Friday, January 16, 2015

Observation: Classics vs Contemporary writing style

I was thinking about Dickens, the Brontës, and Austin vs the current writing guidelines that state one should start with the action and keep things rolling along, active or reactive.  But these classic writers were outstanding providers of fine fiction and they did not follow this advice.  They practiced the immersion method. Wrap the reader in details they can smell, taste, feel and see in a serious case of high definition wordiness.

It was about development, deep examination of thought, motivation, environment, symbolism. Yes, they are classed as literature, and I don't claim to write literature; however, strong development, a creation of an environment that truly is a place for the characters to "be" in should still be a requirement. And it's one I struggle with every day that I write. (Notice that sneaky "that I write." Not every day can be a writing day, ho hum.)

It is this that makes me keep going back into my work-in-progress, adding more to a scene that is not dialogue. More character, more sense of place, more demand for "high definition wordiness."  But I also go back, remove the excess waste that slipped in among my efforts to immerse my reader. It is a knife edge of care to whittle away at a work, or to graft in another variety to add to the overall flavor and aroma of the reality between the covers.

I recently read Findley's Time and Again. It was my first time reading this classic time travel book. It took more than half the book for the character to take a simple half hour trip back in time and practically nothing happened while he was there.  There was no rising action until after he returned and even that was a slow build up. I had to make myself slow down and enjoy the scenery, relax and not demand action of the heart racing kind.  In the end, it was very much worth the wait.

After I finish this fourth installment of my time travel series, Students of Jump, I will be working on a contemporary fiction, in first person, no less. A truly tremendous shift in my writing.  But I see it as an opportunity to take the process a little slower, a little more immersion for the reader in my characters' lives. More build up to a satisfying emotional closing.

My husband loves to watch old movies.  We sat together twice this week watching some classic films that followed that slow buildup method. We found them not just satisfying but thought and discussion provoking. We enjoyed them because they stayed with us. In the days that followed, we continued to refer back to those films and the questions in morality that they posed to the audience. There has to be a middle ground for this process of development of character and purpose and engagement of the reader. That's my goal.

 What is your take on these styles of writing?  Is there a clear divide or is there a middle ground?

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