So, The Stand and The Forest of Hands and Teeth pointed me toward the idea for The Way We Fall, and Doomsday Book helped me figure out what was meaningful about it to me. But I also needed to figure out how I was going to write this book. The more I played with my epidemic idea, the more I realized I wanted to present the story’s events in a way that made the reader feel they were living them right along side my main character, day by day, without knowing what horrors the next might bring. A feeling I remembered experiencing myself when reading another book in which characters see their world falling apart (though with a very different cause and setting): Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.
I’d read Life As We Knew It a couple of years earlier, and found myself so immersed in the story I would glance up at the sky as I came out of the subway station after reading, expecting to see an over-large moon in the sky wreaking havoc on the world. Obviously a large part of that is simply Pfeffer’s excellent writing, but the novel’s diary format contributed as well. With regular first person narration, I suspect there is always the sense in the back of most readers’ heads that this is all being told after the events in the book are finished. With journal format, the main character is relating what happens bit by bit, almost immediately after each new development, without any idea what will happen next. And the developments don’t have to be big, or to build in as straight-forward a manner as in a traditional story–which makes it easier to give glimpses of the smaller everyday joys and sorrows that make the characters’ lives seem real. For a story that revolves around the slow disintegration of the characters’ world, that approach seems like the perfect fit.
So Life As We Knew It‘s example helped me recognize the format my novel needed (I second-guessed myself enough times, worrying that the journal format would make it less appealing to some readers, but every time I considered changing it I came away convinced I couldn’t tell Kaelyn’s story any other way), and it gave me a standard of that format to aspire to, for which I’m immensely grateful.
Giveaway completed. Thanks to all who entered!