What’s your take? A couple of writing questions.

  1. Is it possible to write a narratively (not necessarily financially) successful non-fairy tale style children’s or YA book with an adult as the main character? Why or why not?  Can you give examples?  What made this book narratively successful?
  2. Is it possible to write a narratively successful book of any fiction genre that uses erratic or abrupt changes in point-of-view?  From first person to third person?  From one POV character to another?  Can you give examples?  What made this book narratively (not necessarily financially) successful?
WritingImplements

Image by Takk, courtesy of Wikicommons

I’m asking because I’ve been taught that these are writing no-nos.  However, I’ve run across a few stories like this in recent years, and, not naming names, they have great Amazon reviews.  Still, when I read stories like these, I just can’t connect to the character (in the first case); can’t follow along long enough to connect with the story (in the second case); or with an abrupt POV change really late in the story, I feel downright betrayed, like my allegiances are being tossed aside.  I’m not talking about changes in POV that are consistently marked by chapter changes or other large breaks, as in say Emily’s Hope or Snow Crash, off the top of my head.  ThoseI can follow.  It’s the other kinds that throw me off.  Are these still writing no-nos that don’t bother many other readers, or are they no longer hard-and-fast rules, and I’m just being a “neurologically diverse” reader?  Am I all alone?

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8 comments

  1. As I’ve been learning the craft, I’ve learned those no-no’s, too. I’ve written and rewritten. I cleaned up my POV switches only to pick up – as you said – a 5-star review book by a very popular author that had 19 separate POVs at only about a third of the way through the book when I just gave up. It really irritated me. I think there are a lot of people that like slapping hands and reiterating “the rules,” but the rules aren’t really hard and fast. In certain circumstances (fairly or not) you can break them and “succeed.”

    1. Thanks for commenting. I totally agree about the overabundance of hand-slappers and that “the rules” can and should be fluid. In fact, good American that I am, the second I’m told a writing rule, my first knee-jerk is, “How can I break that and still write a good story, muah-ha-ha-ha-ha?” However, I also think that “the rules” exist for a reason, and if you’re going to break them, you’d better know why you’re doing it and how to do it well enough that your story doesn’t fall apart. I guess I posed my question(s) because I’m trying to figure out if these pieces that I can’t follow are because of sloppy writing on the part of the writer or because I just need to broaden the way I read. I DO think there’s such a thing as sloppy *reading*, and while I like to think I’m not guilty of that, I also might not know what I need to learn. Does that make sense?

      1. Yes, it makes sense. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s better to know the rules and why the exist before bending and breaking them. It’s hard to say about individual works and which end the sloppiness is on. I’m learning to go with my gut as I gain more confidence. I’m reading “Art of Fiction,” thinking I should be spellbound by its vision, but instead I’m left thinking the author is a blowhard, and I’m a failure. (As least as it pertains to the first half of the book. The second half seems more practical.) Anyway, am I just too dumb to appreciate the book or is his writing a lot of puffery? The answer is subjective, I guess.

    1. That’s pretty close to what I said on my Facebook page when I called it “bombastic, pompous prose.” Makes me pretty sure my stuff won’t end up being published by Tuscany Press.

      1. I’ve found a use for “Art of Fiction”! My 6-year-old daughter couldn’t fall asleep tonight. She had been lying in bed for almost an hour and a half, whimpering, crying, scared of everything. We tried all kinds of things, and nothing helped. She said, “Read to me.” Less than five minutes into Gardner’s book, and she was out!

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