Writing my first novel, I chose a literary device I’ve never seen before —besides in a very limited way in screenplays — writing complete scenes in the book without actually naming the characters.
What? Ummm… yeah.
Once I started these scenes, they made so much more sense to me, and like most things I’ve worked on, like the comic book captions I did on a fight scene in my first action film, set up an instant love or hate dynamic for the reader. Some people loved the idea and execution and have written to tell me, and of course, others put the book down without getting past the first few chapters.
Those who stayed, found themselves picturing the characters almost exactly as I, the writer, intended, without me wasting the precious few words on the page on descriptors, slowing down the action, or expecting the reader to keep track of the myriad charters I wove into the tapestry of a hold-your-breath, race-across-the-page sci-fi thriller.
With ample passages of insidious dread and in-your-face horror, a bit of outright gore, and evocative smell-taste-see-hear-and-feel atmospheres, above and below ground, I wanted the reader to be a part of the story, not just an observer. As the book is science fiction, a lot of research and technical details are threaded in as well, and still, I wanted nothing to slow down the narrative and pace.
So let’s set up a scene with three people we’ve never met.
Hot Chick sat down on Afro Nerd’s lap while winking at Double D.
Amanda sat on Daryl’s lap while winking at Beth.
The first example gives us a pretty good idea of who these people are, inviting the reader to create their subconscious descriptions, make split-second judgments just as we do in real life, and tailor them to their own experiences, prejudices, and ideals.
The second version only tells me that a girl named Amanda sat on a guy named Darl’s lap and winked at a girl named Beth.
Three people would have been easy enough with names and brief descriptions, through actions and adjectives, but what about a scene where 15 or 20 people interact and speak? Trying to keep names straight on who was who, and having to waste time on descriptors for each of the twenty would add dozens or even hundreds of unnecessary words, taking away from the clarity and pace of the scene.
If I asked for a reader to fill in the blanks, to cast the characters in the first version, I’m confident they’d come much closer to what I had in mind when I wrote it.
For readers (participants) who jump into the story, descriptors become names if and when they’re revealed organically.
I confess that I do have one hero — we see him throughout — that is never named at all!
Hot Chick sat down on Afro Nerd’s lap while winking at Double D. Beth grinned; she had a good idea of the effect Amanda was having on Darly as she watched him turn red and discreetly readjust beneath her.
Now that we’ve met Hot Chick, just as in real life, we can now use her real name. Besides, your idea of a “hot chick” might be different than mine, or another reader’s. This way, we all experience and I hope, enjoy the story on a more individual level.
Anyway, every word on the page is precious. With 85 thousand words, I knew I was trying to tell an epic 200-thousand-word story, and the best way, at least for my Science-Fiction Horror story LOOP, was to find as many ways as possible for the reader to help me fill in the gaps.
Was it the right choice? I don’t know. It was for me.
I only know that I have to write my story as MY story. Will I do it in the next book? No idea. I’ll write the best story I can as honestly as I can, and leave the pros and cons of writing mechanics to better minds.
LOOP — a fast paced thriller novel of science fiction horror — (my first published novel)‚ is slowly climbing the charts on Amazon’s best seller lists for U.S. Horror and Horror Suspense. The ebook is on Kindle, and the paperback is available through retail stores across the world.
I am working on the sequel, THE INFECTED, and am getting ready to introduce Tommy Black — a new action hero to stand alongside Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne in the first book of the Black Heart Trilogy, BLACK FIRE, coming this Fall of 2022.
Happy, creepy, hold-your-breath reading to all!