Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do You Hear Voices?

Writers collect voices.

We store them away in the brain-attic
till they roll around like freed billiard balls.
Sometimes they collide just as we're drifting off to sleep,
and then the voice echoes come floating down, snatches of conversation or loud comments:

"Your socks, Heinrich!"
"Commander, nobody likes jellied eel sandwiches." 
"What would you do with a gumshoe if a gumshoe lost his socks?"
"If I were a frog, I wouldn't have to take naps."

They're banging around up there.
"We see you, writer lady. 
Get to work and let us out."
One by one they escape.

Discovering each voice is
putting yourself into these strange shoes,
these small, flat shoes, worn down in the heel.
There's a flap of rubber that lifts up with a smack
every time you step.

It's walking around in this character's
tread-down shoes
until you develop callouses
where your character has callouses,
until you know instinctively
what your person would do,
would speak, would think.

Collecting voices helps you as a writer so that when one of those billiard balls
clamors around enough it can escape into your story.

Hear voices?
Don't panic.
Maybe you're a writer.

Still not sure?
Ask them.
I'm willing to bet at least one of the voices
will have something to say.

"Hearing voices no one else can hear isn't a good sign, even in the wizarding world."
        J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 

Some books with excellent echoes: 

Journeycake Ho, Ruth Sawyer, ill. Robert McCloskey
Junie B. Jones, Barbara Park
A Visitor for Bear, Bonnie Becker, ill. Kady MacDonald Denton

Most Loved in All the World, Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson
Alchemy and Meggy Swann, Karen Cushman
The Midwife's Apprentice, Karen Cushman
The Arthur Trilogy, Kevin Crossley Holland
Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

Which books still echo in your head long after you've read them?


Amy Baskin said...

Gosh, I love this post, Faith. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Faith Pray said...

Thank you, Amy! My voices thank you, too!


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