I know this sounds utterly basic, but as I’m editing my way through my first novel again, I realized the biggest problem I had was not treating my novel as a novel and playing to its strengths. It’s sci-fi/fantasy, and as such, is very similar to much of what we see on the silver screen these days, and I realized I was treating it as a movie, rather than a novel.
The biggest way this manifested itself was in narration. Rather than utilizing third-person close narration, which lets us see things as a character sees them, I was using third-person distant narration, where we were the camera, watching what happened without entering the minds of the “actors.” It’s a good approach, for a movie, since it avoids awkward voiceovers, but by using it in a novel, I was avoiding much of what makes a novel interesting.
And I think this is probably one of the greatest gifts a novel gives to its readers. Through omniscient or third person close narration, we are given the chance to truly immerse ourselves in another perspective, in a way that no other medium offers. Movies help us experience something, and see it, and feel it, but we see it from the viewpoint of the camera, as if we were there. We don’t experience it through another person’s skin, as we do in a book.
So even though, as an author, I see the scene in my mind like a movie, I have to take sides and choose a character’s point-of-view to enrich the scene, adding that flavor that makes reading so interesting and makes different scenes so vibrant, especially when I change the point of view from scene to scene, weaving a tapestry of perspectives. I may not finish the project this month (I had some set-backs in the form of new characters who volunteered themselves into the book), but at least, when it is finished, it will read like a novel instead of a conglomeration of scenes in which the reader is left to their own devices.
Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren Photo by Penywise, Creative Commons
4 thoughts on “Playing to a Novel’s Strengths”
Great point!!! I have had this problem a lot in my writing, too, and complain about it in a lot of contemporary fiction. I’ve wondered if part of the problem is that many people conceive of their stories as a movie; I can see how my story would unfold on screen (I even imagine close-ups and stuff), which is extremely unhelpful in telling a story with words. My sister recently told me to try and write as if I were actually telling (speaking) a story as opposed to trying to convey what I was seeing in my head. I’m going to give it a try. 🙂
I hope it works for you. It’s certainly working for me. 🙂
The novel has so much power over movies. A novel can go into to much greater detail, drawing the audience into the world and making them a part of it rather than just an observer.
It does, which is why it was shocking, and surprising, that I could neglect its power and write it like a movie. Despite having read novels all my life, it took thinking about my novel, as a novel, to change it.
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