Spoken through

Sitting down to write this morning I felt lonely and, dare I say, jilted.

This has nothing to do with my loved ones from real life. Rather, I recently finished writing several sections of my novel-in-progress from one character’s point of view. It’s now time to give myself over to another character.

The problem is, I’m not ready to let him go, although he has nothing to contribute to the section I’m now writing. He doesn’t even know the characters in the current section!

Irish immigrant in Detroit, Michigan in 1912
Irish immigrant who might have been my character's father (image from Wikipedia)

It seems odd that I would feel such a strong connection to him. When I started writing from his point of view, I felt tentative. He is about as unlike me as you can imagine. First off, he’s male. While I’ve never had much trouble writing from a male perspective (thanks to non-stereotyping parents, a vivid imagination, and a belief that gender is a continuum largely influenced by social norms), this guy was a stretch: a Chicago native, the son of Irish immigrants, ten years older than I, blue-collar, a Vietnam vet.

At first I wondered how I could ever write from his perspective. After a few days, however, I experienced that amazing transformation all writers hope for. I was no longer speaking for him.

He was speaking through me. 

This experience, I’m convinced, is why we continue to write. It’s what a musician must experience when fully inhabiting the notes of Beethoven or Mingus (or, indeed, what Beethoven or Mingus themselves experienced creating their music); what a runner feels completing the 26th mile; what teacher sees reflected in the faces of students whose lives he or she touches.

Needless so say, it’s hard to move from the transcendent to the everyday. But that’s exactly what I’ll have to do tomorrow. Maybe, if I’m lucky, my next character also will see fit to provide me with a window into the divine.

Fault Zone reading a success

Thanks to everyone who came out yesterday to support the contributors to Fault Zone at the reading at Kepler’s Books. If you missed the reading—I know some of you live in lands far, far away—check out an MP3 of me reading from my story, “Mistress Mine.” To hear the rest (as FZ editor Lisa Meltzer Penn pointed out after every reading) you’ll have to buy the book.

And finally…

… a big thank-you to Kourtney Heintz for awarding me a mention in her ABC Blog Award post today. She has released me from the obligation of continuing the chain, but I may just take up the challenge later this week.

8 thoughts on “Spoken through

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  1. If you don’t write fiction, it’s difficult to explain this concept to others without sounding a bit cuckoo. But I know exactly what you mean about characters speaking through us. Just when you think you don’t know where to go next, they take you there. 🙂


  2. Audrey, I had a similar experience with my book. I got so into the 28 year old male’s head, it felt weird when I switched to writing from his wife’s POV. 🙂 I almost had trouble seeing him the way she did. I found as I stayed in her head, I started to have a similar relationship with her. When I alternated chapter by chapter. That was tough. I needed to write those on different days to get the voice right.

    And you are very welcome. You have awesome blog content and if you want to pass the award on that’s cool. If not, just bask in the awardedness. 🙂


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