagine it being pulled from my brain in a wispy, silvery strand like a memory going into the Pensieve in the world of Harry Potter. Only once I have a few scenes down can I breathe easier. Finally. They’re out. My brain has room to focus again.
But the respite never lasts too long. There’s always something to be written.
So I invented a new character last night. She came out of nowhere, she’s incredibly messed up, and I love her to pieces already. I’m trying to figure out who she physically looks like at the moment. I like to pick out celebrities to physically model my characters after because it makes them come to life for me. This girl is hard to figure out so far, though. Not sure who she looks like! Funny, the male characters are easy…. they all end up either looking like Jensen Ackles or Mark Salling. (Mainly Jensen these days because holy crap do I love that man.) I’m sure her physical characteristics will materialize for me soon. I love new characters. YAY! Of course, this is derailing my other writing plans but as long as I jot down all the notes I can about her, she’ll be ready for me to write when I’m ready to write her. At least my brain is wanting to write right now. Progress!!!
Can we talk about sex, please? Well, not the act of it, per se, but attitudes toward it in the past versus the present. I think a lot of people are inclined to believe that in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and right up to the start of the sexual revolution in the 60s, premarital sex just didn’t happen. And if it did, there was an intense level of shame that rode piggy-back on the person who’d had the sex. For example, my dad was born in May of 1945, after his parents had been married only seven months. Later in life, when he questioned their wedding date as compared to his date of birth, he was told that he had been a premature baby. Pictures of my dad as an infant show a robust, downright roly-poly, healthy baby. Dad always joked that had he been carried to term, he would have been an 18 pound newborn. It’s obvious that my grandparents engaged in a little pre-wedding hanky-panky but even when my dad was 50 years old, they still couldn’t tell him the truth. So it seems that sex, while obviously a part of life, wasn’t an open part of life.
Fast forward to today, where attitudes toward sex are blase. Television, music, movies, books – everything is designed with sex in mind. As a result, kids are growing up way too fast and with more knowledge than they need at a young age. The reason I’m even talking about this is because the novel I’m working on takes place during the 40s, where sex, as a point of conversation, wasn’t treated the same way it is today. It’s a topic that also has to be addressed because the actual act of it is apparently becoming pivotal to my story. (The reason I say “apparently” is because the novel I had planned is not the story that’s coming to fruition. The characters have other ideas and they’re letting me know, one detail at a time.) The thing I have to remember when writing is that, while sex certainly happened – think of all the soldier boys leaving home for God only knows how long and that whole “last night on earth” mentality that must have been present – my characters wouldn’t have openly talked about it like characters would in a novel that takes place in modern day. The thing is that today, sex sells. Even badly-written, questionable sex sells. (I’m thinking of a certain terribly written fanfiction story-turned-novel that involves the “hero” (and I use that term under great duress) yanking a tampon from the body of his heroine so that he can bang her for the 14th time that day.) Since sexually charged stories are so popular, the more the better, right? I have think about those things when writing this novel. Sex is pivotal to the story line, yes. It’s a catalyst for so much of what comes later. And even though I know that graphic details and titillating descriptions are what attracts an audience, my biggest challenge is staying true to the era. A conversation that would easily happen between girlfriends today almost certainly wouldn’t have happened in 1941. There wouldn’t have been any “OMG we totally did it” moments to share between squealing girlfriends. Any conversation would have been had in hushed tones with one eye toward the door.
So I guess the question I’m posing to myself is how much sex is too much sex? Where do I draw the line between keeping a modern audience happy and telling an authentic story? I love writing sex just as much as the next gal, but I have to find my limits with these particular characters, because I don’t want to turn my readers off when attempting to turn them on.