Huzzah! I have just finished the first draft of a short story I will be submitting for consideration at this year’s Hampton Roads Writers Conference. (Sorry for the shameless plug, but hey, someone has to do it.) Anyway, this draft was especially challenging since I had been simultaneously working on two other versions of the same basic story. One was in first person from the female character’s point of view, the other version from the male character’s perspective, also in first person.
While starting the third, and final version, I remembered something an old band instrument repairman once told me. “Don’t matter what people think you should do, just do what you know you should do.” Now Morris didn’t have a PhD in philosophy or education or anything of the sort. I think he graduated high school and learned how to fix horns by hanging out at the factory in Indiana. In fact, his statement was actually concerning a fishing trip. Check this out:
Morris was known to be a great fisherman. Whatever bait he used, others wanted to use. If he used bread dough soaked in Fanta orange soda, then he must be on to something and you better find a few quarters for that soda machine down yonder. Well, one day, some local band directors asked him to go fishing. He obliged, saying he would meet them at the dock.
By the time Morris got there, the others had already launched their new bass boat. They had coolers full of ice, depth finders, fish finders, radios and every kind of fishing device sold in stores. They were waiting for Morris to launch his boat, when he told them to go on ahead without him. He was going to think about his plan for a while.
Hours later, the boat returned, the fishermen weathered, wind-beaten and more than a bit sunburned. Morris was still sitting on the dock, apparently having moved very little. The boys gave him a hard time about not meeting up, since they had each caught one or two fish, thanks to their boatload of electronic gear.
Morris just smiled and, popping open a beer, pointed to his cooler. The red and white Igloo was full of fish. He had caught the limit, and his fish were substantially bigger, too. Morris knew that the big fish would be coming to the shallows that time of morning, chasing after the little minnows, so he decided to just wait for them.
“Fellers” he said. “You got it all wrong. You let the fancy ‘lectronic stuff do your fishing. Always remember, you are the fisherman, not the salesman at the store.”
Looking at my bookshelf, I see books on structure, form, how to find time to write, and how to create better characters, oh yes, also a bugle, but that’s irrelevant. Now before you get all upset, I do realize that enlarging your writing toolbox is important. I just decided that after reading the first two versions of my story, they were not my story.
I had ignored Morris and let the books do my writing. The last version? I reverted back to my “voice” and am much happier for it. Does this mean I shouldn’t write in first person? Absolutely not. I just need to remember that I have a writing voice and it is what it is. I can still have structure, plot and characters, too. I simply must remain true to my voice.
How about you, have you a voice? Do you venture away from it? And how happy are you when you return?
Thanks for reading. Now I must start the editing. Oye…