For me, voice comes first. I see an incident—a girl dangling from an airplane, laughing—and I wonder, what’s that about? What’s going on there? I have to know more about that. For this second novel, I opened the door to a woman covered in blood, and I heard the question: “What have you done?” And that’s how it is. A voice, and the story comes from the voice. The voice tells the story. I have to figure out what the story is as I go along.
Plenty of writers don’t work like this. They plot, they draft, they outline. Me, I have a notion about the anti-climax, and I have a voice. Tone comes late in the process. My characters get funnier in second and third drafts. The humor initially is stark and incidental.
I’ve been stalling about the re-write. Not because it’s difficult, exactly, but because I have to do something cruel to someone I love. I have to clarify my intentions toward my characters and their stories. Intentionality, like tone, comes late to the work for me. It’s there in my head, and one of the last things I make clear to the reader. I write in concise visuals. I don’t spend much time explicating anything.
It makes sense, of course, that tone and intentionality, when they come, often come together. Attitude and intention inform one another in my process.
So I’m going back through brightening scenes, because nothing breaks your heart like love.