Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick. I have managed to give myself enough of a mental hernia trying to leap a particular hurdle that I can’t even write this LJ post without stopping, starting, revising, deleting paragraphs, and generally replicating the exact problem I’m having with the aforementioned hurdle.
It’s like when you start paying attention to how you speak — whether you swear a lot or speak in sentence fragments or use “like” six times a second — and next thing you know, you can barely open your mouth for self-consciousness over what’s going to come out.
I am thinking too much about how first-person narration works, which is why I’ve managed to hamstring even my LJ-posting capabilities, let alone fiction. The usual remedy, which is to stop over-thinking it and just do it already, does not work in this case, because while the first-person narration I have is perfectly serviceable, I’m trying to kick it up another notch, and find this character’s distinctive voice. This is rendered difficult by the fact that the story in question is the Sekrit Revision Projekt, which has been around for a very long time. Convincing my brain the sentences need to go differently is like punching fog.
I’ve spent half this afternoon digging out every short story and novel in my library that uses first-person narration, in the hopes that beating my head against them will produce a breakthrough. So far, it’s produced nothing more than bruised brain-meats. It doesn’t help that the voice issue is tied up in how the story begins; I’ve more or less fixed the plot problems, but I still need a better beginning, and part of the bettering needs to be on the level of voice. But this isn’t the kind of first-person story where the narrator is self-consciously addressing the reader (or another character in the story), nor do I want it to be the kind of the tale where the beginning is framed in terms of hindsight — “When so-and-so first showed up, I didn’t know he’d be trouble,” or “The day my life changed forever, I was too busy playing with my cat to notice,” etc. It feels like a cheap and easy way to get the story in motion, and then you drop the hindsight effect after the first page or so. Lots of authors do that. I don’t want to. But I’m floundering around trying to figure out what I do want to do.
I recognize that, once I figure that out, and the voice, I will have dramatically improved this story, and probably my writing as a whole. This does not make flinging myself at the hurdle any more fun.
And we’ve reached a point where my brain is literally trying to stick squirrels into the opening paragraphs, as if they will somehow improve anything. Yes, details like squirrels are something this story needs, but they aren’t the key to the problem, O Subconscious. The squirrels can wait.
<beats head some more>