Saturday, August 18, 2007

Voice Part Three

I'm still wandering around the voice subject and have come to no definite surprise there. So wandering through blogs I cam across Therese Fowler's post on voice here here. One of Therese's phrase jumped out at me:

"Voice is inextricably tied to subject/content and form."

This hit as true as I began the reread of A Cornish House. Serena's attitude gives this story it's voice. Yet how I choose to put her on the page gives me mine.

So while reading my opening chapters I realized that although the current first page is good, I might be better to start here:

Serena stared at the darkness. Why the hell was she here? It was Madde of course. Madde made a mess of everything. Serena opened the car door. The air smelt clean; strange concept. No noise either. Her music went dead hours ago and the radio didn’t work because the car didn’t. Great. Here in the middle of the end of the earth and no music to kill the silence.
The hedge beside her was taller than she was. Madde hadn’t left her much room. Serena walked to the front of the car. There wasn’t any room on that side either. No one would be able to get past them. Not a problem she supposed as there was no one here. Was Cornwall totally devoid of life? Yes, clearly it was.

A screeching noise made Serena jump. A low flying object swept past her face just clearing the hedge. This place was creepy; no one here and bats or something flying around.
Madde’s voice broke the silence. Her proper accent was unmistakable. She was never sure how her father had fallen for her. It must have been the sex. Why else would he marry a tall gangly woman with wild curly hair and a posh accent? No other possible reason.

“The car is just in that bend.”
“They won’t be able to do anything with you there.”

Serena’s head shot up. Who was that male voice? Had Madde picked up some man in the half hour she’d been gone. Typical. Men flocked to her like flies to shit. Serena just couldn’t understand it. Mind you Madde never seemed to notice the drool as they stood staring. She was oblivious to everything lost in her world of colours and shapes. Hell she didn’t even shout at the tattoo. She just closed her mouth and then commented on the lovely use of blue. She wasn’t even clued up enough to know it was a fake. So much for getting under her skin. She didn’t shout. She didn’t rage. She kept on packing for this wretched move to Cornwall and whimpering on about what a Godsend it was that she had inherited this house. Well, they thought it was a house. The papers that Serena stole a look at describe it as a dwelling.

“Serena, has anyone come?” Madde stood in front of the car with a tall man beside her. He was good-looking in a rough shaven sort of way. Nice body. Unfortunately drooling to as they all do. Another puppy to follow Madde around. Does she smell of sex or something?

“Are you joking? Someone come down this God forsaken excuse for a road? Nothing but bats down here.” She paused and waited for Madde’s normal intake of breath.

“Excellent. They’re protected. You are lucky to see them as they’ve been declining.”
Oh great thought Serena this time she has found a hunky eco geek. A new puppy to add to the list. Madde the dark damsel in distress and the great eco geek rides to rescue. Get a life Madde and fix things yourself without the drool patrol. Get a grip on pheromone production while you’re at it too.

“Thanks for the eco update but this place gives me the creeps.”

Rather than here:

The car coughed to a halt and lurched as the trailer pushed it further on the dark lane.

“Shit.” Madde thumped the steering wheel.

“What?” Madde turned to see Serena rubbing her eyes; her blond hair in spiky disarray and the new tattoo on her arm peeking out from her tee-shirt. Double shit thought Madde. They couldn’t be far from where ever the hell Carnew was but now that Serena was awake she could hear her complaints already. She turned the key but no sound emerged from the engine.

“Are we at this God-forsaken place?” Serena stretched.

“Errr, no. The car died.”
“The car died.”
“I heard that but where are we?” Serena was now sitting straight.
“Don’t know.”
“Mind your language.” Madde ran her fingers over the wheel.
“Hah, fine thing to say. I just heard you swearing. What’s wrong with Christ anyway?”
“We’ve been down this road before.”
“No we haven’t.”
“Don’t be pedantic.” Madde rubbed her hands over the back of her neck. She could feel the rigid tendons. “Serena, I’m tired I’ve been driving for hours and arguing isn’t going to help.”
Madde pulled the release for the bonnet and open the door. She had no idea what she was looking for. The cool breeze caught her hair as she stood in the darkness releasing the bonnet. It sprang open.
“What are you doing?” asked Serena.
“Looking at the engine.”
“Since when do you know anything about engines?”
Madde sighed. Serena was right. She hadn’t a clue. Her hand sought her phone in her jean pocket. The screen lit up. The wall paper was still a picture of John. He’d been gone a year.
“Are you just going to look at it?” Serena’s voice cut the cool night air.
Madde pressed the number for roadside assistance. No signal. Great.
“Well, what’s happening?” Serena leaned out the window.
“Nothing. That’s great. So we’re in the middle of no where with no signal and a dead car.”
“That sums it up it quite well.” Madde looked to the black sky and said a silent prayer. She needed help now. The Milky Way splashed across the darkness filled her with peace. She could manage this.
“Yes.” Madde placed her hands on her hips.

Does either one give you a sense of my voice? Not sure but in both Serena comes across loud and clear.


Leatherdykeuk said...

Sorry, Liz, but the original (second) opening pulls me into the story far more than the first.

In the first, I find Madde annoying, as I don't yet have my sympathy invested in Serena.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks for the Rachel......that helps :-)

Nichola said...

Hi Liz - just a quick note to say thanks for your comments on my blog; they're very much appreciated. I haven't been too good at commenting on others' blogs lately, which is something I'm going to remedy (over and above this little paragraph I mean). :D

Lisa said...

Liz, I'm sure this will be no help at all, but I like the first version much better than the second. This may be in part because I'm partial to using dialogue only where it's really needed to advance the action or deepen understanding of the character and I think the first version does a better job giving me more information. I have a much better sense for Serena in the first version. My jury is out on Madde since obviously Serena is a new stepmother so I don't know if she's getting an unfair shake or not. I suppose it partially depends on your intended audience too. Some people like to read books that are heavy on dialogue and some don't. I seem to prefer books with less.

Lisa said...

Sorry -- I meant to say that Madde is the new stepmother (I was actually clear on that!)

Nell said...

The opening with the dialogue is better. In the other one you are telling, not showing and the words you use are different. For me, in the first opening I hear you in the dialogue opening I hear and see your characters.

liz fenwick said...

I have to say i love the varied responces to the two extracts. It's brilliant how differenct appraoches evoke such wonderfully different responces. Thank you Lisa and Nell for your feedback.

CTaylor said...

I prefer the second version too. For me the second version concentrated on character and introducing them and their voices while the first focussed on atmosphere.

I've always preferred stories that start with character rather than description but that's probably a very personal preference.

Phillipa said...

Liz - after what The Ed said at the conference about not listening to too many opinions, I hadn't ought to comment. But I prefer the second because it's more 'immediate'.

liz fenwick said...

Philippa, it's true what she said about not listening to too many people :-) I think it's briliiant that there is no clear winner here. What is more interesting is that in one script I clearly have two very different for thought!

Fionamac said...

Leatherdykeuk's said it all for me...phew! Wouldn't make suggestions on anyone's work unless requested - which you did.

Can I add, though, that I really enjoyed reading it and want to know more - if you stick to the original, that is :)

I also like Cornish Rock but this is more my thing. It's the humour I love: 'Does she smell of sex or something?' It also stops me getting to emotional about Cornwall. where I spent most of my formative years in small fishing village.

Kate.Kingsley said...

For me, the opening with the characters engaged in dialogue piques my interest more: I like the sense of tension between them, and I want to read more to earn where the antagonism between them comes from. I get a stronger sense of "voice" in this version too. The revised version seems more "generic", I think.

Hope that helps :-)

Best wishes
Kate K

Jan Jones said...

Liz - regardless of which is better, my thoughts are that the opening of any new ms these days MUST be told from the point-of-view of the main character.

You have to engage the editor with that person straight away. You may only have half a page to grab her attention, her sympathy, and make her read on.

liz fenwick said...

Very true Jan. Thanks :-)