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  1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Is this the best thing to do?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thomas Kitchen, Nov 29, 2012.

    Hi there everyone,

    I'm currently writing (and very nearly finished) this year's NaNoWriMo novel, and through writing it, I feel like talking to the reader is quite a frequent thing towards the end of the book. Now obviously in my second draft I would flesh the entire thing out and make sure I talk to the reader throughout the whole thing, but that's not what I'm asking.

    In one of lectures a few weeks ago, we were talking about a certain author (don't ask me who, but he was a writer a few centuries back) who liked to talk to his readers, and leave pages blank when he wanted to describe a beautiful person, or a black page when a character died. When I heard this it intruiged me very much, so much in fact that I've begun to use it in my own novel, although not the different colour pages thing, just the principle of talking to the reader.

    So, finally, this is my question: is it completely unacceptable to use this type of writing style in books any more? I understand that new trends can be made, but generally I want to know if any modern writers use this style, even partially, so any names of authors would be great. And, of course, personal opinions are always welcome. Hope I made myself clear! :)
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    What point of view have you chosen and who is addressing the reader? the mc or a narrator.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    "Talking to the reader", by which I take you to mean what is often referred to as "breaking the fourth wall", is usually considered a poor approach, because it creates distance between the reader and the story. Reading great literature that is centuries old can be very rewarding, but it's important to recognize that literature, like everything else, evolves over time.
     
  4. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Taking to the reader" is what you may call metafiction - the self-awareness of the text. It is present in literature from Homer to Stephen King. It's legal to use. Distance between the reader and the story is sometimes a great thing to have.

    "Modern" writers rarely used it. Postmodern writers and post-postmodern writers (which you and I should be) use it frequently.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    How? When?

    Just curious, because I am currently reading Villaverde's "Cecilia Valdez" (English translation). He does it a lot and I find it disrupts the flow of the story (at least for me).
     
  6. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Than it's a matter of preference. Personally, I think the story sometimes need to change speed and flow. Sometimes it needs to cascade. Or take sharp turns. Or suddenly stop dead, look on itself and think "Wow, I'm a story!" and then continue galloping.

    But I completely disagree that it's an anachronism. Archaic forms were given new life and the "right of citizenship" in postmodernism. To ignore this completely in contemporary writing is...well... okey, I agree with you, but you should still recognize it and try to incorporate it.

    OP asked if it is "completely unacceptable to use this type of writing style in books any more?" And I'm thinking - style is one thing, literary device is another. The literary device referred to as "talking to the readers" or "breaking the forth wall" is archaic, but not an anachronism. If you learn how to make it sound and function in a contemporary fiction, then it is not only acceptable but something to look up to!

    @EdFromNY Never read "Cecilia", but music I found on youtube was ok :p
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, Stephen King used it on one chapter deep into Under the Dome, which is one of his absolute worst novels (and that is saying something!)
    Or postmortem writers...

    If you are a currently unpublished writer, the only thing you will accomplish by trying to "set new writing trends" is to remain unpublished. Save the breaking of the mold for after you have paid your dues and make a name for yourself.
     
  8. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    That makes sense... in a way. But does this mean the only way to make a breakthrough is to write a stylistically generic text, possibly in a currently popular genre, staying as far away from any "un-trendy" stuff?

    Well, what would you call contemporary writing? "literarymarketism"?
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, and there are lots of tools the writer can use to accomplish this - scene changes, chapter changes, lengthening sentences, shortening sentences, jarring occurrences...just to name a few.

    See above.

    Sorry, I've been staring at that for 20 minutes, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what it means. Maybe because it doesn't actually mean anything?
     
  10. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Sadly that's the case. And almost all boring writing I've read here, and everywhere else, falls into that description.


    It does mean something, that a story needs to stop for a moment to reflect on it's own existence, but I disagree with the point. I hate breaking the pace and flow of a story for self-realization. I can't fathom the purpose. Why remind people they are just reading a book when you've already drawn them in? Or maybe I don't get what it means either. :)
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Forget "trendy." Trendy may impress your high school English teacher. and a few friends, but it's not what sells manuscripts. What sells manuscripts is solid writing with good attention to detail and clarity. What sells manuscripts is interesting characters with whom readers can relate, in situations the readers can feel and care about.

    Gimmicks and trends are as transparent and cheap as plexiglass jewelry.
     
  12. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, and you have the breaking of the forth wall as another formal tool. That's it, no more-no less: another formal tool. You don't like, I don't love it, but it's in no way a bad thing per se.

    I was meaning to be cynical - should've used an emoticon... :rolleyes: But again, even if you don't like it doesn't mean it is a sure sign of bad writing (as many tend to believe).

    That...makes me... feel incredibly sad for the "nation of free". Does that mean there are no more independent publishers in the States? Or anyone willing to take the risk?
     
  13. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    But having all this AND breaking a forth wall (in a meaningful, thought through, contemporary way) anywhere in the text is going to get you 2,134 rejection letters?
     
  14. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Oops!

    Wow, guys, I didn't expect my question to turn into an argument! This makes me realise that opinions are most definitely split regarding this issue, but through reading your helpful (if a little hostile :p) comments I have basically answered the question myself: if I'm honest, talking to the reader in my novel does seem a little unnecessary, especially as I have a single sentence that is repeated throughout the entire novel, meaning that will pobably be enough, anyway.

    Still, for anyone who's interested, it's my narrator that is speaking to the audience, and not the main character - a bit like the beginning of Romeo and Juliet. But thanks for everyone's input, although you're all welcome to keep on adding to the thread! :D

    Thanks!
     

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