Monday, June 17, 2013

How We Tell Our Stories is Changing

Have you noticed how stories are being told these days, in fragments? It’s annoying sometimes, but it can be very effective, especially in novels. It’s as if the author is getting to know the reader while revealing more of him or herself as the story progresses. This must be the new trend in the written word. (I’ll leave the TV shows to their own devices as media is fickle, imitative and repetitive and easily dumped in the popularity polls.)

Because books linger longer in availability, writers are less experimental. Our deviations must come at great risk with forethought for all the traditional guidelines that have preceded our latest flight into fancy/fantasy. The decision to rearrange the telling of our tale must be a well-informed, deliberate decision for getting our story into our readers’ psyches and under their skins.

Examples where linear storytelling are better used are Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell and Into Thin Air, by Jonathan Krakauer. Any short flashbacks in these stories are due to the emotions evoked by what the character in going through at that moment.

Three current examples of fragmentation come to mind: Alice Seibold’s Lucky and The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult, both popular established writers. Earlier last year A Turn of Mind, by Alice LaPlant used this device to show a murder mystery from the POV of the Alzheimer victim trying to remember her crime—if she did it. The flashbacks and flash forwards come at the places in the story where they are needed, not where they fit a more sedate story pattern. The impact is effective when properly applied.

In the aforementioned novels, writing rules with linear format are pushed aside for the sake of intimacy between the storyteller and the reader. Trust must be established for the fragmented option to work.

Reader trust comes either from awareness of a new author’s obvious skill, or from years of reading a specific author’s work and respecting their process. Trustworthy authors evolve from training, practice and experimentation. We know the author is opening a vein for our pleasure. The author has put him or herself in the reader’s chair asking, how do I reach my core readers? How do I get them there to feel what I’m feeling, to bleed with me? How do I keep them glued to the pages, patiently experiencing what my characters are showing them?

Julie Eberhart Painter, is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee. The sequel, and Daughters of the Sea, a paranormal from http://www.MuseItUp

Visit Julie’s Web site at


Big Mike said...

I will admit, I do rearrange my stories based on reader views from my critique group. I also have micro character stories within the may theme, yet converge it all in the finality, Why do all that work? In my opinion readers (like myself) need constant stimulus and a good tactic to achieve that is by ,delving into the life/world of other main characters, course that's JMO.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I think it works great, too, Mike. It takes the skills of more experienced writers with good editors who will warn us if we have allowed some minor character to take over the story.

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

I have noticed this, and sometimes it works very well, but sometimes it leads to confusion. I guess it is all in the expertise of the author. However, if a story keeps losing me, I often lose the book.