Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Non-Linear writing... and it's possible effects

I write linearly. That's just how I think. Very rarely will I skip ahead, but even then it's only a scene that I'm not sure how to write even though I'm pretty sure what will be revealed in it.

But I'm reading a book right now by a popular crime writer and I just keep getting the feeling that this author either doesn't write linearly and/ or didn't reread the work carefully. There are at least three scenes in less than five chapters were characters have similarly worded conversations. As if the author forgot that these characters already discussed these things. Okay, I can let that go-- in real life, people do say the same things more than once.

But then there's two sets of scenes that just seem out of sequence. In an early chapter, a peripheral character is introduced only in the barest way. No name, just what she has done for a major character. Then, a couple chapters later, this character has a scene in which it's explained what she does. I *really* think the second scene would be better coming first.

Partly, my preference is to have the explanation soon, especially if it's just something that occurs a couple times in the book. (In the book I'm reading, the peripheral character appears twice, and never even on page, just in reference.) If you're going to expalin who someone is, then do so the first time. NOt only that, in the book I'm reading, the second scene really seems like a nice get-to-know-the-characters scene.

There are several other examples, where the book just feels like chapters and scenes were moved around. It's not horrible, but it does feel like something's a little off with the book.

And maybe I wouldn't notice it so much if I didn't use this particular book in class, where I read it several times and even twice in a day.

I know, as a writer, I've forgotten things. Forgotten that I've alreayd used that opening or scene somewhere. Usually, though, if it feels a little familiar, I go and check.

Maybe the author of the book I'm reading did read it through. Maybe he was fine with the slightly disjointed effect. Maybe he liked the repeated scenes, since they were a little different. I don't know. Of course, the author the book I'm reading has had more books published than I have years of life... while I have some 50 short stories and an unpublished novel.

All I know is that as a reader (and re-reader) it bothers me just a bit.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I can only write linearly too. Can't skip ahead at all. But I do repeat myself. I just realized that two of my last three stories featured getaway people who were innocent.

Clair Dickson said...

I wonder how often readers notice the recycled plots. Is it more obvious when it's the same author? Can one author recycle the same plots without readers noticing (done differently enough?)