Voice, Style and Batman
A student of my wife’s was nice enough to read Shimmer and send me some questions about the
book recently and which I’m repeating here, if only because these are the sorts of questions people often ask. This was the second part of his questions. (The first part was here.)
Another of my questions was whether you write with a certain style in mind or a certain effect? As you write, do you use certain styles and techniques with the intent of them having a certain effect? Or do you just write what comes, and that, in and of itself, has the desired effect? Specifically, in cases where Robbie would get a text or an email, you would go on, not telling the reader what the message was until after you had described Robbie’s reaction. Or when you write only in gerunds, leaving it all in fragments, do you do that with the purpose of creating a sort of detached feeling? Or do you just think, wow I would really like to write it that way?
I mostly write my way into a style. Originally, I think I set out to write a much more comic book about office life. (I started Shimmer long before The Office hit TV, but it’s probably good I didn’t write an office-based comedy. It’d be like getting a Batman tattoo in 1987, years before the Batman movies came out, but then after the series of movies do come out you have to live with the Batman tattoo on your chest for the rest of your life while everyone asks you things like, “So do you like the Michael Keaton Batman more than the Christian Bale Batman?” and you have to say, “Well, I’m really more of an Adam West guy.” Not that I know anyone who did this and is, still, living with the ramifications. I’m just throwing it out there as a hypothetical-type example.)
But as I wrote, I kept finding my way into these darker, less comic places, and into a more personally, internally conflicted narrator.
Still, I never thought about using a particular style, and definitely didn’t think about issues like fragments versus sentences. That all just sort of happens for me, and then evolves as I edit. It’s part of the overwriting that I mentioned, the sense that I keep writing in multiple different directions until I find a direction (or directions) that stick, that make sense, that interest me. (Even these answers I’m writing to you, I’m writing all of this out of order, focusing on one question, then another, with multiple unfinished sentences throughout the message, then copying and pasting pieces around.)
And out of that overwriting also comes a voice. In this case, Robbie’s voice. But I never set out for it to sound one way or another, or to use a certain style. I always find those answers through the act of writing.
More about my erratic way of writing here: http://www.ericbarnes.net/blog/2009/06/04/124/