Here we are, authors at a 90s book signing Looks different than today. Hmmm?
As society changes the way it looks at things, does things, and views entertainment, we’ve come to see writing differently. What was once “the way to write right” has changed with the times.
In the early 90s, when my early western historical romance novels were published, we thought nothing of head hopping from one character to another, and as a result we weren’t worried that much about point of view (POV). We thought nothing about stepping back from our characters to tell the story or using the camera viewpoint to show what was happening. Narration and exposition were tools of a different kind.
Today, we’ve adapted our writing styles to suit the readers who prefer to step into that story, much like gaming, if you look at it that way. We’re told don’t pull your reader out of the story with your style. They want to become your character, especially the point of view character, and we don’t dare drag them from that enjoyment. The writer should never be heard from.
So we have quickly adapted. Here are some of the “rules” if you will. Use as few tags as possible. Such as he said, she yelled, etc. When you’re with a character, stay with them in dialogue, action, narration and exposition. Don’t waste a lot of time with description, show surroundings during action. Voice and style is all important. And flashbacks and back story are kept to a minimum and MUST move the story forward.
When I scan through those books written back in the 90s, I have to laugh. Boy have things changed since then. Recently my new publisher, Oghma Creative Media, asked if they could republish those books, specifically the Montana Series. I said yes, but when I began to go over the manuscripts, I shuddered. This could mean massive rewrites to suit today’s style, to fit the way I write now. So I had a talk with my editor.
“I can’t make these changes. I don’t have time. If you can’t adapt your editing to suit this old fashioned style, then I’m not going to do this. There’s head hopping, lots of “God’s eye” settings. I just don’t have the time to fix everything.”
He smiled and said, “That’s okay. There are lots of people reading today who like that style, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”
Here’s an example of yesterday’s style: She knew what he wished for. She knew too that one day soon he would ride away, leaving her here. Today, we might write it this way. It was clear what he wished for. One day soon he would ride away, leaving her behind.
In other words, we don’t write of our pov character using terms like she knew, she thought, she saw. We simply show those things as if the reader might be experiencing them.
When we write dialogue, we no longer continuously use said. “I told you over and over what to do.” Joe smashed his fist on the table. “And yet you never listen, you just do what you please.” He stomped from the room, slamming the door behind him. Easy to see who’s talking without one said, shouted, etc.
Readers may not notice these subtle differences, yet books are easier to read, suiting the way readers perceive everything in life today. You can see this much more clearly if you watch movies from thirty or forty years ago and movies today. See how slowly the plot unwinds in old movies, how there’s much more dialogue and not so much action. Books are the same way, and so we have changed the way we write our stories.
When the Montana Series comes out in print I hope readers who have never read my work will consider the writing style as simply the style of the times, and not viewed as bad writing. These books were originally published by Penguin, at the time the largest publishing house in the world. We hope to attract all new readers for the series that has recently been available only on Kindle.