Okay, here's a follow up question for the unconventional narrative roundtable. For question three about when to use an unconventional narrative, everyone basically said the same thing -- when the story calls for it. Since it's no fair to answer a question like that, let's dig deeper, shall we?
How do you know when the story calls for something different in terms of narrative? What are the clues in a story that say it's time to branch out from the norm?
Mark Bousquet: It's two fold: Part one is the mood I'm in. I usually have to actively want to write something different and then look for a story to fit it more than the other way around. In regards to part two, as for what to look for in a story that lends itself to something unconventional, I often focus on scope. The larger the story, the more I want to try something a little more ambitious than a linear narrative. (Those books that slog through generation after generation of a family's history bore me.) I've also long been fascinated by stories that take place around the stories we normally get. So, for instance, my Disintegration of Dragons serial from Pro Se focuses not on the big important war, but what happens a year after that war when the daily grind of eking out an existence has taken over. I'm working on another story about life on a big spaceship that's involved in a big important space war. Instead of focusing on the fights and the battles and the pilots and the officers, the book will focus on the mechanics, the nurses,
the janitors that keep the ship moving to allow for the big space
battles to take place. Although, we're writers so some days thstrocyue
wind blows in a certain direction and you end up doing something new.
Marian Allen: When the story JUST DOESN'T WORK with a standard narrative structure. Or when a story would be more interesting told in a different way. Read Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily". A pretty straightforward sad, sordid tale. But Faulkner chose to tell it a piece at a time, out of chronological order, so that each bit is like one petal of a rose that only reveals the flower when they're all in place.
R.J. Sullivan: Sure. In Haunting Blue, I wanted the story to be first person, a high school age punk girl. But it's also a mystery, involving the solving of a crime that happened before she was born. I tried to stay conventional and not break the first person narrative. I had the character read old newspaper articles and do research to try to find out what happened. The problem was that it was complicated and BORING. I had to step away and realize I had to cut out the research stuff and do the flashback third person interludes. What happened was too important not to include it, and it was the most dramatic way to present the information.
Percival Constantine: When I say the story calls for it.