Posted on 3 min read 23 views

I was listening to the radio a while ago and heard a writer talking about plotting a novel, a crime novel. He stressed the fact that he wrote out scene details on pieces of paper, different colours for different sub plots, and stuck them up all over the walls of the room he wrote in. He spent some time rearranging them periodically to see how the parts balanced and to discover what the order should be. He said, as well, that many writers use the technique.

All of this was news to me.  I don’t plot anything, and I don’t use little pieces of paper to check balance or order. I do, however, carry a little book in my car, so when I’m stopped, enjoying a cup of coffee in some park or other, I jot down ideas that have been floating around, usually concerning a problem I haven’t yet solved.  The results are often less than stunning, but the process seems to focus my attention on something I should pay attention to and don’t want to.

I’ve written  novels without solving one of these problems. For instance, in my second novel, I don’t know what my murderer does with the clothes of the girls he murders. I won’t go into why the clothes aren’t with the girl. Just accept that they aren’t since my killer took them with him. I have to find out why he did that and where they went. At least he’d been consistent, doing that every time he killed. So there’s a pattern anybody could see.


Posted on 4 min read 18 views

Narrative is simply the flow of time in a novel or short story. Sounds simple, but it’s not, really. Writers can shrink time, stretch it out, make it bigger (more significant), make it smaller (less significant), fracture it, bend it, turn it upon itself, and so on. Writers can do whatever they want with time in the interests of story.

The one thing time isn’t is linear and progressive.  Well, it is but it isn’t. It’s progressive in the sense that cause and effect can’t function if it isn’t linear. If any act carries consequences, then those consequences must be laid out in time somehow.  And usually that means sequence, progression. Not always, but usually.

One of the simplest ways to understand what writers can do with time is to look at a waveform on an oscilloscope, say a 60-cycle wave. The waveform flows along a time line and that line can be controlled by reducing or lengthening it. Make it shorter and the waveform bunches up, make it longer and the waveform stretches out.

Which Person?

Posted on 2 min read 18 views

Which person, first or third, works best?

I suppose it depends on the writer and what’s being written, but for mystery writers person poses a problem.

Here’s where I run into just that kind of situation. Let’s say I’m about to write a section that involves two people equally; that is, both have the same weight in the scene. The rule for point of view is that only one of them can be dominant; that is, the scene should be seen though the dominant person’s eyes only.

If the writer is using  first-person narration there isn’t a problem. Every scene is through the eyes of the protagonist. But if the novel is in third person, every scene has its own narrator and it is through his eyes only that we see. That’s where my problem lies.

Third-person doesn’t give me the same sense of immediacy as first person would, I don’t think, but it does provide opportunities that I’m told I’m not supposed to take. So it raises the problem I’ve mentioned. If I want both characters in a scene to express how they’re feeling, and I often do, I want both to reveal what they think about the other. Now how can I do that if only one of them is allowed to think and express himself?