Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Whose side am I on?

Which side of the fence are you most comfortable writing from, the good, the bad, or the ugly? Do you consider one side or the other more marketable?

by Dietrich 

I feel at home writing from either side of the fence. I never feel the need to agree or disagree with the way my characters think or behave. It’s simply about picking the viewpoint that will best suit a given scene, chapter, or entire novel.

No matter whether it’s the good or the bad doing the telling, I love watching the characters spring to life, getting to know them to the point where I can just let them loose on the page. When I feel like I’m just typing their own words, without getting in their way with my own thoughts or feelings, then I know I’ve got it right. 

I’ve been asked if there are aspects of me in my characters, and I suppose there can be at times, maybe more than I realize. My aim is to let these make-believe individuals evolve and make choices that are their own, particularly the ones that I would never consider myself.

I write a lot of dialogue in my stories, and I like to think it lets the reader look past the surface of the characters. It’s interesting how their words can reveal so much more about who they are than what the words alone are saying. And dialogue’s a great way to slip in some discrete backstory without having to slow the pace by investing pages of narrative to achieve the same end. 

I’ve told stories in third person, and I’ve tried first person. In my latest, Nobody from Somewhere, I tell the story from various points of view. The idea behind doing it this way was to give the reader a deeper insight into the various personas and a broader understanding of what drove each of them. Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood come to mind as fine examples of stories told from multiple points of view.

I also love taking the POV of the unreliable narrator (Poughkeepsie Shuffle), a technique that allows a writer to tell a story through the eyes of a madman, liar, lunatic, or whoever. It’s such a great way to experiment with voice too. Some all-time favorites of stories told in this fashion: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk; Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Do you consider one side or the other more marketable? If I planned a novel based on what I think will sell, I would probably miss the mark by a mile. I want to feel inspired when I get the spark for a story, one that will grow and shape into the kind of novel that I would want to read myself. I go instinct, and when I’m satisfied with what I’ve created, I send it off, and if that book does well on the store shelves, then that’s fulfilling too, as well as reassuring that I’m on the right track. 

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