1. Laimtoe
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    Laimtoe Senior Member

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    Fictional Journal

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Laimtoe, Sep 15, 2008.

    I was thinking of writing a book in a strange format, and I'm interested in what people think of this idea.

    The whole book would be a series of journal entries made by many different people.

    Each chapter is a journal entry (either in full or in part) that describes a different portion of the plot. Sometimes the same event could be told multiple times by multiple people. The "testimonies" of these people will differ, some would be crude, some would be more methodical.

    Each journal entry would also portray a little about each person involved in the main scenes.

    That do you think.

    Would YOU personally read a book like that.

    And how would you pull it off?
     
  2. Kylie
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    Kylie Contributing Member

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    I've read a book that was written similar to what you just described. I really enjoy books written that way because you get to read the story from a different perspective! A tip- Make sure your start off strong and make it very clear. Books written like this tend to get confusing if they aren't extremely clear.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I like the idea. I love it when people go out and try different things when writing. I agree with Kylie about the clarity part. Changing viewpoints so often is going to make it hard to write clearly since each person is different in what he or she experiences. But I like the idea and would read something like this.
     
  4. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I think it sounds like an intriguing idea, though it works best if 1. the characters telling the story have very unique and distinctive voices so not only can they be told apart, but the way they say things is interesting in itself; and 2. the events being described are very interesting, doubly so, if you're going to be describing basically the same events more than once. (I would put the POV character's name and the date at the top of the entry, myself, just to be clear.)

    In fact, rather than having a bunch of different characters keep going over the same part of the plot, it could be varied by having them go over just certain PARTS of the same part of the plot. For example, maybe one person witnesses the beginning of an incident but then has to leave; then a second character witnesses the middle of the event but misses the end; then another character catches the ending but has no idea what started the occurrence. Etc. The characters' ignorance of the ENTIRE event could help illustrate their personalities, as they mistakenly(?) guess/assume what happened, etc.

    Anyway, it's something at least to try out.
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    My current work is exactly like this. It's all written in past-tense as entries in a fictional history book. Each character contributes their own parts (written in first-person of course), piecing the story together using personal accounts. I have a few tips that I found useful:

    (1) Have a character to act as the "control." In an experiment, there is always that one element that is predictable; you want a character like that, because there are times when you will want to tell the story exactly as it is, without bias. This is the person who can be relied upon to give a neutral, unadulterated, pure account of what happened. Not always the most animated character, and rarely the most interesting or likeable, but his/her narrative is dependable and is the one against whom all others are judged.

    (2) Date and name are good to have. (Personally, I left the names off; by the end of the first few sentences, you should know who is narrating.) But date is key, because people don't stop to say what day it is. Each of my chapters begins with a date and title (I like to name my chapters, no paticular reason why). I don't typically repeat an event, but if I did, the date should let the reaer know we've gone back to something that already happened.

    (3) As everyone else said, keep your characters interesting and distinct. I have a character who is partcularly violent and rude; his narratives are riddled with expletives and simple sentence structure, because that's the way he is. I have another character who is very quiet and a bit of a wallflower; her narratives don't involve her participating in the action much, but she describes scenery better than anyone else and expresses far more emotion than most. You really have to get in your character's head and question what they would do in a situation and why they would do it. And don't be afraid to let biases and failed logic show through; my "angry guy" regularly hates people for little or no reason, but in his mind it makes perfect sense.

    (4) Don't get attached to or avoid anyone. By that I mean don't be afraid to jump heads and don't get stuck in any one character's head. POV-switching probably isn't the best way to write if you're trying to get a strong message across, because there will be a lot of diferent beliefs and ideals vying for control. I haven't gotten to it yet, but I plan to have my villain narrate a chapter later on; obviously his beliefs are gonna grate against those of the protagonists. It blurs the line between who is "right" and who is "wrong." just remember, everyone does something for a reason, even the bad guy.

    (5) Have fun. You're essentially writing a book about people. Find people you like (and a few you don't, just to spice things up a bit) and go at it. Let them each have their say. Don't try to shape or mold them, just turn 'em loose on the world and see what develops.
     
  6. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    Laimtoe, this reminds me of Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey. When the story begins, the reader discovers that the main character, Buster Landru "Rant" Casey, is already deceased. Throughout the book various people discuss their memories of Buster and the world he lived in, presenting stories in an occasionally conflicting timeline.

    I'm actually working on something similar, though it is "nonfiction" and about a single event rather than a person, so I have it easy. The "unique and distinct" voices are already there; I don't have to do much but steer the interviewee in a certain direction and then allow them free reign.

    For stories like this, I don't suggest anything, except maybe to read up on similar stories. I'm sure you have some idea of what you want to do, but you just need confirmation? I'll give it the green light though. I'd definitely be interested in reading something like that.
     
  7. GuitarSolo
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    GuitarSolo Member

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    This idea would be a really great book.
    If you could pull it off.

    If you know how to write it though, I'd also bet you'd have fun writing it too.
     
  8. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    Ok not being funny, But i would read the gospel of mathew, mark, luke, and john. What you are describing was done two thousand years ago in the account of Jesus.

    If you read those in a bible you will see the detailed account of the coming of christ told from four perspectives. You will also note that they mention the same events as well as different ones based on where they are in relation to jesus.

    Another thing to note is how each one adds there own personal voice to it. Luke was a doctor from those days and his accounts are differnet from matthew and john(fisherman) and mark(carpenter).

    Just suggesting you use it as an example of what you are trying to do nothing more.
     
  9. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    Dracula was written similar to this, with journal entries and newspaper articles and the like, I believe.
     
  10. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Its a good concept, but I agree with Kylie's statement that your going to have to be very clear in your writing or things will become very confusing to the reader.
     
  11. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    Melvin Burgess writes in the voices of many different characters (but not in a journal style) in Bloodtide, and gives each character a very definite voice very successfully. It can definitely be done.
    Just, like people say, make sure people know from the beginning of each section who is writing.
     
  12. Laimtoe
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    Laimtoe Senior Member

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    tehuti88, if I ever write this story -- I was thinking of doing all sorts of creative combinations. I really liked your idea too. I was also thinking of having people lie in their journals or be vague so as to make the story's direction clear, but to have the reader wonder "what's going on?" (not too much, but enough to get them to engage into the story and try and wrap their heads around it.)

    AnonyMouse, thanks for the tips. I think if I were to write a "control character" I'd write him in more so for my benefit in having clarity in my mind while writing it, and then omit some of the journal entries to essentially leave the reader in the lurch to view some plot elements within a biased and less logical way. To more-so get the reader to wonder what they think. And try to get their opinion to shine through.

    Scarecrow28 I had this idea about 8 years ago but I actually didn't write it because I was afraid people wouldn't look at the Character Name, and date -- which is essentially a huge means of trying to keep the story on track and making sense.

    With as much feedback as I've received, I think I just might write this one.
     
  13. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    My favorite book with this conceit is Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn (in case you want to read other works to see how those pulled it off before writing, Laimtoe.)
     

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