inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #26 of 67: It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Tue 2 Aug 05 14:44
    
That is very encouraging to hear....sometimes you get the impression
that novelists get the whole picture at once and then just sit down to
sketch it out...glad you are so enthusiastic...all the best.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #27 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Wed 3 Aug 05 10:19
    
I would love to be one of those novelists But alas...
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #28 of 67: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 3 Aug 05 10:36
    
How do you get language and idiom for your characters, especially the 
ones of different ages?  Do you have to go out evesdropping on teenagers?
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #29 of 67: Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Wed 3 Aug 05 10:57
    
Marisa -

I'm still reading the book, and am enjoying it greatly.  (Although
there's one error that was like a slap to the face, it's Indian/India,
not Asian/Asia.  An elephant with ears the shape of Asia would have
wings on the side of it's head, like Dumbo.)

I'm curious about how you chose this interesting mix of 1st and 3rd
person storytelling.  At times, it seems like we're nestled in one of
the character's heads, then at other times, it's like we can see and
hear all of the character's thoughts and emotions.

For example, the interaction between Christine and Amador - You see a
lot of it from his perspective, a little from hers, but at a key point
(don't want to spoil it,) it's written with a taste of both
perspectives.

I also really like the way you've handled Will's walks with his
grandmother.  In fact, I'd have to say Will is my favorite character.

Again, I'm finding this book absolutely fascinating.  I've only got a
hundred or so pages left.

Should be done by tomorrow.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #30 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Wed 3 Aug 05 11:05
    
That's funny. No stalking teenagers. Might take it up when my own kids
are teenagers, but for wholly different reasons...

I actually don't  write much using current slang or whatever the argot
is of a certain clan. So far, I haven't written characters who would
require that kind of fully idiomatic language. I think what i do is try
to be so inside my characters, that their words are a reflection of
them, of their attitudes, of their point of view on life. There are
certainly many instances when I think of a line of dialogue, but decide
that my character wouldn't say that, or say it that way, and I have to
find the right way for him or her to express feelings, depending on he
or she is.  

In No Direction Home, one of the characters is a Mexican immigrant
named Amador. He speaks only a little  English, so in his dialogue with
English speakers, I had to hear the very particular way that he formed
the new language, what words he omitted, how he structured sentences
based on his knowledge of Spanish grammar more than English grammar. 
But in his interior life, he is fully articulate, as of course he would
be, and his language and idiomatic speech feel very different. 

There are two young boys in the book, age 10. These are pretty easy
voices for me to hear as I am usually surrounded by boys around this
age.

As for the other characters, what they think about, and the emotions
that they bring to these thoughts often determines how their voices
sound.

For me, writing characters is a little bit like acting, although
having barely acted, and when I did, being only horrible at it, I
shouldn't presume. But when I'm into a scene, I am quite literally
residing in the characters, standing where they are standing, in some
ways feeling what they are feeling. I guess whatever language results,
to the extent that it feels particular to character, comes from this
close identification with them as I write. 
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #31 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Wed 3 Aug 05 11:37
    
Hi Idea Hamster...just had to write that. What a great image that is. 

I'm so glad you're liking the book. That's always comforting to hear!
And great question about voice. 

The choice of voice is probably the first craft issue I deal with when
setting out  to write. I circle around whatever my subject is, testing
out various points of view. I will often write big patches of the
thing in various voices, trying to decide which one feels right, which
affords me the kind of view I need depending on the story I am telling.
I often think about it in terms of standing in a room. Depending on
where you're standing, you see different things, the "world" of the
room alters, sometimes greatly, sometimes minutely. But it really
changes the whole story. 

Since I had so many stories to interweave in No Direction Home, I
pretty quickly decided that absolute first person was not going to
offer me enough of a palette. First person is a really fun voice to
write in, but you are often restricted to writing about what that
person would actually witness or have knowledge of. There are
exceptions to this. I've read narratives where even though it is first
person, the narrative also assumes a kind of omniscience, but that
gives a story a kind of magical or mythical quality that I didn't want
for mine. 

I tried a kind of distant third person, which didn't  feel right
either -- to far away from the drama, too stately. So I settled on this
close third person voice, which is kind of a blend of first and third
but is definitely  not omniscient, not hovering about the whole scene
looking down. There's no sense of ultimate authority, you don't feel as
though you are being "told" a story by a narrator who sees it all at
once.  Instead, the characters compel you forwards through the story,
and as a reader, you are left to fill in the parts that they cannot
see, as you have no ultimate guide. I like that. I like giving the
reader the opportunity to figure out how the whole puzzle fits together
rather than telling them how it does. 

The close third voice also gave me a chance to really investigate the
interior lives the the characters, which is so much of what the novel
is about. 
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #32 of 67: It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Wed 3 Aug 05 16:04
    
Are there certain strengths or skills that your directing bring to
your ability to write novels; do you visualize scenes?, tend to block
out arcs, etc.?
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #33 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Wed 3 Aug 05 20:06
    
I do visualize scenes as I write them, although I imagine most writers
do, so I don't think this is a particular skill I got from filmmaking,
it's just that I used the skills in my film work before I every wrote
fiction.  . I think that, as I compose a scene, I definitely think in
terms of what  am I showing to the reader, which I guess would be a
corallary to what is a camera seeing - what's the shot.  Although I
don't think in terms of camera angles as I write, when I look at
scenes, I realize that I make choices as to how close I am to a
character, both physically and emotionally, how far away. Am I
describing a whole landscape? A small detail? These considerations are
no different in film than they are in fiction writing. In the same way,
the movement of a piece of fiction is not unlike the editing of a film
-- deciding what scene goes next to another, deciding at what point to
start telling the action of a particular scene, how to jump forward
and backward in time.

But again, all these are the considerations of writers as well as
filmmakers, so I suppose you could say that I first practiced these
skills with film before I got to writing fiction, but I'm not sure
there are particular skills that I have from my time in film that I
wouldn't have developed over time as a writer.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #34 of 67: Howard A. Rodman (rodman) Thu 4 Aug 05 13:25
    
Speaking of slang: one of the characters in "Babe..."--a limo driver--refers
to circling the terminals at LAX as going round "the drain."  It struck me
as such a telling and perfectly observed piece of slang--  Except that
Marisa invented it.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #35 of 67: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 5 Aug 05 17:12
    

Where do you come up with ideas like that?  While sitting to actively work 
on the writing, or while... you know, driving around and such?
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #36 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Fri 5 Aug 05 18:13
    
It just comes out as I'm writing. Sometimes, I can get into the rhythm
of a persons character and style, and his or her POV on things, and
stuff just comes. It's particularly helpful with subsidiary characters,
as is the case with the woman who says that line. We don't really get
to know her that well, so her language, the strong, very
character-specific things she says help to cement some idea of her in
readers' minds in a very succinct way. 

It's fun when something like that comes out in the writing --
something that is not actually observed in the world, so is not
officially "true" but it feels true, feels like the kind of thing
someone like that might say.

As for where do I come up with the stuff -- I never write except when
I am actively writing. Although I do believe that driving is an amazing
time to let the subconscious stir around. Strange things do occur
while writing. Have you ever listened to a kid sitting in the back seat
talking to you? They say the most amazing, uninhibited things. It's
where you get all the real news. 
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #37 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Fri 5 Aug 05 18:14
    
Correction to that last: strange things do occur while DRIVING. One
hopes that strange things occur while writing, but often, it's drivel.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #38 of 67: Howard A. Rodman (rodman) Sat 6 Aug 05 18:08
    
Gives a whole new perspective on the phrase, "automatic writing."
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #39 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Sat 6 Aug 05 19:36
    
If only it WERE automatic.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #40 of 67: Howard A. Rodman (rodman) Sun 7 Aug 05 10:03
    
At a certain point in writing, the characters start to kick back.  They
surprise you.  They do things you'd never have forseen them doing.

How long does it generally take before the people in your fictions start
moving around from the inside?  Is there anything you do to hasten the
process?  When they first start speaking in a voice that's not precisely the
one that you consciously endowed them with, do you trust that moment?
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #41 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Sun 7 Aug 05 16:41
    
That's a sweet moment, when that happens. Unfortunately, there is
nothing I've found to do to hasten it. When I begin to write, I may
have ideas for characters, but they are generally not fully fledged.,
As I write, their voices wobble around like an adolescent boy's, their
actions are sometimes consistent with ideas I have about them,
sometimes wildly divergent. I try to write the first pass without
minding too much about the inconsistencies -- I allow them to do and
say all sorts of wrong stuff in the hopes that some of what they do or
say strikes me as right and then I can focus them more precisely. But
of course, the key thing about any character is his or her surprises.
As with real people, they must not act programmatically, or follow some
too  narrow idea I have of them. If they do, they begin to seem like
caricatures, not characters. People in life do not act consistently, at
least not in some obvious way. My favorite real life example of this
is the woman I know who is into  holistic medicine, healing the
environment, allowing children to grow unencumbered by much adult
prescription, very non-judgemental in that particularly Californian,
somewhat flabby way. But then she allows her husband to keep a gun in
the house! Totally inconsistent, but the inconsistency reveals a lot
about her on a much deeper level. 

So, I try to listen to all the wrong moves I make for the characters
because sometimes, the wrong moves may lead the way to a deeper
understanding of what makes them complex, surprising. real. That's when
they really start talking back to me - when what they do is so
seemingly perverse, yet so thoroughly right. 

Character is the strangest thing to get at in the same way that
getting to know someone in real life is often a most perplexing
problem.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #42 of 67: It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Sun 7 Aug 05 19:56
    
That is one of the best and most helpful recaps of character
development I have ever read. Thank you, thank you, thank you. So
practical and organic.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #43 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Sun 7 Aug 05 21:21
    
I'm so glad! I only wish that being able to articulate my process made
it any easier for me to do my process. But no such luck. This is why
whenever I read about writers and immediately think it sounds so easy
for them, I have to remind myself that they are probably have an easier
time talking about it than actually doing it. I think all of us who
struggle to write have some notion that  other writers just dash off
seemless prose without any stress, that their books  write themselves.
But if this is true for other writers, I have a feeling they are a
small, if blessed, minority.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #44 of 67: It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Mon 8 Aug 05 08:19
    
That's what I really liked about what you wrote...it is the truth
about the difficulty of the process, and it is heartwarming to know
that that is the way it is...since I find myself in that conundrum all
the time, it is actually quite encouraging.

To some degree, some books may lend themselves to "dashing"...but they
are mostly memoirs based on near total recall, or great fantasies that
seem to be fleshed out from the moment of inspiration...but the really
great novels, like War and Peace, etc. seem more true to your
characterization of the process...being born as they are written.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #45 of 67: Howard A. Rodman (rodman) Mon 8 Aug 05 17:26
    
Marisa, can you talk a little bit about rewriting?  I'm particularly
interested in a questions which always plagues me--how do you know when
you're done?  Are books never quite finished, just at some point abandoned?
Do you leave time between drafts for the work to 'settle,' or do you just
dive back in?
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #46 of 67: Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Mon 8 Aug 05 18:29
    
I have to admit, the thing with Amador's son delaying in the border
town struck me as "wrong", but in the end, it really worked out for the
character, I felt.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #47 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Tue 9 Aug 05 11:42
    
Re-writing is, for me, the most fun, because everything,  or at least
a lot of things are there in front of me and I can begin to look at the
book like a puzzle, which appeals to me. I do this extremely
time-consuming and strange thing when I rewrite: I type the entire book
again, from beginning to end, making changes as I do it. Why do I do
this, in the age of word processing? To increase my typing speed?  I
think it helps me get a feel for the whole, and typing it forces me to
slow down and really think about what I've written instead of just
reading through it which goes faster and sometimes makes me less
critical. If I am going to type something again, I better really like
it and think it belongs there. I also find that literally "rewriting"
or retyping, as the case may be, puts me deeper inside the characters
than just reading through.

But this is my own strange habit that I can't really suggest for
anyone else as it borders on masochism. 

One of the hardest aspects of rewriting is trying to read what you've
written as if you'd never read it. In other words, I have so much
knowledge that I have brought to the book, knowledge that may or may
not be on the page. So it is important to make sure that what I am
trying to get across, I actually have gotten across, that I haven't
been to sparing. Since I tend to underwrite rather than overwrite, this
is an issue for me. Even as I do a first draft, I'm always, taking
away, taking away. So sometimes I have to look at the piece and think
about whether I have been too oblique, or too "less is more". 

I take breaks between drafts both because I generally  have to wait a
bit for whoever I've let read it to read it, but also because, as
frustrating as it is to not dive back in, the time between drafts is
often very, very important. If I go right back in there, I'm not
looking at the thing with particularly fresh eyes. And time away often
allows my brain to stir around a little and come up with new stuff.

When I'm done? When it's the deadline! More seriously, there is a
done, I think. There is a point where the book is what it is and can
be, given who I am at this particular moment as a writer. When I find
that I am beginning to take out changes and revert to earlier versions,
I know I'm done. In other words, I can look at the book and say to
myself, this is the book I am capable of writing right now. A book
exists not only out of time, but in a very specific time of a writer's
life. In the same way that you can't be thirty years old until you are
thirty years old and you can't have the knowledge that come from your
twenties until you live them, a book is what it is and at some point,
can't be all that different given who the writer is at the time.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #48 of 67: Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Tue 9 Aug 05 14:29
    
To Idea Hamster: Glad you finally felt it all came together and felt
right! 
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #49 of 67: Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Wed 10 Aug 05 12:28
    
The last paragraph of <47> is great.  I hadn't looked at writing, or
books, in that way before.
  
inkwell.vue.250 : Marisa Silver, NO DIRECTION HOME
permalink #50 of 67: Howard A. Rodman (rodman) Wed 10 Aug 05 13:48
    
re:47

what a lovely answer.  full of truths, and things to contemplate.

Here's another question: do you have 'favorites' among your characters?  Do
you like the grrls better than the boyz, or vice versa?  Do you ever find
your affection for a character borders on indulgence, or somehow blinds you,
however slightly, to the full subjectivity of the other characters?
  

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