Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Stroud’

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I know it feels weird to interrupt the partying and celebration with discussion of writing. But after today’s news, and after a hell of a week, I feel so energized to write. With that in mind, I finished the outline of my next story today, and I’m looking forward to starting it. So, I shall take a moment of your time to talk about writing.

As I said, I just finished an outline for a new story. And, as you can guess from the title of this post, it’s going to have two protagonists. Or, to be more specific, it’s going to be told from the points-of-views of two protagonists. One is a US Army major who has had his fair share of combat experiences. The other is a thirteen-year-old runaway who just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t say more than that.

Now, plenty of stories are told from multiple points-of-view. All you have to do is look at the typical bookshelf full of fiction tomes and you’ll find at least three or four books where we see events from the perspectives of two or more characters. But then there are stories where you take for granted that the story is told that way. And then there are stories where you remember how perspectives differed from character to character. Where the multiple POVs is a main feature of the story.

It’s that sort of story I’m aiming to create.

The Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud. Great example of this kind of distinctive-voice storytelling.

Thankfully, I’ve had plenty of teachers over the years with this sort of storytelling. From the (sadly underrated) dark fantasy series The Bartimaeus Trilogy to the literary satirical comedy that is The Falls by George Saunders (read that short story for two separate classes at OSU, and it’s still good), the strong voices of each narrator has a profound impact on the reader. By the time the story ends, you feel like you didn’t just read a story. You read a story and got to know these characters intimately.

That’s what I hope to do. I’m going to be switching between POVs nearly every chapter, and I have to make each protagonist’s voice as distinct as possible. It’s going to be a challenge. I’ve written several stories told from the POVs of multiple characters before. Every author has at least once. But often, it reads like variations of the author’s normal writing voice.

Take IT, for example. There are multiple characters in that story, and many of them get to tell things from their POV. Plus, King narrates things for a few chapters, especially in the early parts of the book when Georgie and the young gay couple are attacked. And it’s a great book with great and memorable characters. But you wouldn’t call every narrator/POV character distinctive from the rest, would you?

Well, that’s my challenge with this story.* With any luck, I can take what I’ve learned from the stories I’ve read and apply it to this next story. Thankfully, there’s only two protagonists, so that should help. (Actually, that might be an important ingredient, having only two leads. Keeps things simpler).

But all that starts tomorrow. For now though, I’m off to shower, pour some wine, watch a scary movie, and dance to “The Touch” by Stan Bush (great song from the 1980s to listen to right now). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, party hard and pleasant nightmares.

What are your tips for creating multiple, distinct narrators? What stories do you think of that do this well? Let’s discuss.

*That, and keeping this story from becoming the length of a novel, but one problem at a time.

Ugh, this challenge is just about killing me! I’m not sure I can survive the last eight days! Someone put me out of my misery!

[goes off to make a cup of tea. Drinks tea]

Okay, I’m better. Let’s get this ball rolling. On to Day Two of the Ten Day Book Challenge! Brought to you by my cousin Matthew, who is the biggest Game of Thrones fan I know (books and TV show). And once again, let’s go over the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk my choice of book. Or to be more precise, choice of books, as I’m talking about a trilogy. Kind of cheating, but this is just an Internet meme. Who the hell cares? Anyway, allow me to present to you The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, consisting of The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate.

This was one of the first series I read after my years-long Harry Potter binge-fest. And man, did it pack a wallop! Imagine a world where magicians summon demons and have often used that ability to rule over the masses, founding some of the world’s greatest empires. At the time the books take place, London is the center of the world, with magicians ruling over a common class with few rights. The story focuses on Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice who summons the sardonic djinni Bartimaeus to help him get revenge on another magician. This starts off a chain of events that sees Nathaniel go on the journey of a lifetime, all coinciding with London going through a time of civil upheaval unlike anything the city’s ever seen before.

This book series was the perfect choice for me after the HP books: it was immersive and had some similar concepts, but enough to make it very different. And I’m not just talking about the mechanism of the magic (though that in itself is very different). The main characters are often complicated, not exactly good but not exactly evil either. They’re very much the products of their environment, and while that makes them at times very unsympathetic, it also makes them fun to follow. The series also deals with some really deep themes, and doesn’t wait till the second book to deal with them like Harry Potter does: classism, prejudice, freedom versus security, dictatorship versus rule by the people, the master-servant relationship, the consequences of child neglect and abandonment, and the rise and fall of empires, among others.

Add in great storytelling and a narrator full of wit and sarcasm in the form of the djinni Bartimaeus, you’ve got yourself a fun and exciting urban fantasy series.

Sadly, not as many people know about this series as others, which I think is a shame because it really should be more popular. Hell, there was even a movie adaptation of the first book in the works at some point, but it never happened. Hopefully a mention here might get people interested in reading it and perhaps increase interest in it. Maybe. Who knows? Weirder things have happened.

Well, that’s it for today’s post. I nominate my good friend Joleene Naylor for this challenge. Enjoy Joleene, and I can’t wait to see what your choices are.