What happened, eh?
While I've been on my little break from writing, I've been doing a lot of thinking about writing.
My writing, specifically.
In the past, I have posted several time about components of *my* voice, (mostly 'cause I have an incurable tendency to over-analyze) because it's our individual differences which makes each writing voice unique. I even posted an extremely nerdy one about the Sanskrit goddess Vac...
Today I also read a blog post by a buddy I met online about her head-hopping problem.
So, now that I've thrown all these seemingly random bits of information at you, let me try to pull them together into one coherent thought.
1) I don't have a habit of head-hopping
2) What I DO have a habit of is "...showing how/why a character is reacting a certain way only through their dialogue and body language, yet always filtering this information through the mindset of another character."
This is one of those things that is both good and bad.
I think, in reality, we spend far more time analyzing/thinking/anticipating/jumping to a conclusion of what's going on in other people's heads than we do our own.
Seriously, I truly think we do this. Especially teenagers.
You can agree or disagree with me (feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below), but I think this is a natural behaviour because emotions are sticky, layered, and mind-bogglingly-complicated and often we don't even know why the heck we're feeling whatever it is we're feeling. Sure, we can recognize the big, surface emotions... but all the stuff churning around underneath?
Often all sorts of little wounds and bad experiences can compound together and you can lose your temper over something incredibly small and stupid you normally would just laugh off. Y'know, those days where you accidentally hit the 'off' button instead of 'sleep' on your alarm, wake up late in a panic, stub your toe, the shirt you want to wear has a loose button that pops off, you can't seem to find the pair of shoes that matches your belt... and all these little things add up and when you get into the kitchen you realize the coffeepot wasn't placed correctly and now there's a river of caffeine trickling down your counter and flooding the over-stuffed utensil drawer your significant other didn't quite close properly the previous night...
...and you blow up. Over something that small and that stupid.
But how quickly do we decide the meaning of other people's emotions/reactions/motivations, and slide them neatly into clean, simple, singular categories?
He did that 'cause he's a jerk.
She said that 'cause she hates me.
He just wants attention.
She's so lazy, always trying to play the system.
He's always trying to get ahead, no matter who he hurts.
We make judgement calls with the smallest scraps of incomplete information.
...and that's why I like writing the way I do, having the POV character make assumptions about why the people around them are behaving the way that they do. Because so often, that can go wrong.*
Now, back to the good/bad thing.
Yes, this is a trait of *my* voice, yes, I think this is more realistic, yes, I think the characters become more complex, yes, it totally fits with the type of characters I write**, yes, I think it's kind of unique...
...BUT, I wonder if readers don't get as emotionally invested in my main characters because they are more concerned about other character's motivations/etc. It creates an odd kind of narrative-distance, for sure, even when the story is written in 1st person POV.
And, like my friend who had someone point out her head-hopping habit, I wonder if this is the kind of thing I need to correct, or if it's a legitimate (and good) part of my natural writing voice.
How much do you think about your own writing voice?
*It's a pet peeve of mine when a character miraculously guesses exactly why another character did something/etc. It's just too perfect/coincidental. In reality, it's darn hard to figure out someone else's motivations unless they tell you straight out, or rent a billboard, and even then, they could be lying, o you, or to themselves.
**The characters I write are usually in survival-of-the-fittest types of situations where their ability to guess the motivations of others is often instrumental to their own survival. Studies do show that kids who grew up in stressful situations, like having an alcoholic parent, become very good at *reading* the situation/mental-state of the people around them. It's a normal, adaptive trait.