Thursday, June 18, 2009

BYU WIFYR 4: Dandi Mackall

Dandi Mackall: “VOICE, the Secret, Mysterious Ingredient to Masterpieces” (btw, Dandi has written--and published--hundreds of books. I do not exaggerate.)

Quote from Julia Barnes: “It is easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren’t writers and very little harm comes to them.”

quotes from her book, Kids are Still Saying the Darndest Things as an example of how kids speak. They say things a certain way that is identifiable as a kid. “My dad’s the boss of our house. Until Grandma comes over. Then he’s just one of us.” Why do you have mothers? “She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.” “Thou shalt not suck on a marker, because the colors come off on your teeth and everyone will know you did it. Plus, they don’t taste that good.”

Strong voice? People used to tell me, “It’ll come to you. You’ll get one.”

Without the good voice, a lot of manuscripts are interchangeable, regardless of the plot.

Regardless of the song, you can pick out your favorite singer because you know that voice. Or authors—Hemingway, i.e.

Good news: you HAVE one. You don’t have to discover it—just uncover it. It’ll come if you relax, but there are things you can do that will help.
-Be authentic. Write things that are true to you.
-Realize that you have a voice that no one else has, that is totally yours.

In addition to authorial voice, every book you write has its own distinctive voice.

I used to just get an idea and start writing. Lately I won’t start writing until I can hear the voice of that character.

How do you get to that voice?

1. Play. Make a “vomit draft.” You can go wherever you want to go.

Write a character monologue when you’re stuck or before you start your story.

The good stuff is in your subconscious, a compilation of what you’ve experienced, read, what you believe and care about. Your subconscious can bring it out into your book. You have to trust yourself to get there.
Do it by doing exercises. In exercises, you’ve got nothing to lose. Play with your novel, get at it from different angles.
Take your character with you in your head and think all day, “What would she be doing right now?”
Your first sentence can give you a good idea of voice. (She read some of her favorite first sentences.)
PLAY. Go back home tonight and write twenty first sentences. You’ll hear a new voice and it will make you want to start a new novel.

2. We all have the same tools—words. Edit. Choose the right words to make the voice you want.

About her book about playing baseball: “I had to research to get some of the language right.” (Book was full of baseball jargon.)

C. S. Lewis: “Don’t use adjectives, which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you’re describing. Don’t say it’s terrible/delightful—make us say it to ourselves as we read about what you’re describing.”

Use metaphors and similes that work. These give you maximum mileage for your words.

3. Hone in the POV. It’s your secret weapon, the one thing writing can do that visual media can never do as well.

You can use the character’s thoughts to improve voice. Example, Dandi’s book about the horse-lover girl. In her thoughts, this girl compares everything to different kinds of horses.

The way the character sees things (reporting on them in their thoughts).

Show the story through the eyes, the senses, the touch, feel and heart.

4. Find the piece of you that’s in every character. Then the voice is more authentic.

Frozen moments: Remember your moments that have frozen in your memory (like 9/11). These might be little tiny moments. Grab those, translate them and give to your characters.

Quote from ???: “All a writer has to do is to arrange the pieces that come your way.”
Give us the voice in tiny, frozen pieces that are arranged for power.


Anonymous said...

Darlene, I just got caught up on reading all your posts so far about the conference (I started reading last week but had a long derailment reading Editorial Anonymous (but never found the post about what to do if your editor disagrees with you.) Thanks for sharing your notes; they've been interesting and fun to read.

Valynne said...

Thanks for posting your notes! It's great to see things from some of the break-out sessions I was unable to attend.