IWSG—An upcoming release and owning my old-fashioned writing style

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Every first Wednesday of the month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group share worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears.

For those of you who missed Monday’s post, my long-delayed second volume about Jakob DeJonghe and Rachel Roggenfelder is scheduled to release on Saturday, 4 June. That date was chosen because it’s the date Jaap and Rachel reunite after 13 months apart (Erev Shavuot 1946). The title was taken from a line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 (which Jakob reads to Rachel while she’s in labor in the penultimate chapter). The first volume’s title came from a line in Sonnet 145, so I thought it’d be fitting to use Shakespearean symbolism again.

Shakespeare was truly a writer for all time, the kind of writer I aspire to be remembered as. Though he very much wrote about people and concerns of his own time, the deeper meanings and the way he used words have resonated across time and cultures. I always think of the Akira Kurosawa films Ran and Throne of Blood as prime exhibits in how Shakespeare’s stories can seamlessly adapt to a much different cultural milieu.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

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Synopsis:

Jakob thinks coming to America and reuniting with his beautiful Rachel is a dream come true, but he soon realizes America’s streets aren’t lined with gold and that people who don’t quite fit in aren’t always treated very nicely. As he’s struggling to adjust to life in America, Rachel struggles with insecurities over how her husband is little more than a stranger. And just when it seems her heart is no longer in turmoil, a new struggle arises—finding a midwife in a country where hospital birth has become the norm. Her search for a midwife isn’t helped by the conformist young wives’ social club she’s been roped into joining, full of women who already look down on her for keeping her surname, wanting to go to college, and enjoying sex.

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I own the fact that my writing style may strike some folks as old-fashioned or impersonal. I know third-person omniscient is very out of fashion in North America these days, so much so many folks genuinely don’t recognize what it is and assume I’m writing as a character, not about a character.

We all make decisions about how much information to directly state vs. force the reader to infer, just as we sometimes have to condense the non-essential events of a longer period of time into a wraparound narrative segment. I personally enjoy filling in the blanks in my own head, instead of always being told exactly how someone shivers in the cold or speaks after getting devastating news. It’s the same way everyone imagines the non-intertitle dialogue in silent films differently, based on our own experiences, personalities, and tastes.

Other folks can write long-drawn-out emotional reactions very effortlessly. The short-lived third version of the opening page of my first Max book was like nails on a chalkboard when I reread it. I hated it so much. It felt gross, pretentious, awkward, corny, silly, forced, fake, because that’s not my natural writing style at all.

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10 comments on “IWSG—An upcoming release and owning my old-fashioned writing style

  1. Murees Dupé says:

    I think you should write the story you want whether others will approve or not. You have to get all that creativity out and on the page. Who knows, maybe you will be the person to make people enjoy third-person omniscient again. I admire and envy writers who write stories that go against what the masses deem popular. That is what I love about writing. All of us write, but we all do it in different ways. I hope you do continue with your story. Cheering for you.

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  2. You have to go with your gut. I started writing in first person several years ago in order to give my main character a stronger voice. It worked so I kept writing stories in first person. Now I wonder if I can still write in third person effectively.

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  3. I was gone Monday and missed it – congratulations!
    You have to write your own style no matter what that is.

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  4. Hear, hear! One should always strive to be true to themselves and their actual voice when they write. Props to you on striving to so!

    Have a beautiful start of June!
    ♥ Jessica

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  5. Chrys Fey says:

    I like that you’re owning your style. That’s great!

    Readers can fill in blanks, and they should, but there is a reason why writers share those details…to help readers get into the character’s shoes. That’s what those details do. They add emotion and contribute to character depth. I don’t think it’s forcing a reader to do anything. Even with the details readers can still use their own experiences, etc. to imagine it. I know that what I imagine when I read a vivid scene may be different from the writer’s own vision.

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    • Carrie-Anne says:

      Oh, I’m not against fleshing things out, though sometimes I’d just rather know a character is angry or upset instead of having to guess from a long paragraph describing his or her reaction. The way I picture a certain emotion being manifested isn’t necessarily the way someone else will. I’d rather 5–10 strong, to the point words over a long-drawn-out passage where we have to infer everything. Saying someone’s voice quavered, for example, appeals to me much more than 30 extra words describing just how that person’s voice sounded.

      I’ve discovered it’s rather old-fashioned to want to read and write about characters, instead of in their heads. I want to go on a journey with characters, not experience their stories in their actual heads.

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  6. Yay! Book release time. Exciting.

    Enjoy and own your own style. Too many folks say “write like this” or “don’t do this” but its the different voices, consistent and well-honed, that will stand out. Especially if that’s the best way you can best be true to your story.

    Good luck with the release!

    IWSG Post June

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  7. jamieayres says:

    Always write YOUR story 😊

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  8. Congrats on the release! And always stay true to you!

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  9. yes, love it! own you!! Different is good 🙂

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