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Books in diary format

Every book brings new challenges, and my current project is no exception. The biggest of them? I’m writing it not just in first person POV (like GHOST), but in the form of the main character’s journal entries.

It’s interesting how much of a difference it makes to how the story gets told. I think there’s at least as much difference between regular first person and diary first person as there is between first person and (limited) third. I have to consider not just the character’s voice, but timing (when during these events will she have time to write?), content (what sorts of things would she bother to mention in her journal? what might she leave out?), and style (she might think something one way, but would she actually phrase it like that when writing it down?). It makes certain aspects harder (can’t have a cliffhanger in the middle of the action!) but other things more satisfying (there’s a reason this is all being written down, from her perspective, not just mine as the author).

How do you all feel about diary format in fiction? Do you enjoy it or avoid it? What things do you like about it, and what can bother you? Examples you think work particularly well (or not well) are welcome!

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Originally published at Megan Crewe - another world, not quite ours. You can comment here or there.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
The first thing I think of is Dracula, and of course The Historian. It worked very well for both of those books. :)
Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
I didn't realize DRACULA was in diary format! I'll have to read it ASAP--it's one of those classics I've been meaning to read for a while. :)
Jan. 22nd, 2010 02:13 am (UTC)
I read it last year, and enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
Jan. 20th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
I thought you were going to say that your future book would look like the photo. I was excited! Hehe. That would be pretty great...a diary format printed in what looks like a diary.
Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
Hee hee, I would love for it to be printed that way! I think it would be incredibly cool.
Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
I bet people would buy it just because it looked neat. I would!
Jan. 20th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
In terms of reading, I think the epistolary can be rather hit or miss. Done well, it's excellent, capturing a character's voice much more naturally than a straight first person narrative. (Something that always occurs to me in reading or writing first person narratives is, "to whom is this narrator telling this story?") The Perks of Being a Wallflower, for me, did the epistolary well, because as the character developed, so did the diction and complexity of the journal entries. The form was directly tied into the development. At worst, the form becomes too bound by the conventions of journal writing, and thus loses narrative cohesion.

In terms of writing, I'm always a little trepidacious because it's much more difficult to work in the trappings of narrative (most especially scene and dialogue) without sounding too writerly and destroying the voice of the narrator or the credibility of the journal form. It just requires clever workarounds. I think it's a much more difficult choice in terms of narrative structure, but one that pays dividends to those who can tame it.

Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:19 am (UTC)
Yep, it's definitely going to be a difficult balance. Thing is, it just feels wrong when I try to imagine writing it any other way. And what the story wants, the story had better get, if I want to get it down!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
That's an interesting point, about the awareness of it possibly being read. I'll have to keep that in mind!
Feb. 5th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
I'm intrigued and would read. However, since I loved Ghost so much that may be tilting my scale. I imagine it'd be hard to write. As other have pointed out, how to do you decide what would be put in the journal? I know when I'm writing in mine I don't go into crazy detail because I'm living the story where as in books you don't know the whole story so that understanding of the situation isn't there. Plus, I at time use code in case someone does read my journal (which, sadly, has happened). Code could be fun.

Can't wait for more updates about this.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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