No fun at parties

“Character starts with the alphabet. Letters: words: sentences. Any individual human is immensely complex and contradictory and it would be sheer tedium to encounter this complexity, fully and accurately recorded on the page. ‘Fleshed out,’ I believe the term is.”  – Noy Holland (in Hilary Plum’s “Stop Up Your Ears and Secede”)

The ghosts that haunt us

“‘Do you hear voices?’ asks the doctor. I say yes. What I hear is the muttering phantom, the mouse gnawing at the door. The wind in the mind of the trees. Nothing mindful or coherent. From the muttering, I try to make coherence: people call this voice, but why not call it character? If character is a locus which allows one to speak… ‘certain sorts of sentences?’ Suppose I observe or remember in a person a quirk, a gift, a flaw. An exemplary tic. How does that tic or quirk or flaw influence how a person perceives and therefore words experience? The worded experience, the linguistic field, is character and voice at once, a record of perception. So, yes: I go word by word by ear for as long as I can, according to my awareness of what I’ve said and did not mean to say. And yes: this is messy and inefficient and—worst—insufficient, particularly in longer fictions. Insufficient because you don’t get structure by keeping your ear to the ground. You have to stand up, and I never want to do so too soon, never want to see too far or control too much, which for me feels deadly. The ordering impulse is crucial but I don’t want it to be dominant or inhibiting. When it’s dominant the terms we commonly use—character, voice, plot, setting—begin to make sense; the story bleeds out; it’s anybody’s. More chatter in a chattering world.” – Noy Holland (in Hilary Plum’s “Stop Up Your Ears and Secede”; emphases and ellipsis in original)