Isolating lines in narrative -- what's it all about? - Page 2

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  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post

    Anyway: No it’s not her style. I can say this because the excerpt in question was actually of three chapters, two of which were written conventionally and one in this way.
    I'm confused - you read three chapters, and this excerpt is from one of them?

    Were the other two chapters focused on different characters? This one seems to be from the POV of, or at least focusing on, a psychopathic torture-killer? Is that accurate? And possibly the other two were from the POVs of "regular" characters? If so, maybe Robb agrees with you - only a truly psychopathic monster would use so many short sentences!!! Alternatively, maybe she was just trying to distinguish the voice of this character from the others?
    Last edited by Bayview; August 10th, 2018 at 08:44 PM.

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Aha! Believe it or not I actually own two of her books but in this case snatched the excerpt off a website where it was listed as Robb Putnam. I thought it didnít seem right but thank you...

    Anyway: No itís not her style. I can say this because the excerpt in question was actually of three chapters, two of which were written conventionally and one in this way. Does it matter? Not really. This isnít a critique of her writing which is fine. Maybe she had her reasons for changing it up that would be revealed if I re read the bigger picture. I doubt it, but itís possible. You are asking why I am bringing this up. I suppose because the bigger issue is attitude toward style generally. Style, in my opinion, is supposed to have a purpose beyond itself. The purpose is supposed to be linked in some way to making the story better. Saying ďitís just the writerís styleĒ as an explanation for why a writer does something stylistically unusual is, for me, a cop out on a similar level to saying ďthatís just how it isĒ. Yes but why is it the writers style? And once we asses why (based on the responses here it appears to be related to emphasis and/or some notion of an awesome moment - which sounds like pure applesauce to me) then it might be useful to look at whether it works. So thatís ďwhere we go from hereĒ I suppose.

    The reason I am identifying this specifically is not because itís a particularly big deal or anything but rather because I think thereís potentially a good discussion to be had (if anybody is interested in having it) about the relationship between stylistic choices and the power of the narrative. You mentioned McCarthy and punctuation, apparently to prove what a dead end trying to figure it out is. Ironically I donít have nearly as much issue with McCarthyís work. That is even though I simultaneously recognize that his style is loathsome to at least half the population and even I as a fan of his work donít like it sometimes.

    So why is that more okay than this? Simple, actually. I think McCarthyís stylistic choice is the best way to tell his kind of story. I think a lot of the way he writes to be tailored for his subject matter. His stories tend to revolve around a certain stark, harsh environment with stark, harsh characters. The lack of punctuation lends itself to a distancing, a sense of unfamiliarity which works with the stark and the harsh and the kind of story he is telling. For example, without usage of, say, exclamation points suddenly one must assume everybody is yelling or nobody is, and it is that lack of certainty about how a piece of dialogue is being delivered, the tone and therefore the mindset of its speaker, that carries effect. I actually as an experiment when I was younger rewrote two chapters of Blood Meridiem as conventionally as possible (more or less the same words but full SPAG) and suddenly it read like a Louis LíAmour - just kind of ordinary.

    Honestly I could go on all day as an apologetic for McCarthyís insufferable writing habits but Iím sure nobody wants that. You may not buy it anyway and you donít have to. The main point is that stylistic deviations from the norm do not have to be beloved by all, but they should carry some sort of reasoning that proves even if they fail that they try to make sense. Otherwise whatís the point?
    The portion you quoted from Creation in Death is from the prolog, not a chapter. It is from the serial killer's perspective. One possible reason for the unusual style is to show the different than normal, and sometimes disjointed, thought processes of the killer.

  3. #13
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    Not having read that book myself I could not comment on your extract. However in terms of the OP, here is my two pennys worth. These short sentence or soundbites (as you call them) are in many books that I have read, they can be used for a variety orf reasons, one is the pacing of the chapter and overall book, another is to as you have said to add dramatic effect-for example if a loud noise suddenly sounds, placing one word (the noise) alone allows that noise to take over the readers mind as they read.

    Another reason is that it may be internal speach (thoughts) in response to something which came before, this stops the writer having to explani it is a thought. The reasons can go on, which make it a little more than just a stylistic choice, I have found that they do add to the writing rather than detract from it, I wouldn't nessassarily call it bad writing if it serves the purpose of entertaing the reader.

    But yes books that do use this method in their books are published. Take a look at any book in the young adult section at Waterstones, it is even used in some high fantasy books that have been published and popular for years such as Robin Hobb's Assasssin's apprentice where she employs this when showing Fitz's action in response to a verbal question. I think that a good book employs the use of many different techniques that when written well offer a chesive story that changes pace to keep with atmosphere that the writer is wishing to convey.
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  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Something I am noticing more and more in contemporary fiction (particularly in scenes of suspense) is deviation from standard paragraph formatting to frequent use of separating paragraphs into short, sound-bitey lines of single sentences, or sometimes single clauses or even words, away from the main paragraph for no apparent reason other than...profundity I suppose? Emphasis? Kind of a way to make....

    Certain...things...sound...ominous?

    What's more annoying is I find myself doing it too, seemingly out of osmosis. I have been trying to catch it and fix it as I have a bit of a pet peeve for formatting gimmicks to make one's writing seem more "striking" than it really is, but it makes me wonder if there is a purpose for why writers (even good ones) do this sort of thing rampantly and if I am being over-pedantic in finding it irritatingly amateurish? Hence the thread.

    Example of what I mean would be a paragraph like this. (Just something I wrote so I didn't have to track down a published example so no citing needed -- also bolding the lines in question, they would not be bolded in the actual text)



    There are far better examples of it but you get the idea. I don't know why I find stuff like this annoying, perhaps because I think it somewhat symptomatic of a culture where drama has to be artificially exaggerated and perhaps people being too lazy/challenged to read proper passages of text. Not only is it not part of any standard style manual I am aware of (I don't even know if it has a name) but I actually find it weakens the writing by interruption. I would much prefer to read the above as a single paragraph and see no reason why it would not be styled that way. But maybe there are reasons I am just too much of a Luddite/ignoramus to grasp? Any ideas?


    That's actually an old-school method of emphasis.
    I've seen it going way back. I have used it before, but not so much in the last 5 years or so.
    In fact I have a copy of David Keller's 'The Worm' from 1935, and he uses it several times.

    And then the noise stopped.
    The Dog stayed on the bed at his feet.
    And again, after eating, he sought sleep.
    On the upper floor the dog howled.

    and he even closes out the story by doing it twice in a row:
    The mouth closed on him
    On the roof the dog howled.

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Anyway: No it’s not her style. I can say this because the excerpt in question was actually of three chapters, two of which were written conventionally and one in this way. Does it matter? Not really. This isn’t a critique of her writing which is fine. Maybe she had her reasons for changing it up that would be revealed if I re read the bigger picture. I doubt it, but it’s possible.
    I haven't read that story, but if two of the chapters were not written in this style, and then this chapter was, then it was probably intentional, and likely a POV thing as others have already pointed out—this particular character's unique style of narrative.

    Of the few Roberts novels I've read, she seems to generally have a "villain" POV where the writing style is a bit rougher, the language a bit harsher. I haven't her read alter ego's work, though I'm guessing that the same approach holds true.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars
    When the pattern of prose becomes dominated by a kind of, I would describe it as, a stutter I am trying to understand why this kind of “writing by sound bite” occurs without having to write letters to every author who does it. As a somewhat more secondary concern, I am also trying to gauge if it is “just me” who has the issue with what I perceive as a highly pretentious affectation.
    I do agree with you about excessive line breaks being bothersome. There are a few authors I read whose lines breaks have caught my critical eye many times. One of them has mentioned on his blog that he's a very "audible" writer, and tailors his writing with a specific focus on how it would sound when read aloud—which might explain his penchant for throwing so many white spaces onto the page.

    Though I've also encountered writers whose prose seems to beg for ​more line breaks, especially when their more significant lines just sit dully, attached to the end of a paragraph like a homogenous blip, indistinguishable from the rest of the passage in terms of tone or emphasis.

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    Though I've also encountered writers whose prose seems to beg for ​more line breaks, especially when their more significant lines just sit dully, attached to the end of a paragraph like a homogenous blip, indistinguishable from the rest of the passage in terms of tone or emphasis.

    Yep; there's a fine line with paragraph development. Sometimes I see under-developed paragraphs, othertimes I see paragraphs that should be cut into pieces.

    Here on the forum I tend to write in sound bites because of the margins of a forum.
    Forums don't have margins so the sentences stretch from one side of the screen to the other.
    Ugghhh! Very fatiguing to read long posts in a forum, so I often knit together sentences.
    But I do not do that in my writing.

  7. #17
    I agree that this sort of thing can work, even in excess. It's still not my bag but most avante garde-isms aren't. As a general rule I don't mind being annoyed by things too much provided I understand the intent behind them.

    A good example of this is "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk (I think that's right -- maybe I'll just call him Chuck Putnam). As a grownup I have come to hate the book and loathe the writer but I will say the truly nightmarish number of pseudo-intellectual one liners has sense to it when one understands the narrator is supposed to be mentally incompetent.

    Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die. For a long time though, Tyler and I were best friends. People are always asking, did I know about Tyler Durden.

    The barrel of the gun pressed against the back of my throat, Tyler says 'We really won't die.'

    With my tongue I can feel the silencer holes we drilled into the barrel of the gun. Most of the noise a gunshot makes is expanding gases, and there's the tiny sonic boom a bullet makes because it travels so fast. To make a silencer, you just drill holes in the barrel of the gun, a lot of holes. This lets the gas escape and slows the bullet to below the speed of sound.

    You drill the holes wrong and the gun will blow off your hand.

    'This isn't really death,' Tyler says. 'We'll be legend. We won't grow old.'

    I tongue the barrel into my cheek and say, Tyler, you're thinking of vampires.

    The building we're standing on won't be here in ten minutes. You take a 98% concentration of fuming nitric acid and add the acid to three times that amount of sulfuric acid. Do this in an ice bath. Then add glycerin drop-by-drop with an eye dropper. You have nitroglycerin.

    I know this because Tyler knows this.


    I think the main thing is this: Whenever one seeks to write with any kind of affectation or idiosyncrasy -- whether its with the one-line soundbites or some godawful accent or with no punctuation or whatever - the stakes become higher. Rightly or wrongly unconventionality gets punished more harshly when it fails. It also, of curse, gets rewarded much more richly when it succeeds which is probably why Palahniuk, McCarthy, etc are richer than most of us will ever be.
    "All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened."

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  8. #18
    Yep, he does sound disjointed and crazy.
    The single lines fit the narration.

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