Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Right way to Write

So is there a right way to write? A right tense? A right POV? A right 'person'? Who am I to say? I'm merely a writer, and there's probably as many 'right' ways to write as there are writers to do the writing.

(say that one fast - haha)

One thing I do know is, I am a very logical person, and I find it very frustrating when I try to read a book and I can find no logical progression of events. If I can't figure out who I'm supposed to 'attach' to is another frustration. One book I took a stab at shifted back and forth in time, while not a bad think in itself, it certainly can be if you have no way of connecting the scenes. Something as simple as a similar name is all that is necessary for a connection or the same location either earlier or later, linked by the name of a road, forest or hill.

Now there is a writer's folly I can look past. That is tense. I'm not so good at that myself, but I do know that you can't have the first part of a sentence in the past and the rest of it in the present. That's just a goof though and has nothing to do with a writing style.

One book I tried to read started out with a very well written scene, but then came chapter two and a whole new range of characters, a different location, and absolutely no mention of the events that occurred in the first chapter. Two more chapters of illogical character behavior and relatively dull daily life, and still nothing related to the first chapter, the exciting chapter. That was enough for me. I can take mood swings, but utterly illogical behavior is annoying. I don't care how outlandish your character is, there still needs to be reason, no matter how twisted the logic.

Another book read like a news paper, but not all of it. Pieces and parts here and there were well written scenes with dialog and purpose. About the time I got to know those people that piece was finished. One part was fine if you're interested in the doings of three or four generations of a family and how they evolved into the rich landholders they were. It was a chronology of who did what for whom and when they moved where and built what. Interesting, if you're interested in that sort of thing - totally pointless in a fictional writing that has nothing to do with these ancestors, nor do the ancestors have anything to do with the current events of the story. And then we get to another chapter different people doing things that might relate to the story, maybe, if you can figure out how.

Just so you know - I approached both of these authors with my concerns, and I will not mention their names or their books here or anywhere else. They are very happy with their books, and apparently they have a few fans. More power to them.

But back to my original question - is there a right way to write? I happen to believe there is.

There needs to be a minimum of one character the reader can follow. I've read books where there were several and they each ultimately ended up going in very different directions. As long as you remain familiar, even 'attached' to them, the number doesn't matter much. This character or characters can do most anything, to include going back and forth in time, whatever your story dictates. They can be anything you want, do anything you like, be evil or good or whatever, as long as we can understand.

Having multiple characters usually dictates different POVs, but not always. Third person removes the reader from closeness but opens up vistas.

Even tense can be flexible to a degree. A person can remember past events or even research or investigate things that happened in the past. Such things might be discussed, and they would be refereed to in the past. Ach, I'm not good at this, like I said before, so I hope you get where I'm trying to go.

All in all, confusion is a big no no. However you tell your story, there needs to be an easily found thread of logic, cleverly hidden however you like, but findable just the same.

Your characters need to be as human as they are (if they are human that is). In the case of paranormal characters, other traits might be fun to mix in. Like the werwolf might have some traits normally seen in only a wolf. A werbear might be rather ... well ... bearish. Vampires - well we've seen quite an evolution in the vampire character, and they all have their fans as well as their flamers. Make of them what you will, but I would caution against making them too 'human'. Characters who originated on another world, while very human-like, need to have other priorities, other habits, other customs.

Me, I like playing with traits and natural laws. One thing I experimented with was the laws of magic. Just like the laws of something as mundane as gravity, which is an accepted constant in most all of our writing (unless we take it away). Your world needs to have 'laws'. Like the rules of physics, things work in an acceptable, logical way, and magic needs to be the same. Create the 'laws' of your world and then stick to them. Sometimes these very laws will throw curve-balls into what your character can and cannot do, or how he goes about his normal life, let alone accomplish the deeds you've set for him.

So what do you think? Is there a right way to write, or is it all just style?


William Kendall said...

I find myself thinking on what you say about the world we create in writing having laws that need to be followed.

I've seen my share of writers who seem unable to grasp that fact.

Anna L. Walls said...

Yeah, it's really quite fun twisting the rules of your world.