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Delivering the experience of 'Now'

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, May 14, 2017.

  1. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    "I think there’s a way in which all novels aspire to a kind of perpetual present tense. This is why the ones we love are rereadable: they will always deliver their nowness. Perhaps all novelists, while they may want to do many things in their work and while they resolutely embark on the long, complex task of writing, want to do something quick, simple and impossible – to grab the very stuff of life and offer it in their fist to their readers and say, “There you are”. "

    Graham Swift, talking about the time-bending illusions in writing- and reading; both short stories and novels. (The Guardian)

    HOW is 'nowness' delivered in your favourite reading - novels or short stories?

    How is it created by the writer?

    If I can visualise a scene, then I am there in that 'now', but that doesn't mean descriptive pyrotechnics.

    And I need to be emotionally invested, or at the least, curious, so there need to be questions.
     
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  2. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    A writer should capture the attention of a reader by involving them in the predicaments of the fictional characters. This can be done by enchantment, stealth or a cataclysm that changes everything. People haven't changed much through the centuries—their humanity endures—we understand how someone would react and describing things in the 'now' or present tense has a powerful immediacy.

    Stories that endure engage with the reader by immersing them in situations. As Italo Calvino said: 'A classic is a book that has never finished what it has to say'.

    As a writer, I find putting my reader in the here and now easier to do from a multiple POV. It gives a more complete picture, though it's wise to avoid skipping around too much between characters within any one scene, but rather to separate them out through section breaks.

    Trying to make a story timeless is one thing, but sometimes real life intrudes. This can give a real sense of when the book was written, but I try to incorporate historical incidents into the themes I've already established. For instance, my third Cornish Detective novel was set at the time of Brexit, and as the criminal investigation involved impoverished farmers I couldn't not mention it—but I included the UK's decision to leave the EU into my suspect's and victim's attitudes to milking the system.

    Getting over 'nowness' is tricky in writing. Most everything takes longer to do and is more tedious than we would ever write down in even an exact description. I've written fight and interrogation scenes that take moments to read, so the choice of language for speech and action was key to placing the reader on my protagonist's shoulder. Fiction is artifice...we're not writing a verbatim documentary.
     
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