1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Style Diaries & journals

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alesia, Dec 3, 2013.

    Going over the plot notes for Alesia, the whole theme feels like it would fit better as a series of diary or journal entries rather than a full blown novel. However, I've been told a few times that you should never write a fiction piece like that. How true is that advice and what are your thoughts on it?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I wrote a novel diary style - it has no ending though and it's extremely bloated way past 300,000.
    I shouldn't made my mc a liar and a blowhard. I trouble I had with writing a diary was overdoing his analytical thoughts vs the days events.

    There's some good diary style novels out there, though - Flowers For Algernon. Dracula ( I think ) Lo's Diary - was an extremely interesting read though a bit of a flop. I blame that more on the fact that she turned Lolita into a creep but she also a little too intelligent considering she was just a comic book reading teeneybopper.

    I think the reason it's frowned on is because it can be a whole lot of telling. It's hard to write action in
    a diary because you're going over what was did and said after the fact and heavily editing. Who can recall whole dialogues? And unless your mc is poetic and can put their observations and thoughts into amazing
    prose it could seem dry and heavy handed. Like the issue with Lo's diary she was way too lyrical given her age and background. The whole effect can undo itself by not matching voice to a character's limitations.

    You could try writing out a scene whole as whatever 1st or third person than attempt to take the same scenes and write them as diary entries to see which you like better. Maybe even post some side by side to get feedback. I've done that with a story -wrote it out three different ways - 3rd, 1st, and 3rd with a narrator.
     
  3. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    3rd person (to me) feels a bit to impersonal for this particular piece, which is why I've avoided it entirely as a perspective. I've been bouncing back and forth between 1st/past and 1st present, but even those don't seem to be giving me the depth of the MC's psyche that I'm looking for. That's why I considered breaking up the one novel into smaller novellas or novelettes formatted as diary entries, each "book" encompassing the amount of entries would fill maybe a standard one subject notebook. Each "notebook" would be from a crucial point in the MC's timeline, say

    1: First starts keeping a diary/gives slight back story
    2: Military years
    3: Career as a nurse
    4: Drug rehab
    5: And so on...
     
  4. MmePlanetKIller
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    MmePlanetKIller Member

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    They're called epistolary novels, because they're written in epistles, which is a fancy word for missive. Which is a fancy word for letter. I suppose they're the found-footage genre of novels, in a way. They have quite the pedigree, so I don't know why people keep telling you not to do it.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As it happens, one of my favorite novels was written as a series of letters - Taylor Caldwell's Dialogues With the Devil. It begins with a letter from Satan to God. But you have to look at what she was doing at the time. Dialogues does not use the epistolary method to tell a story. It's a fictionalized debate (Caldwell hinted in her foreword that she thought it might have been divinely inspired) about good, evil and humankind. Her other novels, such as Never Victorious, Never Defeated and Captains and the Kings, which do tell a story, are not written this way.

    The major drawback of the epistolary method is that it creates additional distance between the reader and the story. The characters are reduced to the role of reporters, and it is more difficult for the reader to get into the middle of the action. So, I think that you might find that your goal of depth of character might be frustrated.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A novel I am reading now (I prefer not to name it lest I spoil it for someone) uses epistolary chapters by one of the main characters, using the unreliable narrator approach, The journal entries were deliberately written to be found by authorities as part of a scheme to frame the other main character for murder.

    The entire novel, in fact, uses unreliable narrators, with the truth gradually emerging over the course of the story.
     
  7. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Never lose sight of the fact that the reader is seeking to be entertained. They expect to form an emotional bond with the protagonist and begin to care if their plans will work. History books don't entertain, as a rule, because they are a record of events, dispassionately reported. And therein lies the problem. Most people write a journal-based novel as a report on the day's events—author-centric and fact-based because they focus on the plot and the events that make it up. So it's not that it's a journal, it's that it's dispassionate that causes the problems.

    The trick is to write, not as the one who experienced the events speaking about them, but to place the reader into the POV of the protagonist in the scene in the moment that person thinks as now, and then sweep them forward, moment by moment, and focused on what that character finds important enough to focus on and react to. Fail that and you're narrating a slide show the reader cannot see.

    For one way of accomplishing that, try this article.
     
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