This week’s video explains why you should consider utilizing an out-of-the-ordinary narrative form in your book—and why you shouldn’t.
Video Transcript: For the most part, when a reader opens a book, he knows what he’s going to be getting. First- or third-person narrative voices, told in the past tense, in a linear timeline, are the most common narrative forms. Readers are familiar with these forms and comfortable with them, and, because these forms allow a nice blend of flexibility and stability, they unquestionably top the popularity scale for good reason. Likely, most of us will never stray from this model no matter how many books we write. But does that mean we can’t or shouldn’t use unusual narrative forms?
We find unusual forms in many popular and respected works—everything from Audrey Niffenegger’s non-chronological double 1st-person present tense narrators in The Time Traveler’s Wife to William Faulkner’s script-like presentation of dialogue in Requiem for a Nunto Jay McInerney second-person narration in Bright Lights, Big City. All of these books, and many more, break the wall of reader expectations by taking risks with style and format—and, for the most part, readers will agree they do it successfully. But how can you tell if breaking the rules and straying from the beaten path is something you should attempt in your story?
Experimentation in art is important to our growth as artists. But we have to realize that only the best of experiments deserve to be shared with our readers. Only when we’re absolutely confident that a) an unusual form is the best way to tell a particular story and b) we’re capable of mastering that form in a way that will enhance rather than take away from the reading experience should we attempt it. In other words, when in doubt, don’t. But if you’re convinced an unusual format is right for your story, don’t be afraid to give it a whirl. Just remember you have to be brilliant!
Tell me your opinion: Have you ever used an unusual format in any of your stories?
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Story by K.M. Weiland