Friday, October 4, 2013

Storytelling and Beginnings

"Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.  I was thrust into your arms at my birth.  You have been my God from the moment I was born."  ~Psalms 22:9-10~

Oliver Twist (2005) (Widescreen)
(^ that's my favorite movie of Oliver Twist, from 2005 I think.  Rachel Portman did the soundtrack)
Before I say anything, I just came here from the future to say something that will hold some importance later in this post.  Do you know what a workhouse is?  Or was, I might say.  The workhouse was a word that would place a feeling of dread within anyone who heard it, in the time that they were known of.  Do not forget.  *zaps back to the future*

Recently I've been noticing how there's a big difference between authors such as C. S. Lewis and Andrew Peterson, J. R. R. Tolkien and Jeffrey Overstreet, and all writers in general.  Andrew Peterson writes big books, but the Narnia books are small, like the Snow Queen book.  How does an author know how long or short their story should be?  C. S. Lewis could have drawn out the beginning of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but he didn't.  He left it simply, like one of the Grimm Brother's fairy tales.

"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.  This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.  The were sent to the house of an old Professor who lived in the heart of the country, ten miles from the nearest railway station and two miles from the nearest post office."
~The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe~

He doesn't show.  He tells.  C S Lewis, is a storyteller after all.  Few authors today would write a story like that, or begin one like so.
I'll put the beginning of another, more recent book here so that you can tell the difference.  *rummages through collection to find a book not by Charles Dickens*

"Great and golden, like an enormous, minted doubloon, the Caribbean sun presided over the waterfront.  Ships of all nations, from salt-crusted skiffs to stately galleons, bobbed on their moorings, each craft facing bow onto the harbour wall.  Children clambered and played upon the bronze cannons fronting the jade and aquamarine waters of the wide Caribbean Sea."
~The Angel's Command by Brian Jacques~ (an excellent book by the way, the second in a trilogy about the adventures of a boy who can never grow older, and his faithful black dog, whom he can communicate with.  The first book is called the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, and tells the beginning of the tale.  I really enjoyed them)

This author goes right into describing the story.  You'll learn yourself what the story is about if you keep reading.  Except -- *checks the date on the copyright page* -- this book was published in 2003.  Not completely recent, but oh well.
Now I'll put the first sentence of Oliver Twist here to twist things up a bit (no pun intended).  But before I do...  *zaps to the past*  *zaps back* *dusts herself off* Now then.  Here:
"Among other public buildings in the town of Mudfog, it boasts of one which is common to most towns great or small, to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse there was born on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events, the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter."
~Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Big big difference.  Different cultures all of these previously listed authors came from.  Different ways of speaking.  Different fashions.  Words big and small.  Of course, I think Oliver Twist was written for an older audience because few except those who had rich families knew how to read.  At the time it was published, Lord Melbourn didn't like the book.  The young Queen Victoria however read it and found it "excessively interesting." (watch the movie the Young Victoria it's all about her, then watch Oliver Twist, the version I mentioned above)

We are told so much, to write like this, or leave out that, and all "rules" are intended to help us get by, but I think many may hinder us, by and by.  So let's start at the very beginning.  It doesn't matter if you write a long story or a simple fable, by "telling all" or "showing some", for don't they tell us in schools to show and to tell?

Because when one writes, one is free.
Or at least, you should be.
It's only the rough draft.
It's the fun part,
Where one may dance at will with words.

Write for yourself first.  Schreiben (German word for write) for fun.  Don't worry about putting God in your story.  For the longest time I myself worried and stuffed ideas of God into stories.  But then I learned something (at church).  God doesn't need us to defend him.  He defends himself quite well without us.  He wants us to witness, of course, and we should, but not always in our stories.  We shouldn't put a witness story in our stories just because we feel guilty without it.

Also, God's words are perfect and ours will never be.  So we shouldn't worry so much, but let go.
"Sigh not so but let them go..."

Sorry I think I got off topic.  I meant to write this post to ask a question and attempt to answer it.  The question was, "How can we tell whether or not to write a book like a fairy tale, short, simply, and much trimmed, like the Chronicles of Narnia books, or very long like a book by Charles Dickens?"
Remember.  The book will tell readers about you.  Who do you want them to see, through what they read?  The books you like to read will affect your writing in one way or another.
And don't worry about how long or short your book is.  Don't aim for a certain word-count.  Just tell us a story.  Focus on the story.

By the way, I'm reading a really good book on writing called "Writing Irresistible Kidlit".  I highly recommend it to fellow writers.  It's got stuff in it that a lot of other books on writing forget to mention.  I haven't finished it yet though.
Sorry for the long post!  Didn't mean for it to get so long.  I haven't been writing very much lately, so I guess it just... sort of... flowed out here.
Oh well.  See ya soon!  Oh and tell me what you think. :)


  1. Oooo I really like this post. That's so interesting, the different kinds of beginnings! Oh my goodness... Now I want to go and look at the first paragraphs of all my favorite books! Gah, your blog is so thought-provoking! I love it!
    The Writing Irresistible Kidlit book... Is that actually about writing towards a younger audience - like what kinds of stories appeal to younger audiences?

  2. Yeah, it talks about that and other things in general about writing. It's really interesting because the book (Writing Irresistible Kidlit) talks about how the stages of growing up of the two audiences (YA and middle grade) affect their tastes somewhat in reading, and it helps you choose who your target audience is a bit better that way(which is really helpful to me even though I haven't completely made up my mind yet). Because the book is written by an agent (who is also a writer), it's really eye-opening about some things you might not otherwise think about. So that's cool.
    On a side note, I started watching Firefly last night! Glad to say it is cleaner than a lot of shows out there and the characters have development, but I did skip one scene in the first ep. The eps are like an hour and a half. It's like Doctor Who and Star Trek and a western minus the time traveling.