Friday, May 20, 2005

The Economy of Style

One of the reasons I try things like writing exercises like Small Town Boys -- which seems to be taking on a life of its own -- is that I try to push the envelope on my writing style. Whereas Bobby Cramer is long on detail and introspection, in Small Town Boys I am trying for a little more distance and objectivity from the characters and doing it economically.

It's not easy. I have to keep reminding myself that I don't need to account for every moment of the characters' lives and I don't need to know their every thought. Their actions and reactions should be what clues the reader in to what's going on. Give the reader some credit for figuring out what's going on, and allow the characters the space to grow and evolve without the author's fine hand in every move. Sometimes they can surprise you.

That doesn't mean I'm going to go back and revise what I've done in Bobby Cramer. I have purposefully gone into great detail about his life and his thoughts and feelings. That's probably because I feel a lot closer to him than I do to the characters in Small Town Boys. For one thing, Donny Hollenbeck is not a very introspective guy. He takes what comes and doesn't devote a lot of energy to figuring out why things happen. Unlike Bobby, who seems at times to be tossed like a leaf in a river and unable to control his life, Donny sets things in motion and watches what happens, but in the end he will not let someone else control his life, and when he makes up his mind to do something, he does it and never looks back...much.

Donny and Bobby are opposites, then -- but very much alike. It sounds like I'm writing the same characters over again. Probably, but then most writers do that -- look at the women in Tennessee Williams's plays or the men in the plays of William Inge. (Not that I'm comparing myself favorably to them, mind you.) That's a form of economy, too.



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