There is no box for me, born to an unwed mother and living in three foster homes before being adopted by middle aged parents. This not lonely but only child was born to be a writer. No cardboard sides or top and bottom to my environmental wilderness contained me. No transportation could transport me during gas rationing. Having to create my own reality contributed to my unusual twist on life. Outside the box is where I'm most comfortable as an adult.
Call it creativity or skill, writers have basic sources for the talent and passion to write. To harness the desire and learn to bring a story to life is the requisite. Even journalism has a story, especially modern blogs and articles. At least 15 years ago, the inverted pyramid was toppled by the public’s desire for story over facts. Since then it’s flailed at the hands of bloggers and tabloid journalists.
To get the attention of agents and editors, writers must decide how best to tell their story in fresh and exciting ways. Standard methods in prose include the linear plot, frame stories with the flash back in the middle, or a point of view character experiencing the story in an emotional way.
The linear story should lie beneath like a firm foundation to guide readers without confusing them. Flash backs aside, this is the most popular method.
A good example of a frame story is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, by Fanny Flagg. It begins at the “almost” ending and shows the linear story, then solves the story arc at the end where the piece began.
There are more off the wall methods that work in the hands of the creative out of the box thinkers. Several examples come to mind. Awake, a new TV series centers on complicated grief, something I saw in bereavement groups when I volunteered as a co-facilitator with hospice bereavement groups. I’ve used the grieving theme in several of my books, especially Mortal Coil and Tangled Web.
In Awake, when guilt is mixed with extreme loss, the grieving produces an extrasensory reaction. The law officer, who suffers the loss of either his wife or his son, sees two psychiatrists. Each is trying to sort out why he is living—either asleep or awake—two lives, one with his wife and one with his son. It's obvious he is grieving and in dramatic denial, perhaps having lost both. By keeping them both alive, but mourning one and then the other, he honors them both. Yet he continues to work and experience the everyday stresses of his job, the linear part of his story.
The Lovely Bones, written from the point of view of the murdered girl who is grieving her family. is a different POV approach.
(Spoiler alert) In The Sixth Sense when the young man who sees “dead people” is trying to tell the protagonist he is dead, we experience another example of unique formatting.
The novel, Turn of Mind, by Alice LaPlante, is my favorite most recent example of imaginative out-of-the-box writing. LaPlante wrote the entire book from the point of view of Jennifer, a formerly brilliant orthopedic surgeon now an Alzheimer’s patient, who may or may not have murdered her best friend. One reviewer called it a diary of a disease. But it’s also a murder mystery. The mystery is re-enforced by the linear backstory provided by Jennifer’s visitors, while following the fragmented thoughts of the patient. As she sinks deeper into dementia, she’s still trying to remember what happened the night her best friend was murdered and left on the floor of her home with four fingers surgically removed.
The story is emotional because the readers are in her head rooting for her need to know. The suspense manifests in her deteriorating condition that puts a time constraint on her ability to remember. Readers realize although she was a hard person, but she was not an evil person. The story is made more linear by visits from a sympathetic woman police officer, who knows she can’t charge Jennifer as a competent adult but feels the need to know the truth. This method of telling her story is gripping, a totally unique POV.
One of my yet-to-be-published novels, Daughters of the Sea, is told in parallel time travel. Delusion, magic, or plausible haunting? The readers will decide.
For more flash fiction visit Julie’s latest story at http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue472/index.html
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