About the author

Conrad Williams is the author of the novels Head Injuries, London Revenant, The Unblemished, One, Decay Inevitable and Blonde on a Stick; the novellas Nearly People, Game, The Scalding Rooms and Rain and a collection of short fiction, Use Once then Destroy. He lives in Manchester, UK.

All content on this site is © Conrad Williams.

Sunday 15 August 2010

A New Voice

1616 words.

Paul's been hogging the show since day one. He's in every single scene and every single scene is being written from his point of view. Well, not any more. There's a new character, with a new voice, and she's going to be making the odd appearance throughout the story. There's always a little wobble when such a decision is made. It might disrupt the feel of the novel (Blonde on a Stick was rejected by one major publisher who didn't like the sudden injection of a new voice half way through the novel). But I think such risks can pay off, if you get the voice right, and if the story isn't affected in any deleterious way. And this needs to happen, for plot reasons and pay-off reasons.

I remember the shock I had reading The Insult by the superb novelist Rupert Thomson. The first 250 pages are narrated by Martin Blom, who, after being shot in the head, is told he will be blind for life. It's an amazing narrative, very compelling. Towards the end of part one, his sight returns, but with a twist: he can only see at night. The second part starts with a different narrator. A different story, too, albeit one that overlaps with Martin's... a serious WTF moment. It works, but there's a slight tinge of disappointment that a character you've grown with, whose voice you've trusted and been entertained by, has suddenly departed, never to return.

With Blonde, I knew there was going to be a similar wrench. I warn against such moments when I run writers' classes. You get jolted out of the story, out of that zone; you become aware that you a reading a story constructed by a writer. It can be damaging. There's the danger of losing your audience. But sometimes you have to run with your instincts. There was no way I could write the stories of Joel Sorrell and the Four-Year-Old as parallel narratives: that would have been even more of a distraction because the Four-Year-Old's story is presented as a series of flashbacks and current events. So I had to separate the two halves of Joel's narrative with an interlude devoted entirely to the Four-Year-Old's rise. I liked it. My agent liked it. Maxim Jakubwoski (bless him) at John Blake liked it, but some editors didn't.

You have to write for yourself first, don't you?

Listened to: Symphony no. 3, by Henryk Górecki


Anonymous said...

Something similar happens throughout my favourite book(s), The Illuminatus! Trilogy - viewpoints are constantly shifting, woth all the characters telling their stories personally, often without any warning that the perspective's changed to a different person. I particularly like that kind of risk-taking, especially of it's done particularly well...

Really looking forward to reading and reviewing Blonde on a Stick, which I received yesterday... =)

Mark West said...

Haven't got to this part yet, Conrad, but I liked that the opening was the 4 year old too.