In response to the following post from Terri Giuliano Long, I’ve always felt I did my best work when either writing in a creative frenzy or writing to discover what I really think. In writing my novel I simply sat down and wrote, sometimes for twelve or more hours at a stretch. I worked without a plot, or even road map. Starting with a guy alone in a car, I thought, what should I have him do? It’s a predicament writers of road novels often get themselves into. I thought, he’s got to talk to someone, how does he do that? So I give him a CB radio, and he talks. He tells tales about a chili so good it’s a regular aphrodisiac, and all the women it supposedly gets him. The tales tell a lot about him, not so much for what he says as for the spirit in which he says it, and by the end of Chapter One the character is fully delineated.
All the while I’m thinking to myself, who is the POV character here? It would have to be either the driver or god, and since I can’t trust god to do it, I figure it must be the driver. So that creates another problem. I wrote it in third person, and there is no way he could describe himself, as I had already done, using first person POV. He could if he were at some remove, but then the reader needs to be clued in that the character is writing about himself, but not in first person. I discover it’s a legitimate device called illeistic third person POV, and it’s normally used for just such a character as mine. But it gets me thinking about persona, the public persona, the private persona , the husband, the friend, and so forth, and how each of us has different ones, and how to deal with that. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book in which the POV character exhibited more than one persona and spoke in different voices. It’s considered to be such a no no to speak with more than one voice. So I give each persona its own voice, but maintain the singular POV. The choice to write organically enabled me to discover what it was I had to say in a way that thinking it all through first would never permit me to do.
In the same vein, I love responding to columns in the Times the Post and other venues, not to spew ideological venom but to speak to an issue that has touched my life, and sound myself out on my thinking about it. Often some version of what I have written will then find its way into my fiction.