That little voice in your head.

US soldier

In my upcoming novel,The Devil’s Quota, the internal thoughts of a US soldier in Afghanistan play a big role.

It’s the little voice in your head: To italicize or not? That is the question.

Is it nobler to peer into one’s mind and therefore expose the thought processes therein or leave it to external actions to be an indicator for the reader to interpret. That has been the fence that I have been straddling as I try to crossover to the yard of better writing.

The case in point was, as all big stories start, a little thing. For my upcoming book, The Devil’s Quota, I had decided to fold chapter four, which was just a page and a half, into chapter three — which was nine and a half pages. I did this for strategic reasons and that opened up the door for my editor, Sue Rasmussen to pose an alternative way of telling a story.

With her usual modesty, which belies her genius, she used the innocuous enough term:

Here’s a suggestion…

…and with that she proceeded to rehabilitate almost three paragraphs and transform them to a truly different perspective: The perspective of the thought voice within the main character.

This came at a particularly ‘welcome’ moment. I had just bounced off a retaining wall at high speed from a criticism that said “thought voices load up a story and they should be use sparingly, if at all.”

So I was reeling from that blow, and yet before me was an editor-improved piece laced with internal thoughts. Being the confident, strong, powerful person I am, a leader in my own right and someone who knows exactly the course I’m on, I did the honorable thing: I punted and printed out both. I then handed them out to others see who likes what. (Really decisive, don’t you think?)

Like a Pepsi vs. Coke taste test, these are clever initials that I came up with, I called one A and the other B.  

I served up the samples to seven people that I know and the tally came back 4-3; four for the editor’s and three for my original writing style.

It should be noted from a demographic splay that the three people who liked my original structure were older males who I would have guessed were the types to actually buy my book. The four people who embraced the editor’s work tended to be younger females, with the exception of one male who was also younger. But it was in my inquiry to their choices that the one factor emerged that threw the cards into the direction of editor’s version and it was that they felt more connected to the character with his internal thought process.

No earth shattering revelation, but it was enough to guide me. So I did the honorable thing and threw away my version and went back in to Sue’s and adjusted, to my liking and specs, the editor’s structure. I revamped the internal dialogue, inverting certain things, and fleshing out a little more setting but all certainly on the trajectory set by the editor.

As I finished there were a number of thought voices: First was the thought voice of my soldier, Sgt. Ronson, in the story and then there was that little voice in my own head saying, she was right, she was right.”

Tom Avitabile

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