If you're a regular reader of the Scribbles, you'll know I've been working on the first novel I wrote, StarMark, rewriting large chunks in what I now feel is 'Genuine Squidge's Voice'.
Recently, I asked a couple of trusted beta readers for their opinion on the 'new' version. One had seen the version that won me an agent (for a while), the other had not read it before. Their feedback was very timely, very honest, and resulted in one of the biggest light-bulb moments I've had for ages. Well, since I did the self-edit course, anyway...
Both of my wonderful readers said the same thing - my author's voice is distinctive and tells the story well, BUT (and it's quite important, this) I sometimes needed more of the character's voice, a closer Psychic Distance, more showing of the character's emotions through their own eyes rather than through mine.
And that's when I realised.
I might well be a good storyteller, but I write my stories by watching my characters, rather than being my characters. Which, as one of my beta readers remarked, was 'a nail on the head observation.'
In a nutshell, I'm not getting into my character's heads.
Now for someone who used to love being in am-dram musicals, who still loves dressing up and becoming other people for a short while in fancy dress, who loves to put on voices when reading stories aloud...you wouldn't think I'd find it a difficult thing to do.
But I find it SO hard.
I try when I'm writing - I do, really - and I am getting closer to the characters I've written. Problem is, whenever there's a bit of raw emotion coming up, like...someone dying, a chase, a fight... I think I subconsciously distance myself from the emotion.
Others who know me might disagree, but I don't think that I am a strongly or outwardly emotional person; I do the British thing and keep what I'm really feeling under wraps. So, apparently, do my characters. I need to begin tapping into my feelings so that I can pass them on to Irvana and Mikal...
The lightbulb has been well and truly lit - and I will be shining it on StarMark from here on in.
If this is something you're struggling with in your own writing, here are a few links I've found useful;
Emma Darwin wrote a great explanation of Psychic Distance - what it is and how to use it, Debi Alper shared a comic version of Psychic Distance, drawn by the lovely Jody-Klaire (fellow graduate of the self-edit course I attended), and Sophie Jonas-Hill wrote a fabulous post about how she got under the skin of one of characters.