I went to an IsleWriters talk at Broadstairs library recently given by novelist Sophia Tobin. I arrived stressed with my mind whirring with worries about my latest work having been told that it was too much in the character’s head. In a panic, I started to analyse the voice — was it, far-out psychic distance, internal narrator, external narrator, close-in psychic distance, far-out-to-close-in psychic distance and the massively important free indirect style? I was luckily able to grab a book from the shelves of Broadstairs library, How Fiction Works by James Wood, which again analysed all these voices.
I asked Sophia about style and how she sorted this all out. She said she chose present tense for the letters and third person past for the remainder, being a character looking back. Yes, of course, neat, simple.
Workshops? She didn’t go to them, but did do a lot of re-writing and editing.
Regarding planning out her work before writing — she has a general theme in mind and then writes from the seat of her pants, enjoying the journey, letting the characters speak.
It was all I needed to hear, and the afternoon was an oasis of calm.
This week I’ve had excellent feedback from a competition judge at Winchester who said, pleasingly: I have a very engaging voice which immediately drew her in — and with a great sense of humour. These comments referred to the novelisation I am making of my humorous screenplay, My Hippie Aunt. She also commented on stream of consciousness…but am forewarned about that and have recently read a short story, “Free Love”. by Ali Smith which was stream of consciousness with a reported story, i.e., not in the now. Excellent story, moving, engaging – I love her prose.
My work continues courageously.
“The Widow’s Confession” set in Broadstairs and written by Sophia Tobin is out now.