Finding Your Story’s Voice
Have you ever written a story in one format, only to decide that it just didn’t sound like itself? As though it had a frog stuck in its throat, hidden behind an ornate mask at a masquerade ball, trying to act like something it’s not.
I graduated with my Creative Writing MFA in October of 2011. My thesis, a 124-page cross-genre script was the first really complete piece I’d done in a long time. When it was done, I had to see it in print to make it real. I remember how it felt holding it in my hands for the first time. That new baby sensation, as the piece that you’d poured your heart and soul into through sleepless nights and obsessive writing sessions had finally ceased to take over every waking thought, and you had given birth to this I-can’t-believe-I-did this piece of art. You were, of course, required to carve into it several times during the process, shucking away the chaff, leaving it bleeding and bare on the floor, but you were used to that part of the process. You had long come to grips with it and knew that, worst case, if there was anything you absolutely couldn’t bear to incinerate, there was a revision copy of it living somewhere, waiting to be reused or reinvented. Having that in your mind holds a kind of solace for you; that it won’t be forgotten and that the open wounds will be fertile ground for something new, something incredible.
Thrill aside, I knew even then that its journey wasn’t done. I was enthralled with my newfound skill at writing screenplays, the Final Draft software having been the bane of my existence the first few days as I learned to use it. It is old hat now to an extent, though, the software and I having simply reached an accord, as it were, and not quite intuitive level for me yet. The story still had another journey to make, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it – it was good, probably some of the best I’d written in a long time – but it didn’t feel right.
I’ve let it sit for the last few months, percolating in the back of my mind, and I now know where I want to take it: Novel. It’s not a script, or game as I’d once intended. The game can come later as a spin-off of the movie that will be optioned from it.
I can’t quite say that without laughing, it doesn’t even sound like me saying the words.
Fake It Till You Make It
It seems incredibly arrogant and very forced for me to think that way. I don’t. I look at it all, this completed script, as a growth process. This incarnation only being a stirring of the ground, making room for the real story to emerge from the roughed up dirt. But as a writer you have to adopt that kind of attitude, that forced positivity when it comes to your work. If you don’t have confidence in it, no one else will, and it will sit for months collecting dust only to become a trivet for a bedside water glass. So you put on your game face, you straighten your posture tits high, and you put it on the pedestal till you can take a few knockdowns, pick it up, and put it on the next.
Having begun the transformation from script to novel length fiction, I already knew how I was going to handle it:
- Copy the entire script out of Final Draft and paste it without the formatting into MS Word.
- Select all and convert it to grey-colored font.
- Keep it single-spaced, for now, and set it in 12pt Times New Roman.
- Save it as, in this case, “novel_AMSelvaggio_Stalemate_revision1”.
- Rewrite in black, sectioning dialogue and narrative. Small bite, baby steps. Focus.
- Save. Save. Save.
- Revision 2: Delete anything in grey and read through what’s left to flush it all out so it flows.
Resaved in its new form, no blank lines without the formatting, the document was just under 29,000 words at 78 pages at letter-sized 8.5”x11”. Out of curiosity, I changed the page size to half-sheet. I learned this trick a long time ago, a kind of pep talk that I’d actually written more than it looked and that day-dreamy visualization of seeing it as a trade paperback.
At the smaller layout it was roughly 160 pages; just an approximation, but not too shabby. It’s a nice little mind trick to combat any crest falling and it keeps the internal monkey off your back for a bit. Especially knowing that once I start flushing it out it will be much longer.
I am enjoying the process quite a bit, revisiting old friends and devising new ways to essentially torture them, throwing them into newly freshened devices.
I had toyed with the idea of making the entire story into a tablet game. Something akin to the likes of the MYST legacy that devoured me whole years ago, or Syberia and its sequel, with the tablet-driven sensibilities of Drawn or my newest love, The Guardians of Imagination, and it’s storyline driven interaction. It is more than that, though I will use the game as a device to tell the collection’s stories.
A collection, says you? Wait for the book, says I.