Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Unconventional Styles

Writing styles can enhance a readers experience.  Doing something different adds to mood or interpretation, so it can be a great thing...when done occasionally.  If you can pull this off without peppering your novel with an annoying new thing every page or two, go for it.  However, some of us try to be so clever that it distracts from rather than adds to what we're reading.

Stephen King did this wonderfully with The Shining.  He'd use italics and parenthesis between ideas to help the flow of the story and give us insight into which part of a character's personality we were supposed to be paying attention to.  This added to the chilling feel one gets from that book.

I've done this a few times myself, but my varying styles usually deal with writing in a different font to convey mood or tone of voice, and I don't do it often.  I'll use this technique sparingly so it makes an impact, and it's most prominent in Salvation Day and Akeldama.  Of course, that's not the only thing I've done different, as Schism demonstrates - since the story is more prominent than the characters, I threw in news reports and internet clips to add to the feel of a nation torn apart.

While this works when done properly, be careful when you attempt it.  Using techniques that differ too greatly from conventional storytelling will only be tolerated by the reader for as long as they add to the experience of reading the book.  When such techniques seem to become the focus rather than enhancements, people will get fed up and toss your work aside.  In other words, don't sprinkle random exclamation marks and unconventional symbols in the middle of a sentence unless it has a specific design that you've carefully thought through.

Being unconventional works, but there's a reason it's unconventional - it normally makes something seem stupid.  Many of the writers I've run into that use unconventional writing techniques are doing so in order to seem artsy-fartsy, and they seem overwhelmingly concentrated around college campuses.  They'll outgrow this or bemoan forever that no one understands their art.  However, the writers that give thought to such things and are willing to re-write if it doesn't work are the ones who have a chance.

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