So how are you doing with your To-Be-Read pile? I'm sure you're reading widely in your genre and others, right? Daily? Poring over new releases and historic heavy-hitters alike? I try to get through 3-4 horror/dark novels a week (though sometimes it's only 1-2, since I can read ponderously slow, especially if I'm studying the book as I go.) This week, I've been working over a 2003 Straub - LOST BOY LOST GIRL and a much older Ramsey Campbell, THE INFLUENCE (1988).
As usually happens, I ran across sections of these books that sloshed with great tides of awesomesauce or writerly devices that made me think. So in the spirit of sharing, I'd like to maybe introduce a regular blog feature (which the disorganized blog-pantzer part of me will probably come to regret) called Tips from What I'm Reading. So this week's tip is from:
(And even if you don't read horror, you should check Straub out. Literary and resonant and supremely character-driven, Straub also knows how to pull taut that string of tension.)
Anyway, one tactic from this book that wowed me was what I'll call The Infinitesimal Flashback. During the beginning of the novel, Straub gets you all comfortable in one person's POV and time-slot. Then you realize he's nipped into another time-slot and POV, but it's not a huge, far-away flashback. He just plucks you from the now and drops you back, say, a few weeks ago. Or a few months ahead. And this isn't info-dump stuff, y'all.
These tiny time-jumps are full of tension and action and brilliance. And just when you're all caught up in that moment - he drops you abruptly back into the initial timeslot, so you're all but eating the pages in agony over WHAT THE HELL'S HAPPENING back in the other. Brillz, y'all. Freakin brilliant. (Not to mention Straub's vigorous-as-hell prose. One of my favorites? "Mark raked him with a glance." Nice.)
I did successfully deploy the infinitesimal flashback in my current WIP (once in the same chapter, using itals to note the different time-slots) - and it's no back-story info-dump either. It solved a minor plot problem for me, while adding some interest, and allowed me to drop in a necessary fact or two while also hinting at newer, fresher problems to come in future chapters - and ALL couched within action and tension, not simple exposition. It was great fun.
So what about you? Read something lately that inspired you, device-wise? Share!