August 23, 2010

Achieving an Effect

What I’m Reading Today: A draft of a novel cover to cover. Yay!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how far a writer needs to go to achieve an effect. There are many different aspects that need to add up. You need to have the action/plot add up, plus the subtext, the specific detail, the underlying character ~ consistency throughout. But not so much consistency that the effect is simplistic, dare I say forced or melodramatic.

It’s like calculus, or a great big puzzle. That’s what I love about writing. It’s not cut and dried, and you can never “master” it. Like life.

Some people go overboard with their effects. They don’t trust the reader and bludgeon the reader over the head with it again and agin. In these kinds of books, I find myself saying, “Okay. I GOT it. Let’s move on. Give me a little credit for intelligence.”

Some people don’t give you enough, and you’re left dazed and confused and with the vague feeling that the writer really meant something deep by what they wrote, but you’ll be danged if you know what it is.

Of course, different styles of writing use different means to achieve their effects. Some styles are very interior and are trying to catch every nuance of thought. Others are much more exterior and rely on the reader to catch each tiny hint that is dropped through action or insinuation.

No matter what style you write in, it’s hard. You have to trust your reader, yet give them enough bread crumbs to find their way home. And it helps to know your own proclivities. I know that I underwrite. I have to go back and embellish and give the reader more clues.

I also know I need to work on having more interiority/introspection and also on the author/narrator/protagonist split. (Author = you in the world; narrator = persona of you in the text, the benevolent overlord guiding the reader’s experience; protagonist = point of view that we care about. There’s a narrator even in first-person present tense.) My work to date has often been sans narrator, so that I sort of immerse the reader in the protagonist with little guidance. This is the biggest aspect of achieving an effect that I’ve been working on lately.

Questions of the Day: How do you handle achieving an effect? Do you have “proclivities”? Do you have a strong narrator, or absent one?

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