Not the acid type, the storytelling tool.
I’ve been wrangling with this short story, and it’s 90% there. Interesting plot, creepy villain, turning a lovely, sweet thing horrifying. All good!
Part of it is told in flashback.
The first book I read in 2016 was Hugh Howey’s Shift, a prequel-cum-sequel to his gripping (but overlong) Wool. He’s wonderful at world building, old Hugh Howey, and I’ll not spoil the two books for you by delving into plot. However, something I found very irritating with Shift was its overuse of flashbacks. I suppose you could argue that they weren’t flashbacks, simply two parallel stories, but for the reader there’s always an A and a B story. And in Shift there is a LOT of B story.
Now, I know was HH was thinking here because I was thinking the same thing when writing my short story: Hey, this is great. It gives us really deep insight into the character and it rounds the story nicely.
As the reader, I’m thinking: When the fuck is this flashback bullshit going to end?
And I realise now that it’s important to view the story as a reader, not a writer. If you think something you’ve written is amazing, it probably is. But there’s the slight possibly that it might detract from the story.
And even though I hate to admit it, sometimes it’s useful to put the James Patterson hat on. Drivel it may be, but it’s irritatingly digestible drivel. That guy writes purely for the reader. He doesn’t care about trivial shit like character or scene-setting.
I don’t want to write crap like Patterson, but I do want to engage the reader. What’s the middle ground?
And any advice on flashbacks?
At the moment I’m staggering them one line at a time through the action. Here’s a rough example (guy recounting a murder as his car crashes):
Twenty meters ahead, a shape, roughly human, stepped out into the road. I sped toward it. Grappling with the steering wheel, I swerved. The shape, which, as I grew closer, became a contorting shadow, bled into the midnight black and vanished.
But it was too late.
My belt around his neck.
I put my foot down.
The brakes screamed.
A lifeless, dead weight.
I got the idea from The Force Awakens. At the end, there are two huge action set pieces working in tandem (I won’t spoil them for you if you’ve been living under a rock for the last month). And I thought That’s very exciting.
Of course, I don’t have the deft storytelling skills or the $200m budget of Mr Abrams. I’ve got a MacBook and Scrivener, though. I guess that’s a start.
Thoughts muy apreciado.
In other news, Dry January lasted eight days. I’ll take another stab at it in 2017…