Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The formula and stepping on toes

Let me apologize up front if I step on anyone's toes with this blog. As with all my blogs that I write, what's written here is my opinion. I've become more involved in the writing community since the release of The Hidden Sun. I've made some excellent new friends and I've learned so much. There are all sorts of resources out there for authors. In fact, I've never met a bunch of people so willing to help each other.
               What people enjoy reading is highly subjective. Some people enjoy reading books that are very descriptive about the setting. Others enjoy character driven stories, while others focus on the plot. And then there are those who read a book as if it were an essay submitting to a college professor for grading. That's all good, and I'm not going to judge anyone for what they enjoy reading.
                To that end, a lot of advice given from fellow authors focuses around some or all of the different aspects I noted above. Based on the reviews of The Hidden Sun, and including my own preferences in what I read and write, I'd say my style is more character and plot driven. Setting is in the background--admittedly, perhaps too much at times. Technically speaking, that is my weakest area. Thank goodness for excellent editors!

               And now where I step on some toes. Over the last few weeks, I've run across a few articles and books outlining how a novel should be written for it to be successful. By this, I mean, these reference materials breakdown at what point during the book should you do this or that. (Examples: introducing a conflict, adding a twist, introducing a new character, and so forth.) In one case, the writer of the article actually referred to it as a "formula".
                When I was learning to become a TV newscast director at BYU, we would have guest speakers from various fields to talk to us. I recall one news director of a local TV station relate this story:        
                "When I took over as the news director, our station was last place in ratings. I asked the people who worked there why they thought that was the case. They didn't know. One person spoke up and said, 'I don't understand it. We watch other newscasts and we're doing everything they are doing.' You see, that was the problem. It's not enough to do what everyone else is doing. You need to do something different to stand out and be successful."
                A comment I hear over and over about The Hidden Sun is that is it different from what people expected, and that it doesn't seem to follow "the formula". My response? GOOD! I wrote it knowing it was different. In the end, the reviews have been very positive.
                So, as a fellow author who is still learning his craft, may I humbly suggest that you learn all you can from other authors, but in the end, write your own story. Don't follow a "formula", don't be predictable, do the unexpected. Only then, will you truly stand out among your peers.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're right. I'm uncomfortable with formulas myself, although I do think overall structure is important. You do a good job in The Hidden Sun.