Playing with Style

by RS on October 16, 2010

Okay, so sometimes I read shooting scripts instead of actually going to the movies. And I suspect since I’ve read so many screenplays that it’s influenced my writing style. I like chatty novels. I just finished reading Joseph Kanon’s Stardust, which is about the movies, and there’s a ton of dialogue. Some reviewers on Amazon disliked this commenting it read like a script (it didn’t), but I think using a lot of dialogue for a book about the movies make sense.

So . . . I confess that for the past few months I’ve been contemplating of using a style that Alvah Bessie used in Inquisition in Eden. He opens the scenes of his story with camera instructions like INT./EXT.  CAR  – AFTERNOON, WINTER , 1978, and proceeds to describe himself as the narrator. I personally like this and it works for Julius because there are many references to films, that Bessie is a character, and that the movies is another of Corinne’s obsessions.

Another tactic that I like is when the main character/narrator steps out of the story and addresses the audience. I mentioned in a previous post that John Burdett and William Goldman used this in The Bangkok series and in The Princess Bride, respectively. This makes the narrator seem more personable to the reader, as if he or she is actually confiding to that person.

But I’ve been battling the issue of backstory. At Writer Unboxed Anna Elliott writes in Backstory Blues that it’s okay to know more than the reader. I don’t think in the case of Julius that works. Apart from the movies, history plays a very large role in the narrative. Yes, the reader doesn’t need to know the minutiae of Corinne’s life, but her backstory is a key part of what shaped her psychologically. And although some people who have critiqued my work say the back story bogs the story down, they need to understand that Corinne (and the author) feel you if you don’t have the background the pieces of the puzzle won’t fit. The challenge, though, is how to include it so that it doesn’t slow down the actions of the present.

So what to do? Follow the advice of the experts or go with your gut? I’ll let you know how it all plays out.

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