My Voice

I am tired of hanging out at the transition between the Beginning of my memoir and the start of my Middle. I’ve written pages on various scenes I remember but nothing feels right. It feels like an external description not an engaging story to grab the reader.

I ponder my options.
• Go deeper
• Find the thread
• Omit the irrelevant
• Change the voice

Ahah! The last one: change the voice. Maybe I need to retell my stories in the real voice of that 10 year old girl whose world has been changed irreversibly by moving to the suburbs. But I thought I was using her voice. I thought I was putting myself back in her shoes. When I compare the two stories, I realize how I was mistaken. See sample paragraphs below:

Story 1 as originally written:
I thought it would be nice to have a new house. But outside it was so dusty and the street was a construction site every way you looked. The streets were empty and there were fewer kids my age around. Inside, my mother seemed to be obsessed with cleaning and polishing and dusting everything. Washing, ironing, the beds, cooking. Again, as the oldest, I was supposed to help.

Everything was so far away here. To go to the store for something was a 15 minute walk each way. In the city there was a grocery store just across the street on Charles.

Story 1 rewritten in the voice of a 10 year old girl:
Mommy said it would be so great to have a new house but I hate it here. I can see nothing but trucks and dust everywhere. There’s no one to play with either! They’re all babies here! All Mommy wants to do is polish the floors and fix up her house! She’s busy dusting and cleaning all the time. Why can’t she pay attention to me and talk to me? She only talks to me when she wants help.

There’s nothing here! The stores are so far away it takes me 15 minutes to walk one way! On Charles Street, I only had to run across the street to get something.

The second version comes alive in the child’s voice. I find it harder to write in her voice. The adult in me judges her petulance and neediness. But this is exactly what I need to write, in order to engage the reader’s petulant inner child. I’m going to try it from now on.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Your comparisons are excellent examples of voice. Any you are right. The second one shows the reader a typical child's response to unwanted change. She is helpless and out of control of her surroundings and instead of hearing her mother's comfort, we see the pre-occupation of a busy mother.

Voice is so important and I've learned a lot just from your exploration.