Thursday, July 14, 2016

Panes of Clarity In Your Writing

Two things: narrative and dialogue. If it's narrative, all my people, including first and third, sound alike. Who cares? It's me telling the story even in the first person. I'm not cool enough to develop a language and style of delivery for a character. Just hints of it. Dropping g's on ing's, that kind of thing, but not even that so much anymore. Message to self: readers read you because they like your vision of the world. Everyone is looking to an appropriate vision of the world for themselves. If they like yours you gonna sell lots and lots of books. If your view is mundane, uninventive, apoetic, they're going to dismiss you as...boring. Writing is boring because it doesn't shock the reader with panes of clarity. Keep them turning pages with panes of clarity, a way of seeing the world that is all yours. FOR ME, that's the entire insight I need.

Dialogue-- I don't overdo differentiation so much. I used to, when I was J.D. Salinger. I used to, when I was Ernest Hemingway. I used to, when I was John Irving. But when I stopped being everyone else and just became myself, I have my little simple speech tricks (e.g., less educated people speak in shorter phrases. It's an observable fact. They don't expand on ideas because they don't talk about ideas. They talk about things and they do it in about 3-4 iambs a phrase. More educated people speak (not narrate, dialogue), as Anni so eloquently put it, through the filter of their personalities, yes, but also through the filters of their formal education. Lawyers sound like lawyers; nurses sound like nurses; librarians sound like librarians, and everyone's world view--as a character, not as the storyteller--better be through the lens the reader expects. Truckers better sound like truckers. Etc. But the main narrative, the storyteller's voice, is a whole other animal. That's where I get to be me. This is the definition of literary fiction: the ability to create characters with worldviews that light up the page. And these will be incredible world views and lenses for seeing that play against the narrator's equally incredible world view and lenses. That's what literary fiction does so well. An entire book is spent on pretense in literary fiction: the story of a burned-out college professor over one crazy weekend where he romances the chancellor of his college, gets her pregnant and at the same time saves a defeated student from annihilation. Michael Chabon's treatment in The Wonder Boys. The key is that when writers write literarily they're not really writing just the story, they're also imparting their world view because others have found/will find it interesting and shocking at times with its clarity. 


Garry Rodgers said...

Hi John - I've been following you for a few months now and have to say you "get it". My first exposure was a Facebook link to your post on self-publishing success, then I took a good look at your site and style. You've perfectly summed up voice and message in this post. Love your perspective!

John Ellsworth said...

That's very kind of you, Garry. I just enjoy trying to understand this stuff. :)

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

'readers read you because they like your vision of the world' - 100% agreement with this.

It's all you have to sell: yourself.

Though we do this very differently (I write from right behind the eyeballs of three separate and distinct main characters), you are spot on about what the reader wants.

I'm trying the harder path, mainstream fiction with literary quality, but with the focus solidly on plot and characters. That's MY worldview, after a long lifetime of reading.

And, when I'm tired, I dig into some old Travis McGee stories by John D. MacDonald. Because of how he writes.