Nothing New under the Sun

There have been authors for many millennia and the tools that they use have changed—from painting on stones, to drawing on animal skin, to writing with ink on paper, to using block prints and printing presses and we have electronic reproductions. The tools that remain the same are the ones in the author’s mind.

Creating a plot that has never been used before is an ultimate if not impossible challenge. That is one of the problems with being well-read. I have learned to simply surrender to using plots that have been done before. All the good ideas have been used in the past. But, some are good enough that reusing them will not hurt the story. So, I choose an old favorite design for my story and change it using details from my own life. The characters, the time frame, and the setting are current, and I even put in a twist or two that doesn’t occur in the original story, or at least the version that I know. If I keep on reading, I’ll find someone who took the same detour as I did.

We recognize writing from different periods because of the style of language and writing, not the plot. Or, do styles also get reused, too? Choose a new technique that is the latest rage in fiction, and you might find that it has been done before. Since the super lean writing that became popular (again) in the 1950’s and 60’s there has been a hunger for text that is juicier, with a little more fat on it. The third-person subjective, also known as deep POV, is designed to give the readers insights into the thoughts of the characters.

Most examples of the third-person subjective show it used during conversations. The idea is that a character cannot be trusted to say what they really mean. But, neither can the reader be trusted to figure out this covert meaning. The deep POV is an interior view, much like a first person narrator. However it differs in that events can be seen through the eyes of more than one person. Authors are advised not to “head-hop” while doing this but what exactly does this mean. I am allowing people to see into the head of more than one person . Can I only use one person’s deep POV per chapter, per page or per paragraph?

I liked the way that Virginia Woolf handled this technique in Mrs. Dalloway. I viewed the world from the inside of one character’s head for a while, at least until another character approached. After the two conversed and I gained some familiarity with the second character, the author entered their head. She passed the revelation of interior thoughts like one might pass a ball when playing a game. However, during the time that Virginia Woolf wrote, this technique was known as “stream of consciousness.”

Are we looping around to pick up techniques from the past? Is this signaling a return to the philosophizing characters of Fyodor Dostoevsky or the internal monologues of William Shakespeare?  Who knows? There really is nothing new under the sun.

This entry was posted in Creativity, Literary devices, Literature, Story structure, Style and voice, Teaching writing skills, Trends in books, Writer's resource and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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