Thoughts on Writing – Consistency of Style

With Magic’s Stealing out to beta readers, I’m trying to avoid working on that story line until I get the collected thoughts of the readers. That way I can evaluate all the comments and figure out how best to apply them. In the meantime, I’ve switched gears. I’m working on Isaac’s and my Distant Horizon story line. The first book is written and mostly polished, so I’m working on plot consistency in the second book. To do that, I’m rereading the first book to refresh my memory on what changes were made. (Seriously… my notes suggest I’ve read the first book twenty times. Granted, some of those rounds only involved skimming for minor edits, but some of those included major overhauls, and needless to say, I’m starting to get a little tired of rereading it.)

During my read-through, I realized that there’s a shift in the writing style from the first few chapters to the later chapters. There’s less description, more every-day action, and the slow set-up of things starting to go wrong for the protagonist. Events are happening, but I’m worried that they aren’t as enticing as they could be. Now, one possibility is that I’ve read through these first few chapters so many times that it’s all kind of a gray blur. I know the plot too well, but the story may be fine as-is. The other possibility is that there’s a definite shift in writing style that needs to be corrected, or risk turning away readers who might otherwise be interested in the story.

When the story first starts, its sounds very much dystopian:

The first time I flushed adominogen, the oblong capsule tumbled from my hand and bounced off the bathroom sink, once, twice, then fell into the toilet with a finalizing plop.

Gone.

I waited all day for someone to ask why I didn’t report accidently losing my pill. But no one did, and I didn’t have any of the hallucinations that I might have had for not taking adominogen. Instead, the world around me felt so much more alive. My attention improved, not that it was bad to begin with, and I could think clearer. Be more efficient.

After that, I stopped taking the pill. I graduated high school and moved into my first year of college, no sign of theophrenia. But when our hall advisor announced that the annual Health Scan would take place in two days, I panicked.

I needed three things to graduate: excellent grades, as many efficiency points as possible, and to pass the scan. It wasn’t often that someone failed, but it did happen. One of my friends in high school had a sister who failed. Galina. She took the scan at the clinic downtown, and Special Forces escorted her away, all while assuring her everything would be fine.

I didn’t want to end up like her, so right after the announcement yesterday, I took the pill. It was like throwing a clear, plastic tarp over my world. I couldn’t concentrate, but I couldn’t go to the doctor for the symptoms.

Not taking the pill was an international offense.

And a little bit later, still in the same style:

After the incident with Lady Black, I had this constant, nagging feeling that someone stood right behind me, watching me. Stalking me. If this was the plague, then I could only guess this was the onset of paranoia, the delusion that I was somehow important enough to warrant special attention.

Or I maybe I was just paranoid; the Health Scan was less than twenty-four hours away.

My bedroom door rattled and I looked up from my biology book. Faint, golden light traced my desk, highlighting the leaves of my plant and trailing along the edge of my bookcase.

The doorknob rattled again, followed by a new, chinking sound of metal.

I scooted from my chair, then sidled against the wall before checking the door’s peephole.

No one was out there.

Maybe the air pressure was playing with the hinges.

I opened the door and stuck my head into the hall. A couple students passed by, but they’d been too far back to affect the door.

But, as the story progresses (leaving act one into act two), the style shifts, bringing on more description:

Pops led us into a dark, narrow hall, a far cry from the neatly glowing dorm corridors. What might’ve gleamed with bronze reflections was now a dull, dented bit of metal. Yellow lights ran the length of the ceiling in small round inlets, casting a weird, brownish glow over the area. One of the lights was burnt out, and another was completely missing, the socket bare.

We headed up the second flight of stairs. The elevator we passed had a piece of yellowed paper with a DO NOT USE warning taped across it.

“We’ve been running on minimal repairs,” Pops explained. “We have decent funding, but we haven’t had a chance to resupply, and Crush only has so much time to work. He usually monitors the computers for signs of enemy activity.” Pops stopped at a plain, bronze door at the top flight of steps. “This is Jim’s office. My room is across the hall.”

Inside, a dusty world globe sat on the corner of an ornate, wood desk, obscured by various file folders and papers. Books were piled high, their spines haphazardly stacked like a puzzle game. An ancient, faded rug lay beneath the desk, so worn that its vibrant, geometric shapes and numbers were barely distinguishable. Bookshelves surrounded us from floor to ceiling, organized and decorated with models of antique stealth planes and trinkets. A giant, arched window graced the far wall, overlooking the night sky, and two red, plush chairs sat opposite the desk, where a reading lamp blanketed the room in a warm glow.

Later, part of an action sequence:

I followed Lance, since he was closest, and we huddled in the leaves, taking shelter from the fight. A local rushed the monster, and the beasts grabbed him by the throat and yanked him from the ground. Bones snapped and his screams fell short.

“We’ve got to help,” Lance said.

I wasn’t sure if it was his heart or mine pounding double-time in my ears.

No wonder Inese gave me her gun.

Behind us, there was no sign of Jack or Matoska, and I couldn’t hear anything more than a mingled mass of screams and shouts. Ahead, more beasties darted through the field, half-loping, half-running. One was lanky and pale, what little clothing it wore hooked over its bony waist. Crusted blood and clods of dirt plastered its skin. A feline eye stared my direction, while the other was swollen shut.

Other beasts were bulky and heavily muscled, swinging swords or metal clubs, bashing in the locals’ skulls if they got too close. A large glob of water hovered around a beast that stood straighter, more human than the others. The creature lunged at a man and water splashed onto the electric spear. Static traversed the metal shaft. Both man and beast crashed to the ground as electricity coursed over the beastie’s water-slick skin.

In the long run, I see a potential benefit of keeping the story the way it is because, as the style shifts, it suggests that the main character, Jenna, opens her eyes and really starts to see the world as it is, not how it’s portrayed by the sheltered Community. The story goes from being light on description to heavy on description, and the writing style includes thicker paragraphs. In addition, at least in the examples I’ve posted, the character goes from reflecting on the world around her (distant), to becoming heavily involved, a participant. Which might not be a bad thing. I won’t know until I have it available for readers to read.

I hope you enjoyed this post (and the sneak peek at Distant Horizon), and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you experienced any issues with keeping the style and tone of a story consistent? Have you read any books where the style shifted subtly, or even dramatically?

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