Thursday, October 31, 2013

Varying Styles

I've completed six novels so far and about a dozen short stories.  The toughest thing about each of them hasn't been the idea, but rather the style in which I tell them.

The biggest thing that a writer must do with his or her story is bring it across in the format that best draws the reader into the story.  The first couple of books I wrote were in a more traditional style - third person limited.  That seems to be the most prevalent way of novel writing out there, and it was the easiest.  The stories themselves also lent to this style, so it wasn't difficult to do.

Where I hit a snag was in my third novel, Wrongful Death.  I wanted to write a ghost story from the perspective of the ghost, but a traditional format didn't seem like it would be effective in creating the proper emotion.  The only way I could think to get the reader to understand the ghost's motivations would be to get inside the ghost's head, and the only way to do that would be to tell it from a first person point of view.  That way I could build emotional tension while allowing the confusion a new spirit might feel to remain intact.

My fifth novel, Schism, is more about story than character.  I wanted readers to feel the tension of a second civil war without getting too attached to any one character.  But how to do it?  What I decided on was a format that intermixed news stories and blog posts to create tension and the feel of a polarized nation.  Anyone who follows politics at all is well familiar with these things and would be able to rapidly relate to the detached passion they bring.  World War Z did something like this by focusing on story rather than character, and it made for a first rate book(although not a great movie).

I looked to do something different with Homecoming.  Yes, I probably could've done that in the more traditional format, but I wanted to see if I could stretch to something less often used.  I remembered a zombie novel I read called Rise, which was written in a journal format.  I loved the way that Gareth Wood found a creative way to draw out emotional exhaustion, and I felt it might be the route I needed to take to accomplish the same thing.  The outcome of the battles in Homecoming are never in doubt since, in the novel, mankind is stronger than the enemy it faces, but I needed a way to give it a feel of humanity, and the journal allowed that.  I could bring out the emotional development of the story through a single character's feelings about what was happening around him since his journal would be the one thing where he'd have to be completely honest with himself.  It was something I'd never tried before, and it was a challenge, but I'm very pleased with the result.

Look into yourself and what you want to write.  When you do, give just as much scrutiny to how you tell the story as you do to what the story is.  Different styles create different emotions and help us see things through different eyes.  Stephanie Meyer was going to do this with Midnight Sun, the Twilight story told not through the eyes of Bella, but through those of Edward.  Unfortunately, some of the story leaked out, so she suspended work on it, but I think it could've helped Twilight fans understand the story from an entirely new perspective.  When someone else sees it, the reality is different, and it draws the reader into new worlds.

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