Diary format

Discuss the December 2016 Book of the Month, Nightlord by Garon Whited.
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Diary format

Post by rovet » 04 Dec 2016, 15:26

I am having a hard time really sinking into the story, and I think part of the problem is the diary format. Supposedly Eric is writing each entry that day (not at some point in the future and remembering it) and yet he refers to things in the wrong tense, as if it happened to him, not currently happening. For example:

Shada managed to make herself comfortable in what were going to be our quarters. Which meant, yes, she cleaned. Or supervised cleaning, anyway;

Whited, Garon. Nightlord: Sunset (Kindle Locations 4820-4821). UNKNOWN. Kindle Edition.

If he is writing that entry on the day it happened, you would think the tense would be "Shada is managing to make herself comfortable in what are going to be our quarters. Which means, yes, she cleans. Or supervises cleaning anyway." I keep finding episodes of past tense, when it is supposed to be happening in his present. On top of that, he never mentions carrying a journal, pen, or paper around. With as much as he has written, you would think that he would need to find more paper - would it be parchment and ink? Or is he using his Mental Note? He also never mentions taking breaks to write his entries.

Maybe I am being too picky, but it really is distracting to me and makes it unbelievable as a diary. The tense would be more accurate as a memoir. Is anyone else having this issue?

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Post by Gravy » 04 Dec 2016, 19:49

I'm not the biggest fan of the "diary" format, anyway. It always takes away from the story, in my opinion. After all, the character lived to write the entry, and that prevents some of the enjoyment for me. If I can't worry for the character, it's harder to actually care.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

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Post by rovet » 05 Dec 2016, 00:54

Gravy wrote:I'm not the biggest fan of the "diary" format, anyway. It always takes away from the story, in my opinion. After all, the character lived to write the entry, and that prevents some of the enjoyment for me. If I can't worry for the character, it's harder to actually care.
Good point. It got me thinking if there are any fictional diary style books I like, and I couldn't think of one. All the ones that initially came to mind were in fact memoirs. "Dracula" is close, but not truly a diary, since it pulls from several people's journals and letters. The best I could do was "Cloud Atlas," which wasn't all written in diary format, but the parts that were in diary form were done well.

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Post by hsimone » 05 Dec 2016, 02:42

I don't think I've read enough diary-formatted books to have a clear opinion of them in general. However, in this read, I felt very similarly - the different tenses, the exact quoting (it's a diary, you're not going to remember the exact words that everyone says), and the general tone of the story. Honestly, I think this was one of the issues I had with the read itself.

Gravy, you bring up a good point about not having to worry about the character since you know he's lived. I didn't think about that, but it makes sense.
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Post by Gravy » 05 Dec 2016, 04:53

hsimone wrote:I don't think I've read enough diary-formatted books to have a clear opinion of them in general. However, in this read, I felt very similarly - the different tenses, the exact quoting (it's a diary, you're not going to remember the exact words that everyone says), and the general tone of the story. Honestly, I think this was one of the issues I had with the read itself.

Gravy, you bring up a good point about not having to worry about the character since you know he's lived. I didn't think about that, but it makes sense.
I've never understood the point of telling a story that way :lol:
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Post by hsimone » 05 Dec 2016, 14:36

Gravy wrote:
hsimone wrote:I don't think I've read enough diary-formatted books to have a clear opinion of them in general. However, in this read, I felt very similarly - the different tenses, the exact quoting (it's a diary, you're not going to remember the exact words that everyone says), and the general tone of the story. Honestly, I think this was one of the issues I had with the read itself.

Gravy, you bring up a good point about not having to worry about the character since you know he's lived. I didn't think about that, but it makes sense.
I've never understood the point of telling a story that way :lol:
Well, now the idea is planted in my head, I will most likely be questioning it from now on when I do pick up a diary-based read. Thanks! :lol: :lol:
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Post by Gravy » 05 Dec 2016, 20:36

hsimone wrote:
Gravy wrote:
hsimone wrote:I don't think I've read enough diary-formatted books to have a clear opinion of them in general. However, in this read, I felt very similarly - the different tenses, the exact quoting (it's a diary, you're not going to remember the exact words that everyone says), and the general tone of the story. Honestly, I think this was one of the issues I had with the read itself.

Gravy, you bring up a good point about not having to worry about the character since you know he's lived. I didn't think about that, but it makes sense.
I've never understood the point of telling a story that way :lol:
Well, now the idea is planted in my head, I will most likely be questioning it from now on when I do pick up a diary-based read. Thanks! :lol: :lol:
Sorry :lol2:
I've read some that worked (can't think of them right now), but they all tend to grab you immediately, and you don't have a chance to think about it. It can work. But when it doesn't, I find it so disappointing :doh:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


:reading-4:

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Post by MerryLove » 06 Dec 2016, 20:20

I've read a number of other stories written in a diary format, but it is not suited for all books. This one, for instance, had a bit too many fantasy elements for it to flow as smoothly. Most other books in that format I've read have been in a more realistic setting (historical, contemporary, etc). I don't think I've seen it done in a fantasy book, so I applaud the author for trying something a bit different.

Still, I feel like in this case the diary format has made the story thus far feel a bit more unstable in tone (sometimes lighthearted, sometimes serious) and the events more disconnected. I can't help but wonder if the story would have had a smoother ebb and flow if it wasn't written in this format.

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Post by hsimone » 07 Dec 2016, 07:13

Gravy wrote:
hsimone wrote:
Gravy wrote:
I've never understood the point of telling a story that way :lol:
Well, now the idea is planted in my head, I will most likely be questioning it from now on when I do pick up a diary-based read. Thanks! :lol: :lol:
Sorry :lol2:
I've read some that worked (can't think of them right now), but they all tend to grab you immediately, and you don't have a chance to think about it. It can work. But when it doesn't, I find it so disappointing :doh:
:lol: No worries! I always like to broaden my views as a reader, so it's just a new way of thinking. :)

It's kind of like what MerryLove said - something with a more realistic setting, diary form would work better. Maybe those are the types that you read, Gravy?
"Love is patient, love is kind." -1 Corinthians 13:4

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Post by rovet » 07 Dec 2016, 10:46

OK, so I just got to the part where he mentions that he is using his mental note (about 50% of the way through the book). So that answers that question at least. But I noticed another diary format discrepancy - at least twice that I have counted so far, he has foreshadowed events, once with the bard and the singing stones, and once when he gave swords to Bouger and Raeth. If you are writing a diary and don't know your own future, you certainly can't forshadow events!

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Post by Gravy » 08 Dec 2016, 08:06

hsimone wrote:
Gravy wrote:
hsimone wrote:
Well, now the idea is planted in my head, I will most likely be questioning it from now on when I do pick up a diary-based read. Thanks! :lol: :lol:
Sorry :lol2:
I've read some that worked (can't think of them right now), but they all tend to grab you immediately, and you don't have a chance to think about it. It can work. But when it doesn't, I find it so disappointing :doh:
:lol: No worries! I always like to broaden my views as a reader, so it's just a new way of thinking. :)

It's kind of like what MerryLove said - something with a more realistic setting, diary form would work better. Maybe those are the types that you read, Gravy?
I don't read very much strictly realistic fiction. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head!
Now it's going to bug me :lol:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


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Post by hsimone » 10 Dec 2016, 14:36

Gravy wrote:
hsimone wrote:
Gravy wrote:
Sorry :lol2:
I've read some that worked (can't think of them right now), but they all tend to grab you immediately, and you don't have a chance to think about it. It can work. But when it doesn't, I find it so disappointing :doh:
:lol: No worries! I always like to broaden my views as a reader, so it's just a new way of thinking. :)

It's kind of like what MerryLove said - something with a more realistic setting, diary form would work better. Maybe those are the types that you read, Gravy?
I don't read very much strictly realistic fiction. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head!
Now it's going to bug me :lol:
Sorry about that, didn't mean to make it bug you. :oops: :)
"Love is patient, love is kind." -1 Corinthians 13:4

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Post by Janetleighgreen » 10 Dec 2016, 20:21

rovet wrote:I am having a hard time really sinking into the story, and I think part of the problem is the diary format. Supposedly Eric is writing each entry that day (not at some point in the future and remembering it) and yet he refers to things in the wrong tense, as if it happened to him, not currently happening. For example:

Shada managed to make herself comfortable in what were going to be our quarters. Which meant, yes, she cleaned. Or supervised cleaning, anyway;

Whited, Garon. Nightlord: Sunset (Kindle Locations 4820-4821). UNKNOWN. Kindle Edition.

If he is writing that entry on the day it happened, you would think the tense would be "Shada is managing to make herself comfortable in what are going to be our quarters. Which means, yes, she cleans. Or supervises cleaning anyway." I keep finding episodes of past tense, when it is supposed to be happening in his present. On top of that, he never mentions carrying a journal, pen, or paper around. With as much as he has written, you would think that he would need to find more paper - would it be parchment and ink? Or is he using his Mental Note? He also never mentions taking breaks to write his entries.

Maybe I am being too picky, but it really is distracting to me and makes it unbelievable as a diary. The tense would be more accurate as a memoir. Is anyone else having this issue?
I really love this book; but I can see where the diary entry format could be difficult to follow. I turned that off in my mind, and thought of it more as chapters for the same reasons you mentioned, and was able to enjoy the book immensely.

-- 10 Dec 2016, 22:05 --
Gravy wrote:I'm not the biggest fan of the "diary" format, anyway. It always takes away from the story, in my opinion. After all, the character lived to write the entry, and that prevents some of the enjoyment for me. If I can't worry for the character, it's harder to actually care.
The fact that he is still alive was an issue for me at first, but I got past that and enjoyed the book.

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Post by Randomgold » 11 Dec 2016, 09:14

I'm not giving much thought to the diary format, really. I'm just taking it as it is, and not thinking about whether he's foreshadowing something or whether I can tell he survives or anything like that. It's not a perfect thing, I'm perfectly aware of that, but it's still a decent, fun read so far.

That being said, if I had to give some kind of justification to some of these things, it all boils down to how he's writing things. He's not "physically" writing things, so he can go back and alter things after the fact, just by thinking about it. At least, that's what I think.

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Post by Jennifer Allsbrook » 11 Dec 2016, 21:16

I really don't see anything wrong with the diary format. We don't write diaries in the present, if anything we would enter the major events that happened to us that day so writing in the past tense makes since. Also, I look at the dates as more of a reference to allow the reader a sense of the time passing as Halar/Eric moves through his new world and experiences all of the challenges that he faces. The essence of the story is in the details of the interactions that Halar experiences not in whether or not the story is written in the correct tense. Maybe it's just me but...

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