Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNoWriMo Madness and Thoughts

So I was reading this book called Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, second in a triology which began with the amazing Leviathan. As a quick description, they're steampunk novels set in WW1 times but with a different spin on things--a different spin involving genetically fabricated "beasties" by the "Darwinists" in England and her allies verses the "Clankers" of Germany and Austria and their powerful machines.

Anyway, it's a young adult book as well. As I was reading this yesterday, I was thinking about my NaNo novel, and about showing vs. telling. I've recently realized that there's a distinct blend of the two that I quite like (because I can do it well). Here's an example:

"In the sudden wash of green light, Dylan's face was no longer sad. His eyes had their usual spark, but there was an angry gleam in them. He tossed the jacket to Alek."

You could call this telling, and yet it is perfectly acceptable and appropriate (and in a published book, mind you). I would almost call this visual telling.

But back to my realization. As I was reading, it struck me that any story you read is less about what actually happens in terms of plot points, but how you get there. What ultimately makes people love or hate twilight is not what actually happens, but the tone of the book. Some find it disgusting and dreadful, others find escapism there. It's true of any book. And here's where the two ideas tie together: it's that blend of telling and showing that an author pins down in a way that makes sense for them, and once they do that, they're free to create what becomes the real essence of the story; or, what the reader experiences as the novel, as the author's voice. This is how we as reader's come to choose the books we like.

Here's an example of what I mean:

"Oh, right." Alek recalled that Dylan's mother hadn't wanted him to join the military. "Women can be quite mad sometimes."


"I should get back to my skulking, I suppose."

"Aye, you should," Dylan said. "I'll go up and watch the eggs for you. Come back before dawn, though, or the lady boffin will have both our heads."

Have I explained this thought well enough? Obviously having a story is essential. But the writer must also be comfortable telling the story--that's what comes through above, in this case through humor. It's those things that make his voice recognizable, that make me as a reader appreciate and like his style.

So, yeah. Let me know if I wasn't clear.


Josie said...

You're obsessed with telling and showing. Ha.

I think it's easiest to get that unique voice with your own brand of humour. My NaNo novel this year is a comedy and I feel like it's much more me (but not too much - because that can be harmful too) than any of the horror novels I wrote previously.

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