Registrato: 29/06/19 07:54
|One of the nice things about being an author is that we can break any rule we want. (I just did.) It's part of our job description. Language changes through usage -- definitions , spelling, grammar -- and authors can help it do this. But on the other hand, we have to have some sort of agreement on the language or we won't be able to talk to each other.
When we as authors break a rule or two, it's not because we're ignorant. It's because we have reasons to break them. That's one of the joys of writing.
Having said that, now I'm going to explain some rules. There are two types of writing in your novel. There is your narrative and there is your dialogue. The rules for the two are not the same.
For example, comma use. In dialogue, it's not so difficult. Put in a comma wherever your speaker pauses in hisher speaking. In narrative , you have to consult the style guides and hope that you and your editor, working as a team, can sort it all out.
A cop thriller like my VIGILANTE JUSTICE has a simple set of rules for the narrative portion. Third-person, straightforward writing, light on adjectives and adverbs, easy to read and grammatically correct. Sentence fragments are acceptable if communication is achieved, and you'll note that I use them often in this article. Why? Simply because it's more effective that way.
To a degree the genre will help you identify what's appropriate. For a cop drama , write in the dry style of a journalist. For horror, a bit of hyperbole may be acceptable in the most dramatic sections. For romance (not my genre), you can probably use lots more adjectives (swollen, heaving, throbbing, etc.) than you'd normally dare.
When I wrote RISING FROM THE ASHES, the true story of Mom raising my brother and me alone , I tried to adopt a "childlike voice" early in the narrative. As the character of Michael the storyteller grew older, I abandoned that childlike quality. (An entire book of that would get old fast anyway.)
When I wrote AN AMERICAN REDNECK IN HONG KONG, the humorous sequel, I once again used first person narrative. But the narrative of RISING is first person only in that it uses "I" instead of "Michael." Michael is only a camera. It still follows all the rules of "conventional" narrative. In REDNECK, I threw most of the rules out the window.
I used what one author referred to my as "conversational" tone to maximum effect in REDNECK. This fellow author felt like he wasn't so much reading my book as just listening to me tell some stories over a few beers. That's exactly what I wanted.
When I wrote the sequel to REDNECK, another bit of humor called WHO MOVED MY RICE?, I chose to keep that same narrative style , which I'd spent three years perfecting in my newsletter.
In RISING, while I was the "first person" character, I wasn't really the book's focus. In REDNECK and RICE, I am. Center stage, in the spotlight. Using more of a "dialogue" style in what should have been "narrative" allowed me to focus the reader's attention on the first person to a greater degree than simply describing him ever could. You may love me or you may hate me, but you'll know me and you'll laugh at me. Or, in the case of RICE , you'll feel my frequent confusion. I had to write that from "my perspective" because it was often the only one I understood.
If you want to see such a technique used to maximum effect, I recommend A MONK SWIMMING by Malachy McCourt. (I read it after writing REDNECK, by the way.) It's about an actor who gets drunk and does very bad things to himself and his family, and it's amazing just how much I laughed out loud reading it. Doesn't sound like a funny subject, does it? It's not, and yet it is, thanks to his unconventional narrative style.
To tell you the truth , I don't even think McCourt "wrote" that book. I think he just said it all into a tape recorder and transcribed it later. It reads that much like "a guy at the pub telling a tale." If he used the grammar checking function in MSWord, I bet it underlined every sentence. And, bright fellow that he is, he ignored them all and didn't change a word.
If you're going to use a more conversational tone in your narrative, don't think that means you just write something down and don't have to edit it. You still have to organize your thoughts, and that means rewriting. While your style may be unconventional, you have to make the ideas easy for the reader to follow.
(I'm not entirely serious when I say McCourt just spoke into a tape recorder , and even if he did that doesn't mean the rest of us can get away with it.)
In the case of narrative, you have the choice. If you want to spotlight the storyteller to maximum effect, you can go with first person and let the storyteller's narrative and his dialogue read the same. If you'd prefer to "move the camera" back a bit, make the narrative conventional in contrast to the dialogue. As a rule, this reader likes contrast, because he gets bored reading the same thing over and over again unless the style is really special. Or perhaps you can find a point somewhere in between.
Every story has a way that it should be told for maximum effect. Maximum effect in the author's eyes, of course , as it's a subjective thing. Keep it in mind as you write. Make the call, stick to it, change it if it's not working. It might even be okay to be inconsistent, but only if you do so deliberately. Just keep stuff like "ease of reading" and "maximum effect" in mind and be creative.
Have you ever read a book where the dialogue reads like narrative? I hope you haven't. But as an editor I've seen such things, and they're very ugly.
Do you know why they're so ugly? Because they remind the reader of the one thing an author does not want to remind the reader of. Namely, that every character on the page is a puppet under the author's control.
As readers, we put that thought aside so .