Friday, 11 July 2014

Selective hearing

Last Sunday the Tour de France took minutes to fly by the upper edge of my village Littleborough and by all accounts there were some 20,000 people who had passed through to line the hills and moorlands. In one weekend £1,000,000 entered the local economy.

On Monday, things were back to normal. Faces were a lot more tanned and with expressions usually seen when just returning from a holiday. I turned to my rewrites and was then tormented with one sentence, dialogue between my protagonist and a character who would sorely test him.

I'd written the sentence, the whole dialogue scene, last year and at that time it seemed right but when rereading I knew it wasn't. I'd written what I thought the protagonist would say in his circumstance but what I'd forgotten is that any dialogue needs two people. I asked myself questions:

"What does the other character want to hear and how do they interpret what's actually said? What would the protagonist say if they needed to step out of character thereby fooling his listener?"

I tried to write the sentence again and again but each time it didn't seem right so I walked away to clear my head. That evening, my husband and I watched TV and one of the characters said something I didn't interpret the same way as my husband. We used pause on Sky TV and rewound to replay it a couple of times before we both decided it would be better to watch what happened next to confirm what was meant. That one sentence gave a clue to a suspect. At that point my one sentence became even more important to me.

Do I want to deliberately mislead the reader OR does my protagonist want to mislead the listener? Where am I in what he says?

As a writer I know how my story should pan out, I've planned it, I can see the bigger picture. But, if I'm true to my protagonist then would he really do the things I, the puppet-master, would want him to do and would he say the words I think he should say? Interesting concepts...

I had to remove myself from the dialogue. This was the protagonist's story and the sentence had to be what he would say regardless of where he was in the storyline and how his words would be interpreted. I rewrote the sentence and this time it felt right.

And so I had deliberated for two days about one sentence out of thousands in my book. It seemed ironic because on Sunday the whole day revolved around a couple of minutes that whizzed by before we knew it.