The art of novel-writing, and why I have yet to succeed at it [Monday, Nov. 14, 2005, 11:10 pm]
I wonder if stories in novels are truly thought out in a linear fashion, or if they're just written that way to avoid confusing people. This semester I've been exposed to two books in particular that employ a "streams of consciousness" writing style, or as I prefer to call it, ADD. Yeah, personally it just doesn't jive with me. It's true that the human mind often wanders while reading - I know I'm not the only one who can read an entire page of text before stopping myself and realizing I didn't actually absorb a single word of it.
And yet, for me, reading a story that's written in a wandering and meandering style doesn't help me to identify with it - in fact, it only encourages my mind to wander and meander all the more. That's why I prefer a straight narrative style to streams of consciousness - less chance to wander. But that's just me. All brains tend to work differently.
Having said this, I wonder why I struggle so with my own attempts to construct a narrative, which have been going on for at least five years now, and yielded only about sixty plus pages so far. Why, when I'm trying to describe the layout of a room, do I find myself mentally wandering to the more exciting runaway scene instead? I tend to get ahead of myself when trying to work on a story (which I haven't done much of lately).
Now I feel more inclined to simply jot down whatever comes to my mind rather than try to begin at point A and make my way slowly and laboriously to point B. Perhaps novels are not linear, since human lives are not always seen as linear. Sure, they have a beginning and an end, but we have flashbacks, and memories, and worries about the future that cloud the straight line.
Now it seems that I find more enjoyment in continuing my story in bits and pieces. Instead of trying to get through a long description that readers will mentally meander through anyway, I tend to just jot down a quote here and there, from different points in the story - quotes that will have people reaching for their highlighting pen rather than falling asleep to. I don't want to describe a boring dinner table scene, even though it is important to the narrative in general - I would much rather describe a big, important scene that hasn't happened yet, because I happen to be thinking of it at the time. At some point, Persimmon's profound realization about humility, or perfection seems more important to write than a lengthy description of how she learned these lessons. Describing a flashback is more fun that trying to write down all the events that lead to the flashback in the first place.
I suppose I know what I want in the end, it's achieving it in literary form that's the hard part. No matter how emotionally satisfying the "high points" of a story may be, it's the "slow points" that make the climaxes what they are, and so the seemingly boring details are often just as important to the narrative as the more dramatic ones.
I might have a finished novel by the time I'm 70. We'll see. Maybe I'll jot down another quote for it this week.
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009