"The... device is a contrivance, a way to present your novel in an iconic form so the readers will have a deeper experience of the story," (Whitcomb, Novel Shortcuts, pg 63).Are you with me so far? To confess the truth I was still pretty lost until reading through Whitcomb's following list of device examples:
- The Epistolary Novel - telling the story through a host of medium such as journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings, or doctors' notes. Perhaps the most famous use of such a device is Bram Stoker's Dracula.
- The Confession - a guilt-ridden narrator reveals former sins or mistakes to another character or the reader. In Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus we learn of the extreme lengths the narrator, Salieri, went through to frustrate his rival Mozart.
- The Fairy Tale - stories in which good and evil are in stark contrast, and where good always triumphs. Do I really need to provide a specific story for this one? I mean, Disney did a pretty good job making us aware of the whole good vs. evil fairy tale thing.
- The Knight's Tale - because I cited this example above I couldn't leave it unexplained. Told with a language that hearkens back to the romance and chivalry of the knightly era, Laura Whitcomb's novel The Fetch also employs props such as vows, legends, psalms, and the passing of a key.
Perhaps you'd prefer to go with a more subtle device. In my own WIP (an historical version of a fairy tale) I've decided on the Gothic device. Employing dark colors in the language, night scenes, live burial, claustrophobia, old castle-like fortresses, and a Byronic hero I've moved from the typical "good vs. evil" and into the greyer areas of heroes and villains. I've changed the joyful singing for little enchanted creatures and twisted it to screams of terror at being entombed alive. Nowhere in the book will I step outside of the narration to point out the Gothic elements; instead they will be the subtle shading that paints a darker version of a familiar tale.
Not every story uses such devices. Have you ever used one in yours? Has this article sparked an idea for adding that richer element to your storytelling?
MY DAY 13: After such a productive weekend I was certain I'd somehow bypassed all the other struggling writers and found my muse with ease. Unfortunately I felt worn out and uninspired. But being a real writer means taking the job seriously. If my husband has to go to work even though he's tired and might not feel like it, then I certainly should too. (If only I could follow my own advice.... sigh).