1. Sarah Naidoo

    Sarah Naidoo New Member

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    Are diary entries effective in fiction?

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by Sarah Naidoo, Feb 11, 2019.

    Hi, I tried searching threads for this question but most discuss the epistolary form of fiction. I wanted to know if adding diary entries (at specific intervals) in my novel could draw away from the plot. Does anyone enjoy reading diary entries or do people generally skim read over these?
     
  2. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Lively Fred

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    I think they could add a good bit of depth. I do write diary entries for a character of mine- not a novel character admittedly- and the people who read them seem to enjoy them. There are some books out there that take the form of solidly being diary entries- think Dear America series. I read quite a lot of those when I was younger.

    So I would say yes, if you want to, go for it!
     
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  3. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    I sure hope they are.

    The chapter I'm currently working on, a long, short story length chapter, will have a half dozen or so diary entries. To your question of whether such a device draws the reader away from the plot... if done properly it actually allows you to reel in the reader to the deeper aspects of your story. Diary passages, after all, are just internal thoughts written out by the character. Boom, she's scribbling away in her diary and the reader is right inside her head. It's a very intimate arrangement that you can do loads of fun stuff with. The other cool thing about diary entries within a story told in Third Person Omniscient, is that you get to move effortlessly into First Person.

    I won't use the device again in my story, but I'm taking full advantage of it for this chapter.
     
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  4. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Member

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    I have a short story I'm working on that is written entirely in journal entries and letters from the main character. You know his feelings and thoughts, but only his perception of the events he's reacting to. His mental state is slowly getting worse as the story progresses. I am debating having the last chapter be someone else talking about the events and you get to see just how far off he's gotten. Like any other form, if it's done well it can be interesting.
     
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  5. LazyBear

    LazyBear Senior Member

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    I prefer the type of narration that could be heard around a camp fire or written on a bloody scroll forgotten in a dark realm. They are not exactly the stiff educated characters who would take their time to write in a diary every day. Neither the wreckless types who would leave confessions about heresy in a diary for others to read when going for another adventure. The diary itself would have to be included as an item in the story, which must always be transported safely during disasters somehow. Should we save the baby or the diary telling the story? Let's just remember things in rough detail and tell it later.
     
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  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know one person who keeps a diary. Sure, maybe some of you do, but I just don't think it's really something people do anymore. Now, we can just go on social media and track and mention the highlights of our lives on Facebook and Twitter.

    Not only are diaries outdated, but I don't care for them when inserted into a story. I do think it pulls the reader out of the story and offers little if anything in return. I know it's been done and authors have pulled it off, but it's not something I've seen in a long time. If you can avoid including diary entries, I would. And at pretty much all costs I would avoid them. Stay with the story. Readers shouldn't need a sidebar to follow the narrative.
     
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  7. Rancid_Old_Git

    Rancid_Old_Git New Member

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    Diary or Journal entries can be a great way to supply info to the reader, also the comment about sliding effortlessly in the first person is a very good point. I use brief first person journal entries at the beginning of each chapter in my current work. I think it works really well if the diarist has a clear and concise voice, using a contrasting style to the main body. It has been used successfully in many works. One example that I don't like but is actually quite effective is in Frank Herbert's Dune novel, the diarist is a character we meet only fleetingly in the work and it lends depth to the world the story inhabits.
     
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  8. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    Make it short. Remember it's a note to self. It should have selfish concerns.
     
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  9. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I remember the Babysitter's Club had these at the beginning of each chapter. It used to drive me nuts cause essentially it was just a preview for coming attractions. I usually skipped them. I think if you do it, it should have a reason meaning rather than show a scene you could have a diary description or someone is reading it and discovering something. But to have a diary description and then a detailed scene would just needlessly bulk up your word count.
     
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  10. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    Between short stories, I include news articles. They describe events of interest that connect the shorts. The shorts can be read as stand-alone (and reading the 'News' certainly is no prerequisite to understanding and enjoying the shorts), but if the reader reads them, they build a connected overarching story from short to short.
     
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  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

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    IDK, never done it before, and haven't read it in a book before, so give it a go
    and find out how it works. :)

    I used diary entries in a short once, and it kinda worked there since it was
    in 3rd POV for the main story, and 1st for the entries and were italicized.

    Good luck. :superidea:
     
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  12. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    My wife is using letters, rather than diary entries, in her WW2 WIP, which avoids scene shifts back and forth to the two women in the male protag's life, who is a US doctor serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps with the 51st Highland Division. Like diaries, these give opportunities for deep insights into the feelings of all three, sometimes with some interior monologue on what they are NOT saying.
     
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  13. Sarah Naidoo

    Sarah Naidoo New Member

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    Update: Decided to eventually scrap the diary entries as these were distracting from the main plot and didn't add much to the story.
     
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  14. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Sometimes we need scaffolding to be able to write a story. I think it can be hard to take away the crutches we grow attached to, but trusting that a good story can stand on its own is a big step for a writer. I think this means you probably have a really good story.
     

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