Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Wed 10 Aug 05 16:57
No. I was going to leave it at that, but I thought it might be harsh. And that's the thing: I am not particularly sentimental about my characters. I have great feeling and affection for them, or rather, I feel them, but I don't love them in an objective sense. I have great sympathy for them and I understand why they do what they do, even if what they do is wrong or misguided. And I never judge them. I try to think of them as people who are guided or misguided by what is elemental to them. In other words, they have specific, and I hope subtle personalities and they are compelled to act certain ways due to these personalities and the circumstances they come upon. If I have done my job right, they can't NOT act certain ways. There should be a certain surprising inevitability to what they do -- an oxymoron, but I think a valid one as far as character in fiction is concerned. And I never indulge them. If I did, I think they would end up acting in unsurprising and ultimately untruthful ways. It's strange that paradox - the less surprising a character is, in other words, the more you can predict what they are going to do or say, the more untruthful they are.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 10 Aug 05 17:36
Do you ever have self-doubts about your career change, Marisa? Do you have moments where you long to go back to directing?
Howard A. Rodman (rodman) Wed 10 Aug 05 21:05
I'd ask a related question: do you ever feel like taking what you've learned about language, about structure, more importantly about human character, and about yourself, and applying those joys and concerns to filmwork?
Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Wed 10 Aug 05 21:41
Another couple of questions I can answer with a simple "no"! I really don't. I love the privacy of writing more than I loved the millions of voices of film. I love wrestling with problems on my own. I like being in CONTROL! (Or at least, I like the illusion of being in control.) And, as much as I appreciate and admire great acting, great cinematography, art direction, etc. I like being able to manipulate all the fictional correlatives myself. I like words above all else, and I like to see how much I can do with words - how detailed a picture I can paint, how subtly nuanced a character I can make. I like to see if I can draw music out of words rather than have a score laid on top of something I've done. And I guess, as much as I enjoy a great film, I enjoy a great book more. There is nothing like being swept away in a reading experience, nothing like the wonderful collaboration between a writer and a reader, the two imaginations pairing up on this journey through a story. There is nothing so wonderful to me as finishing the last pages of a book with that tingling, mysterious experience of having been transported both outside yourself into the world of a book and inside some deep part of your soul. Above all, I like silence. The silence of writing. The silence of reading. Where the only noise is the noise inside my head.
Angus MacDonald (angus) Thu 11 Aug 05 02:22
Aside from not having to collaborate, do you at all miss dealing with other people in a workplace, or do you get enough human interaction from the "non-work" areas of your life?
Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Thu 11 Aug 05 10:30
Well, there are definitely times when, after a bunch of hours alone, I need a little injection of humanity, when I want to get out in the world among others. But I don't need this experience during the work, don't crave the collaborative thing at all. I do need to shake up my routine every so often and get out of my room and out of my head. But one of the things I appreciate about what I do is that I don't hurtle through days doing a bunch of things and then wondering where the day went. When I'm working, I feel the movement of time very acutely -- it moves slowly! And I like that feeling of time, like having a sense of its weight and intractability. I'm not an activity junkie. I might be the opposite. I get as much human interaction as I need, which might be more or less than what others need.
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Thu 11 Aug 05 19:39
You spoke of "research" for your writing. I'm curious what sort of research you did for "No Direction Home." I have the impression the characters are patterned on people you knew growing up and trying to flesh them out. I have no idea if this is an accurate impression. My impression was that the female characters Caroline and Erlinda are about your age, and in both cases they have youngish children, as do you. I see from your commets that your age is probably pretty close to Erlinda's and probably Caroline's. I'm also curious how you went about shaping the twins' voices. So far I don't find the boys' inner voices very convincing. Their thoughts sound to me more like those of an adult writer than like those of a ten year old. I am finding the book interesting reading so far though.
Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Thu 11 Aug 05 21:51
The characters are not actually patterned on anybody I know personally. They are all very much invented characters who I invest with characteristics and personalities that I feel are true and accurate. Sometimes I draw certain aspects of characters from real life observations or interactions, but not all the time, and not usually. I am a mother, yes, but Erlinda and Caroline do not represent what I feel like as a mother, they represent what THEY feel like as mothers. The research I did for NDH had mostly to do with researching the world I was writing about in Mexico, and researching the border crossing issues and particulars. The twins voices is a good and interesting issue to discuss. Writing children is a tricky thing. You can choose to write very much from their perspective in first person, in which case, unless you are writing about a terribly precocious child (which, you notice, a lot of writers do choose to do,) you are sort of stuck with the way they might be able to articulate their thoughts, which might not be all that articulate. Or you can write from a very adult POV, sort of a backward looking glance at the child so that you can imbue him or her with a lot of perspective and awareness that he or she would not necessarily have had at the time of their youth. I did something different from both of these choices. I chose to give the twins very age appropriate dialogue and actions, but I invested their interior life, which is told from a third person perspective, with a kind of richness that I believe children do have in their thoughts. They may not be able to articulate these thoughts as succinctly as an adult would, but I believe what goes on inside a kid is every bit as textured and thoughtful as what goes on inside an adult mind. So I made a little leap, perhaps, and, using the third person, allowed the narrative to open up this richness.
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Fri 12 Aug 05 00:32
How do you balance time spent promoting your book and taking care of the other business aspects of writing with having the right situation for being creative? It seems like the two parts (promotion and creativity) have conflicting demands.
Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Fri 12 Aug 05 08:39
That is another great question. It is very hard to clear your head for writing when you're thinking about reviews, publicity, touring around. And even if there is nothing specific to attend to, there is something about having the book out there in the world that is mentally distracting for a while that makes it hard to be in that very private space that is required for writing. What I do is that when the book is being launched, I don't put a lot of pressure on myself to do a lot of writing, knowing that I am not mentally prepared to go into that quiet place. But after a while, it turns out that I get frustrated enough with not doing anything creative that I am ready to put the thoughts of the public life of the book out of my head and get back to work. It becomes a kind of balm to check out of the business part of the writing life and go hide for a while. Of course, my "public" life as a writer is minimal compared to best selling authors, or authors of enormous reputation who are being asked to lecture or travel even between publications. So, the requirements of me are not that extensive or pressing. I do my book tour, do whatever publicity and press is required when my book comes out, deal with sporadic requests as they come up. But it's not so overwhelming that it isn't easy for me to pretty much close the book, as it were, on one project after all that business is done, and move on. It would be interesting to know how such a writer deals with these issues.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 12 Aug 05 11:10
Thanks for all this thoughtful insight into the process of writing fiction.
Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Fri 12 Aug 05 11:20
You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed the back and forth.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 12 Aug 05 12:46
What a delicious conversation this has been, Marisa. I thank you and Howard for joining us for the past two weeks, it's just flown by! Our virtual spotlight has turned to a new discussion, but that doesn't mean this one has to end. The topic will remain open indefinitely, so if you're able to continue, you're more than welcome to do so. Thank you!
Howard A. Rodman (rodman) Sat 13 Aug 05 12:23
I have to thank Marisa for being articulate, honest, brave. I learned a lot about her process, and a lot about writing. If this were a dinner party, I'd invite her back next week. Perhaps anyone who has more specific questions/comments about NO DIRECTION HOME can post them here, and perhaps Marisa will check in every once in a while to answer them with her customary elan. To the INKWELL hosts, and to all who posted: largest thanks.
Marisa Silver (marisasilver) Sat 13 Aug 05 18:01
And thank all those at The Well for inviting me to participate, and thanks ot all those who posted for their good and incisive questions.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Sun 14 Aug 05 07:13
It was a great pleasure to have you here. You are very refreshing in your remarks and personal honesty as a writer. All the best in your new endeavors.
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Mon 15 Aug 05 01:17
So which characters resonate especially strongly with people here? Which seem especially well fleshed out?
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