1. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    Unsure if I am approaching the format for my story the right way?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cs2212, Mar 20, 2012.

    I haven't posted on a writing forum before so..Hello :).

    I've recently started working on a novella. The basic concept is to follow the inner monologue of my character over the course of a day to create a juxtaposition between the mundane nature of what she is actually doing and the turbulent emotional state she is experiencing throughout.

    Initially she is reminded of events early in a previous relationship through contextual cues in her present environment. As her emotional state deteriorates the flashbacks begin to affect her more in the present and she has less control over her ability to block out negative thoughts. Over the course of the flashbacks the story of her relationship plays out from start to end, culminating in memories of throwing her fiance out for attacking her. She now suffers remorse for the relationship ending and blames the attack on her own behaviour in the relationship.

    To try and emphasise the fact that her pain is invisible to the people around her, this is split with scenes in the 'present' where she is casually shopping and makes funny/bitchy/sarcastic observations about the world around her. She also makes several topical comments through her thoughts about events she reads whilst relaxing at a wine bar (with a physical description of her feelings to hint she is to some degree self medicating herself through alcohol).

    Ultimately, she goes out to dinner and drinks with friends where she receives compliments on preened good looks, shopping etc. and the guests show no awareness of her issues beyond noticing she is occassionally distracted from the conversation. On her way home from the meal her thoughts become deeply negative, she buys a bottle of wine which she then drinks before hanging herself whilst listening to music.

    Overall, I have quite a clear idea of how the story will play out. But Im not sure to what extent I should balance the lighter 'present' with the more deeply negative thoughts of past. Will a book with large chunks of chapters dedicated to sarcasm and bitchyness appeal to the reader of a book which is otherwise a sort of 'tragedy' story?
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It all depends on the reader and the audience. Who do you see as the target audience--who might read and enjoy it, even thought it is negative and sarcastic? If readers can identify with the POV character, that will go a long way toward making the story work.
     
  3. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am a sucker for a happy ending, but perhaps you are right, frivolity might somehow disrespect the tragedy. I have a lot of working experience with suicidal people and from reality point of view, people don't hang themselves after they've been jovial or relaxing or what have you. Even in so called "smiling depression" which is when a person decides to kill themselves but they hide it from others by appearing to be improving in their mood, inside them, suicide is constantly on their mind and everything they do has one goal only - to successfullt kill themselves. There are many traumatised people around and vast majority don't kill themselves; to take one's own life is such a huge and painful decision, it almost defies logic. And hanging is a method most commonly employed by people who definitely don't want to be rescued, so they almost inevitably, thought it all out well before.

    With people who have issues with impulse control, and are thus more likely to make such a decision as you are describing, there's a preexisting pattern of behaviour that foreshadows the tragedy. If you are determined to have the ending you described, and because you want to portray inner state as well, I think it would make psychological sense to describe suicidal thoughts throughout. The only rash, "I'm upset and drunk so what the hell" kinda attempt is usually only an attempt, using potentially much less lethal means like an overdose on pills and calling the ex to take them to the hospital, that kind of scenario. What does happen is that people in that situation may not get rescued in time, so they die by misadventure. Anyway, that's my first thoughts, best of luck, the story sounds really good! :)
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    And that is the heart of the matter. Everything else is sideband.

    As someone who stopped his own father from committing suicide - twice - I can tell you that, in terms of a realistic presentation and feel, it works. Because someone who is teetering on the edge of suicide will veer back and forth, looking for reasons to hang on while going through periods of despair. Moreover, it sounds as if you are looking to balance how the outside world sees her with how she sees herself. I say go for it.

    Stop worrying about who might or might not like it or why. You have a wonderfully compelling story to tell and (judging from the above) a good plan for telling it. Don't question yourself for a second. Forget target audience. If your story is good enough, your publisher will worry about that. Right now, your job isn't market research, it's to write your story. Go do that.

    I would only make one suggestion - keep the reader in the dark as long as you can as to her decision to commit suicide. Make it that she is listenting to music to soothe her nerves (along with drinking the wine). You may not want to even describe the act, and certainly not the decision. You may even want to leave the reader hanging at the end of the penultimate chapter, and then have her body found in the final one. Just a thought.

    And best of luck.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you/we can't tell if it'll work till it's written... so go ahead and write what you feel is best and see how it turns out... you can always change things later, but first you have to have a completed work...
     
  6. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    Thanks for all the comments! Its nice that people seem to like the overall concept :).

    I think the method of suicide is a really good point. Hanging seems more like something that would require a more considerable amount of planning and determination. I know I have taken someone to hospital before after they got drunk and downed a heap of pills. Its probably a much more likely method to use given the rest of what is going on in the story.

    There are also hints to suicidal thoughts at the beginning of the book, although minor. At the end of the first chapter I have her standing on the platform on the tube (subway) listening to the train coming down and relatively calmly contemplating the practicalities of how much it would hurt id you were hit by one, exploring a feeling of temptation to move in front but ultimately not doing so. The idea there is basically to introduce the switch from normal/negative thoughts right from the start then over the rest of the day to explore how these behaviours/emotions have come about.

    Im also hoping to try and introduce defeatist and depressed attitudes underlying in some of her humour too. One of the more lighthearted moments is a flippant rant about her experience of online dating, which she ultimately dismisses as irrelevant because she will be alone forever anyway.


    Im trying to be careful not to give away too much about how the relationship ends too quickly either. I'd noticed that early on in the book ber feelings of loss and blame combined with initial ambiguity about the events almost created an impression the fiance was dead now because of her. Im hoping I can use the thoughts of longing, guilt etc. To play through the memories of the relationship etc. in a way that could leave the reader believing it was logical and genuinely all her fault (although hinting at dominant and controlling behaviour on the part of the bf at times) until the actual reveal of exactly what happened and that the guy was abusive.
     
  7. Dubya
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    Dubya Member

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    I'm not sure that you need any advice, it sounds as if you have a very well thought out and planned story, and you need to get it written. Then, I think, it will be time to take into account other peoples opinions.
     
  8. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    Haha thanks :)

    I still definitely got some useful wee ideas from Ed and Jazzabel though, I think the change in the method of suicide works well.

    I've done a few chapters now, Im on about 10,000 words. I've mainly just been refining those over the past couple of days rereading and adjusting before I pop something up for review while I carry on into the rest of the story! :)
     

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