Novel Writing: Writing In The You

“You hear a sound.  Hesitate.  Nothing.  You continue on in the darkness.  There, that sound again.”

Creative writing tutors call this type of narrative second person viewpoint, as opposed to first person or third.  However, like with other viewpoints, variations exist. Taking the opening sentences – would you say that the writer is teasing the reader to a point, trying to create an atmosphere of tension with the hope of scaring or thrilling them?  Probably.

Authors sometimes try a different technique using “You”.  Writing to a fictitious family member or friend.  Or ex-lover.  In these cases, the narrative tends to shift to a more intimate/personal tone.

In my current novel in progress, I address most of the narrative to the main character’s childhood friend in a sort of eulogy, in order to sort out problems with inner monologue and help shape the more subtle aspects of the structure.

And, of course, to avoid the “Show, Don’t Tell” problem.

Hope it works.

 

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Novel Writing: The Editorial Tweak

Tweaking: sorting out small details in the narrative, making sure all elements of the plot agree.  The process might seem simple, yet I’m finding this stage of the writing the most difficult.

Possibly, the structural or plot issues have always existed in the story but have only come to light as the writing has got better. A bit like using photo editing software to improve a photo, only to find insignificant details suddenly detracting from the main purpose of the photo (as a result of the editing, of course).

Introducing complexity in order to solve a fundamental problem in the writing might solve the initial issue but will often bring about new problems in the narrative.

What’s complexity?  I would define it as creating a new plot to improve or justify an old plot. The two plots co-exist in the same story. The new plot almost competes with the old, making the structure off-balance (my opinion, anyway).

So it’s back to the computer screen and more tweaking practice.

 

Wish Spammers Would Get A Life

An article I posted two years ago:

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SPAM!

June 18, 2009 by lawrenceez  |

I have some fuzzy memories of Spike Milligan’s cafe scenes about not liking spam (a form of processed ham), but now I seem to be getting loads of Spam messages on my blog. How annoying.  My site is about music and the creative arts, like novel writing and story telling.

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Some things never change and the spammers are back again, pestering the site with their stupid comments.

Novel Writing: Gritty Crime

I’m at that part of the novel again, a psychological thriller, where I have to make a decision.  Concentrate on “mad” character building (old-fashioned/plot-based stuff) or wade through uncomfortable criminal material that’s more true to life.  After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to concentrate on the crime element.

Novel Writing: Calming The Tension

I’m reworking a psychological thriller and trying to include as many calm moments as possible in the story.  Too much tension, and the reader might lose interest. Too little, and the reader might get bored.  The general reader wants to identify with a character, and the writer needs to invite the readers into that character’s life.  Difficult, but a rewarding process.

The following is a short sample based around the central character’s sister and son.

In the morning, I go off to a country park with Mel and Robert The acorn trail with yellow fields on either side. We take photographs of deer and stop for a picnic lunch near a wooden hut. Purchase mugs and mint cake from a gift shop. Pencils and stencils and art paper for Mel. I buy a pair of cheap sunglasses for the fun of it and get Robert to take a photograph of me prancing about in the shades. It’s another crisp October day, sunny but nippy with the smells of pines and honey and cider apples.

Normalcy In Novel Writing

I’m at a significant point in my writing generally: the need for the central character to have normal life  and enjoy every day activities.  In a psychological thriller, this can be difficult to bring off.

In the following scene, central character Alan has just returned home after spending the night on a mate’s couch following an evening in the pub. The evening itself was intense.  Robert = Alan’s son, Mel = Alan’s sister, Samantha = Mel’s friend

I head to mine, gulp down a glass of tepid water from the sink and start the shower. Get in. Change into a fresh set of clothes and splash on some aftershave before going down to join Mel and Robert on the second floor. The interior of Samantha’s flat is different to mine or Mel’s: bean bags rather than chairs, knickknacks and ornaments on the shelves, glass coffee table with thick magenta candle stubs, paperbacks scattered on the floor, along with assorted shoes and trainers. Robert, I note, seems particularly sulky today, and hardly responds to anything I have to say, although he relates easily to Samantha. The four of us spend the morning making organic bread in the tiny kitchen area, Samantha chatting away barely, pausing for breath.

Novel Writing: Description Of A Storm

Weather descriptions can create problems in novel writing, apparently. Too many, and the reader may lose  interest.  None, and the reader may find the scene setting lacking. 

Then there’s the Pathetic Fallacy. In some cases, the tone of the weather hints at what is to come.

Here’s a description of a storm taken from my second novel, a psychological thriller.  In this scene, the main character is driving his eight-year-old son home from school.

We barely talk on the way back. Jazz FM plays on the car radio, my favourite station. Those dissonances calming my mood, calming my mind. The journey, though, is rough, and the steadily darkening sky warn of a prairies-like storm  Rain falls down my windscreen, making it difficult to see.

The rain sweeps across the surrounding grass verges in a downpour, splattering on the road ahead. At Rupton village, lightning streaks across the horizon, capturing a frozen shot of The Factory in the valley below: brown, muddy-red brickwork with turret-like windows and a tall chimney to side. Thunder, then more lightning and another glimpse of The Factory with the metal fencing surrounding the car park and the cooling towers and pylon grid further on. Austere.  More thunder and lightning. Torrents of rain and gusts of wind. Snapping branches and soaked leaves strewn along pavements. The steep winding road to the bottom of the valley glazed from the rain, tiny streams of waters trickle down the hill to join the river at the other side.

‘Wow,’ Robert says.

‘You like?’

He nods, but doesn’t smile.

An NDE In Novel Writing?

Normally, I would say, “no way. Do not write about NDE’s in fiction under any conditions.”

However, I’ve searched my main character’s past and believe there are sufficient grounds for introducing one in his background following a near fatal accident the character had in his early twenties.  The central character is a tough guy, a former amateur rugby player, and somehow I feel that the experience will deepen his character.

NDE’s (Near-Death Experiences) can occur in a number of settings, often when a person comes close to death or when astronauts are training.  In some instances, a person may experience one during a faint.

Typically, the person “leaves” their body and observes scenes  from above.  Some people then travel down tunnels and/or encounter “spiritual” beings.”

Whether or not the person actually does leave their body is debatable. Mainstream scientists generally offer physical explanations. A small number of mainstream scientists, however, have suggested that consciousness as we understand it may not be totally reliant on the brain.  In other words, a person’s consciousness may literally separate from the body in certain circumstances.

Incredible stuff. Having read numerous accounts, I would say that some NDE’s sound like a mixture of buried memories whereas others are remarkable in the lucid recounting of details and the later clarification of events “observed”.

Here is a brief sample from my novel, a psychological thriller.

I get up and leave, shivering outside as I walk across the hospital front in the freezing rain, the northern winds biting at my fingers and face, the downpour reaching deep into my trainers and socks. It’s nearly half four in the afternoon, and already almost dark, more like late autumn or early winter.  An ambulance rushes into the front area of the hospital, lights flashing, and pulls to a halt by the entrance. For a while, I stand watching in a type of daze, remembering another time when an ambulance pulled up in the clearing at the bottom of Whaley Hill to take me to hospital after Vince Macarthur’s revenge attack on me. I was unconscious when that other ambulance arrived in the rain and fog, yet I remember it arriving and the female paramedic who treated me at the scene. I watched from far off, floating above myself before drifting into blackness; the thickest blackness interrupted by more floating in the hospital; seeing my mother and Mel in the hospital lobby with Wayne’s mother and father, even though I was lying on a hospital bed unconscious with my eyes shut. Then, blackness followed and no further memories.

In the distance, I hear voices above the commotion and sounds of the storm: Gordon and Barry calling my name, their voices like those interrupting a dream, yanking me back to the now.

‘You’re soaking, man,’ Barry says. ‘Want to catch pneumonia?’

The Chill Factor In Novel Writing: Getting To The Heart Of The Matter

I’m midway through my second novel, a psychological thriller. My main character Alan, a former tough guy who used to play rugby and football, has recently moved back to the north of England following the break up of his marriage and has got in touch with a former childhood friend. 

Alan witnessed a murder when he was ten, but has no recollection of the event.  A series of disturbances at his new home, a flat in a converted old factory in the countryside, prompt Alan to investigate the murder, but each move he makes results in further confusion. 

For instance, Alan meets a an elderly woman who played a significant role in his childhood, but he doesn’t remember the woman at all.  However, he recognises her post retirement house, even though he has never visited the house. Further, the interior seems strikingly familiar to Alan, reminding him of a house he only just remembers: the murderer’s. 

In tackling the matter, I hope to look deep within Alan’s mind – in particular, why certain seemingly insignificant things unsettle him so much, such as a vase in the wrong house.  I feel that the brief memory flashbacks in the story must capture Alan’s uncertainty and hint at the reasons for Alan’s fear, drawing on specific details that strike true fear in Alan’s heart.   This will mean cutting old redundant material and going deeper into Alan’s character.

Demanding, to be sure, but I’m managing about four to six hours a day of writing.