Rewriting…Arrrgh! – Part One

Well into my 2nd draft, and already making copious notes for the 3rd. I thought this was going to be easier. I keep coming across writing I thought was so clever the first time around, and discovering that it just doesn’t work.

The quotation I keep reciting is “in writing you must kill all your darlings.” Attributed to various authors since the early 20th century, including Faulkner, Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekov, my favorite version is from Stephen King, who wrote, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

With that and the comments of my writer friend, Sheryl (“reads like a TV writer”), in mind, I took a look at my early chapters. By George, Sheryl’s right! I give my main character, Alex, nice, neat, straightforward exposition, to get us into the story, forgetting that no one, even brilliant Asperger’s kids, thinks or talks like that.

I need to live in the skin of my characters, not just look at them from outside and pretend that’s what I’m doing. Alex will not ever make it easy for the reader to figure out what he’s doing. He often doesn’t know it himself, and isn’t likely to tell us when he does.

Speaking in your character’s voice

I write fast sometimes, and fall into the habit of short, clipped sentences or fragments. But the work for me is (since this is told in two first-person voices), to keep track of my character’s different personalities. Alex is thoughtful, analytic, even hesitant. Sara is quick-tempered, impatient and not willing to reveal much of herself. Rewriting means going back and matching style to character.