TRUST YOUR READERS
This one is sort of new to me. New to my consciousness.
Because a reviewer pointed out something, and I hadn’t realized I do this all the time, and I like to make things clear to myself.
“…Too much seemed to be going on and I was having difficulty following the plot….”
Thing is, I must have picked it up from all the stuff I read in my life, and I have my own preferences which have developed out of all that reading, and which I expressed in my own fiction.
I will now proceed to make that clearer.
Novelists manipulate time.
Again: NOVELISTS MANIPULATE TIME.
We decide for you what the interesting and important parts of a story are, and how we will present those to you, and especially, in what order we will tell you the story.
And you may disagree with our decisions – and perforce not read our stories – but you can’t really change the story (skipping for the moment ‘choose your own adventure’ stories).
I am rarely intrigued or persuaded by novels which bounce back and forth in time, mix two or more storylines together, or switch focus from characters I have invested in to some place else. So I won’t write them. There are plenty of writers who will do that for you.
I even warn you.
If you saw the calendars and spreadsheets and lists I carry for Pride’s Children, you’d wonder when the invasion was.
I have to know when every child is conceived.
How long someone took to get out of high school.
What day of the week someone died.
When the Memorial Day celebration fireworks are set off the Friday night before the actual holiday.
I very clearly label each and every scene I write, and that’s right there in the book.
DATE; TIME OF DAY; PLACE.
But the reader doesn’t need to know all of this.
The reader just has to know it somehow ‘feels right.’ That there is a hand on the tiller. That there is, somewhere, a reason for how the story is fed into the brain.
And, more importantly, that the emotional journey will be always forward (okay, the kind of emotional journey I write).
Modern writers save you time.
Older movies and TV shows sometimes showed actual clocks with spinning hands and calendars with days/months/years being ripped off one by one.
Now there probably isn’t a viewer on the planet who isn’t comfortable with the jump cut: you are there in one scene with a set of actors doing something, and, literally one frame later, are somewhere completely different with different actors doing something else.
I even tried to stop the process, to see if I could catch the jumps, and I kept getting pulled back into the story.
My job is to write YOUR emotional journey.
And that journey is going to have some very intense days when a lot happens – with long or short periods in between where all that happens is dinner and laundry. If I waste your time with laundry, you can be sure something very important is buried in there somewhere, and the purpose is NOT to confuse you, but to plant a seed that will give you the pleasure of discovery – some planned time in the future.
Why? Because I write long, and I edit intensely, and I take out everything that I possibly can – and the books are still going to be goat-gaggers.
Because I trust my readers to be the kind of people who can handle it.
Want to handle it. Choose to handle it.
My favorite reviews state things like:
I cannot recommend this book, this trilogy, highly enough – but not to everyone. This is a book for readers who appreciate literary fiction and a very deeply developed romance with a thoughtful debate on ethics. I believe the pace and the delayed gratification will frustrate many modern romance readers who look for fast-burning romance, titillation, and simple love stories. However, if you are a reader who will appreciate a modern ‘Jane Eyre’, this trilogy is for you.
If you like insta-love romances this is not for you – however if you love detailed, meticulously crafted sentences, strong realistic characters, and an intricate story telling style you are going to love this.
My own pet peeve – with novels and with the world – is the new trope that men and women approach intimacy and love the same way, by hopping into bed. As soon as possible after they meet, and before any of that boring talking.
I just don’t believe it – it leads to reams of pretending. And there has to be something written that is for the readers who don’t believe it, either. Because there’s plenty of the other.
So trust me…
If it’s in there, if you don’t understand it quite the instant you read it, that okay because you are going to get it just in time.
And the jump cuts? That’s because I really don’t want to bore you with anything that doesn’t relate directly to your emotional journey.
There won’t be any explaining. You are smart – you don’t need it.
And you’d pillory me if I wrote it in.
PS I’m not sure what’s going on with comments, so copy yours before you submit them, and if they don’t post, send them along to me in an email to email@example.com, and I’ll post them for you.
Thanks to Stencil for the free account to create images with (the words are mine, the pictures theirs). If you use a lot of images, check them out.
Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD is coming along nicely, and the brain is working every day again, but it’s still a lot of slow, careful work. I know where I’m going. And I think my kind of readers will like where it ends. The joy of writing has returned.
Meanwhile, the Pride’s Children PURGATORY – BOOK 1 – ebook is available on Amazon, as is the print book which is currently showing about 99% of the pages in the Look Inside feature; they tell me it will be fixed ‘soon.’
I love the way you’ve written your characters so far, and I felt I got to know them pretty well throughout the reading process. Well enough to be looking forward to more! And I loved the way their relationships have developed, much more naturally and true to life than the way most books portray.
Thank you, Lynda. There is a cost – longer books.
I am leading you somewhere – it’s up to me to not let you question the steps as they happen, because I want you to recognize where we arrive. When we finally get there.
Many of my techniques come from Donald Maass’ The Fire in Fiction, and some of my favorites are meant for thrillers.
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Very much with you on the subject of women falling into bed with every pair of trousers they see, regardless of what’s in them. I suspect that many of these modern authors would like to be writing porn, but they don’t want to be stigmatized for writing porn, so they disguise it as art. Really miss the old-fashioned, where the ladies, and even most of the men, had a bit of dignity. As to the temporal aspects, never much thought about it other than making sure that no character is in New York, then turns up in Los Angeles thirty minutes later. Since I can’t unread this, I’ll be thinking about it from now on!
Great job, though, a meaningful discussion of something that needs to be out there.
The subject of keeping track of time and place is critical – and a real advantage of writing and editing scene by scene: the first part of the process is to figure out where we are, what came before, and how it will connect to what’s next. And then it’s real in my mind, and settles down.
On the subject of dignity, that’s it. In a day of birth control, some women feel they’ve lost the only reason to say ‘no’ to an intimacy that hasn’t been established yet – by actually liking the guy. Too many times people turn out not to be who they say they are – and by then you’ve already made yourself that vulnerable? Either of you? Not that desperate. That’s what it reeks of: desperation. My mother had the old-fashioned way of thinking about it: why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free – which is maybe too far in the other direction – and I know people who waited and found themselves needing a divorce.
It’s just that the aftermath puts people in the ridiculous position of lying with their words and then behaving themselves out of an unsuitable relationship by not calling.
Oh, well. Let’s maintain SOME dignity, shall we?
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