Since I began this blog I have been quietly pondering an important question. Should I, or should I not,reveal to you the plot, characters, themes et al of my book?
Observant followers may have noted that I’ve dropped a few clues along the way. My story will be set partially in a town much like Narooma. My heroine, Tess Falkner may appear in an early scene in a radio studio. And the working title of the book is Under New Management.
Well, I have decided that I shall not bare my soul. While it is in draft form, the secrets of my story shall remain shrouded in mystery. I will not be sharing the substance of the tale – you will just have to wait for the triumphant moment of publication 🙂
That said, I thought this week I might explore a few of the core questions which exercise the nascent writer and in the process give you a bit of a sense of the type of novel I’m writing. First of all, let’s consider genre.
I want to put on record – loud and clear – that I have absolutely no intention of endeavouring to write literature. You will not hear me raving on about writing the great Australian novel. I won’t be striving to be nominated for any illustrious authorial awards. I will plumb no depths of angst and anguish. I have no desire to be considered a ‘serious writer’.
Nope, I’m going to write light-hearted fairyfloss – the sort of book with a colourful, quirky cover that is stacked in airport bookstores begging to be picked up and taken to palm-fringed locations and consumed along with brightly hued drinks with little umbrellas in them. Merely expressing a desire for my book to be in such a place absolutely precludes me from any pretensions to greatness. I brazenly state that I want to write popular fiction.
Within this category you have the thriller, mystery, action/adventure, historical, fantasy, science-fiction, crime, dystopia, horror, romance and women’s fiction genres. There will be no spies, aliens, guns, serving maids,
zombies, intergalactic wars, detectives or throbbing members in my book, so it follows that I will land somewhere in the women’s fiction realm. One definition describes these as books having plot lines characterised by female central characters who face challenges, difficulties, and crises. So far so good.
Within the women’s fiction field there are several sub-genres, one of which is the category of chick lit – a term that attracts considerable disparagement and nose-wrinklings from top-lofty literary types. Chick lit novels feature protagonists aged in their 20s and 30s, and are generally written in a humorous and lighthearted style. My Tess is going to be 33, and I’ve already revealed my intention to be light-hearted, so technically I fall into the chick lit pool. But my book is going to be about a lot more than the search for the perfect man/pair of stilettos and I’ve been feeling a bit squirmy about labelling my baby as chick lit.
So, imagine my delight when I stumbled across a newly-minted genre called up lit (uplifting literature). This type of work is marked by optimism, everyday heroism, human connection, kindness and empathy and is apparently the hottest emerging trend in publishing. Bingo!
So, nestling comfortably into my identified genre I began to ponder another agonising question – whether to write in a first or third person point of view. The pundits have a lot to say on this topic. The first person point of view is considered more intimate and you can create a distinctive voice, but the format can be claustrophobic. You are limited to describing only what your protagonist sees/experiences directly which can throw up challenges for elements of action that occur ‘off stage’ so to speak. Third person narrative is regarded as being more immediate and flexible, you can move the camera around to tell the tale from many perspectives. But this mode can make it difficult to really get inside the head of your characters.
Writing effectively in first person is considered more difficult, and something generally to be avoided by the novice author. After considerable contemplation I’ve decided to flout the pundits. My story will be narrated from the point of view of my Tess. The challenge will be to make her so engaging, interesting and compelling that readers will want to hang out with her for 80,000 words or so.
My third quandary has been whether or not to fictionalise the location of my novel. There are certain elements of my plot that make Narooma the only possible location for the story. But Narooma is a very small town and I quake at the thought of accidentally creating a nasty fictional character that turns out to be the spitting image of a real Narooma resident who subsequently slaps me with a million-dollar defamation suit. In a fictional New York or Paris no-one is likely to recognise and point the finger at an individual. Not so in a small seaside town of only 8500 people.
I haven’t come to any concrete conclusion on this one yet, but I think I’m going to go with the real Narooma location in my first draft with an option of fictionalising it later on if I run into strife.
So, there we are. Under New Management will be an up lit novel, set in Narooma and written in the fist person from the perspective of my protagonist Tess Falkner. Game on!
3 thoughts on “To Reveal or Not to Reveal…”
Like you, and mainly because I’m still so much at the first draft stage, I’ve decided only tidbits of the current WIP are going to be revealed for now.
I believe a little bit of mystery is important, well at least until that all important first or second draft is down, just in case your characters decide to take you on a journey you haven’t contemplated.
Yes that question of genre is always a good one. At the moment I’m sticking with historical fiction as it’s the closest I can chorently describe it but I do like the sound of uplit. I must check it out.
As for fictionalising of towns I’m hearing you. I may be fortunate that at this present point of time I only live in one of my WIP settings, as much as I would love to live in Paris. 😂
Point One – Excellent decision! No way should you share the intimate details with more than the chosen few least they become common. Worst case scenario: Tess becomes a stranger to you.
Point Two – loving the rise of ‘up lit’ and feel it perfectly epitomises what you are creating.
Point Three – never underestimate the power of the Third Person Limited perspective! Write your first chapter from Tess’ point-of-view and then rewrite from third-person-limited. See which one sounds better when read aloud (greatest tip ever for seeing if things ‘sound’ right; awesome for picking up grammar issues too).
Point Four – I shall let our muse answer that one in her inimitable style: “I was blue and disgruntled all the forenoon and looked forward to the coming of the mail as the one possible rescue from the doldrums. There is always such a fascinating expectancy and uncertainty about the mail. What would it bring me?… Merely an irate epistle from Second-cousin-once-removed Beulah Grant of Derry Pond, who is furious because she thinks I ‘put her’ into my story Fools of Habit, which has just been copied into a widely circulated Canadian farm paper. She wrote me a bitterly reproachful letter which I received to-day. She thinks I ‘might have spared an old friend who has always wished me well.’ She is ‘not accustomed to being ridiculed in the newspapers’ and will I, in future, be so kind as to refrain from making her the butt of my supposed wit in the public press.”
Yet, now that I have found and shared this piece of wise wisdom from eons ago, it strikes me that I should add a caveat to Point Three – what if the novel were written in third-person-limited with sporadic interjections from Tess in the form of diaries/letters/emails/phone transcripts etc? It would create an interesting structure. Or you could write it in third-person-omniscient and use free indirect discourse as Austen was wont to do; even Maud used it occasionally in Anne. To be honest it doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as it doesn’t confuse the reader.
Can you sense the work avoidance strategy in this rather long comment?
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Crikey! Thought I’d thought this one through but clearly I have more pondering to do!