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Great Fiction, Unique Form
Posted on September 14, 2021
by Sam P
Reading pages upon pages of text can get monotonous no matter how interesting your story is. When an author experiments with form and does it well, the result is an unconventional read that enhances the narrative. Try this sampling to break out of the norm.
Willis Wu feels more like the “Generic Asian Extra” in a mediocre sitcom rather than the protagonist of his own life. Author Charles Yu, drawing from personal experience, capitalizes on this aspect by writing a majority of the novel in screenplay-adjacent format (which really means it’s a bit more text heavy than a traditional script), and uses second-person point of view at certain points.
Among traditional formatting, Night Film features transcripts, screenshots of news articles, and more as investigative journalist, Scott McGrath, uncovers the details surrounding Ashley Cordova’s suspicious death and the dark secrets of her family’s legacy.
Told from nine-year old Oskar’s point-of-view on a reconnaissance mission through the five boroughs of New York, the text is supplemented by photographs, pages of communication from a character who’s mute, and journal entries from 1963, as Oskar tries to find a lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father who died in the attack on the World Trade Center.
A gothic horror that checks all the boxes: a haunted house, mysterious ambience, and a woman with a taste for chalk. While most of the story is told in standard format with sweeping sentences and colorful paragraphs, what stands out about this story is the house being a narrator itself. With peculiar line breaks and its own way of thinking, the house is essentially its own character and Oyeyemi showcases this aspect through form.
Think stylized IKEA catalog. While the text itself is presented in traditional paragraphs, in this parody of the well-known furniture store, elements of the catalog come into play as chapter headings and other little surprises that might just foreshadow a central piece of the chapter. As the title suggests, the “furniture” advertised transforms into horrific iterations as the employees investigate their own labyrinthian furniture store, ORSK, after-hours.
The thing about stories is that, by a change in format, any narrative can transcend genre-specific tropes, or even lean further into them and own that trope. An author can choose to insert things like footnotes into their fiction, or play with fonts, for example, and still give us a great read.
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