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How different/free can you be when writing?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Asterisk, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. Asterisk

    Asterisk Troubadour

    Hey, fellow writers! I write organically, whatever that means mostly to stir emotions, and sometimes I find myself using strikethrough, or s t r e t c h i n g out certain words, or, once in a while, writing a paragraph that goes something like this:

    Is this "acceptable"? Does it turn you off, push you away from the story? Exactly how free and different can you be when writing?
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    If that is your style then good luck to you. It worked for Lewis Carroll [if I remember my illustrated Alice's Adventures in wonderland correctly].
    It is when it is just a gimmick and comes out of the blue that I would not want to read it.
    And to be fair I really dislike e. e. cummings because of the way he wrote out his poems - I think he took it to extremes and for no effect I could find.
    Jesse Booth likes this.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I like cummings, on the other hand :)

    You can do whatever you want, the only question is whether you can make it work. Different readers will answer that in different ways, so I suppose it is a question of whether enough readers agree that you've made it work. If you want a modern example of a book with lots of strange text uses and effects, check out House of Leaves.
  4. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    It can work. A very popular book with my students for several years (it's sort of fallen off) is Crank by Ellen Hopkins.

    If you take a look, the formatting of the content is similar to what you're considering, Asterisk.
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I see no reason why you can't do this. (Some practical problems with formating for publication though.) My issues would be mainly about how it works for the prose and the reader. Two examples of prose where I could see this working well would be childrens stories and poetry, where the prose style / format adds to either the fun or the effect. For adults reading a straight forward murder mystery for example, this might be distracting.

    Cheers, Greg.

    Also, forgot to add, we live in the age of self publishing. One of the glorious things about that is that we as authors are free to write how we want to write, and that includes style and format. If you think this is important to you as a writer and to your work you may have trouble getting an agent but you can still publish and no one can tell you you're wrong. The rules have gone - now they're more guidelines!
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
  6. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    As a reader it might bother me. I say might because, if your story is strong and engaging, I'd forgive anything.

    I always encourage experimentation. Go with what feels right. However, focus on the story primarily. Nail that & the reader will forgive, and maybe love, any dalliance.
    TheUnburnt likes this.
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think the risk is that it looks like a gimmick. And gimmicks can be great if you use them well, and a big turn off if you don't. It also adds to the general noise level of your work which can be a distraction from the story.

    I've done it once or twice. But mostly I wouldn't consider those kinds of techniques unless I was certain the effect was worth the risk.
  8. acapes

    acapes Sage

    I think, very generally, that readers would accept visual text effects moreso poetry than in fiction, in terms of more precedent with concrete poetry etc etc

    But if it works in your story and the story is ace, I'd personally go along with it as a reader :)
  9. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Call me a grumpus, but I'm pretty sure this wouldn't work for me.

    This feels like the kind of thing I'd expect to see in an online chat-room or game. It's not something I associate when getting immersed in a story I'm enjoying. I worry that bumping into something like this when reading would jolt me out of the story. It would pull my attention to the way the words are written rather than to what they're saying. It's something I try to avoid at all cost in my own writing (I don't even use italics).

    As others have said though, you could probably make it work, but you'd probably have more luck with it in a poem or a short story than in a longer work.
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Sometimes, the way the words are written is the point, though. Again, see House of Leaves for a successful first novel example.
    Trick likes this.
  11. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    What!? You're saying there could be exceptions to a rule? Inconceivable! :p
    I shall have to check that one out.
  12. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    As a reader, your example doesn't turn me off. But it probably would place me on my guard for it becoming too gimmicky.

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