In this post I’m going to discuss the various different written forms and images can be employed in your writing that can help you convey your story that go beyond just the words.
Different Written Styles
While technically still using words, looking at the style that you use does change how the story is perceived by the audience. For example the majority of stories are told in prose, using a perspective. However you can change the form of the prose or mix it up with extracts from letters, diary entries, text messages and emails, written by characters in the story. This can help mix up the different forms of communication that are used between characters in your story and be more reflective of communication between real people. Texting for example would be accepted as a common form of communication between people in contemporary stories.
You can even use a style to tell the entire story; Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding is written entirely as a diary, and works beautifully to show how a single woman traverses life in London in the late nineties. Through the words of Bridget herself you can see the worries, joys and insecurities that she faces, and see her eccentric character. You can also see the other characters through her written perspective. The book is a masterpiece in showing how style can be altered and still tell a story.
Separate from other prose forms you could consider including poetry or songs in your story. Probably the most famous example of work that employs this would be by Tolkien, where the creation of lyrical songs included throughout the text add depth to his world and reflect the oral traditions of the cultures he created.
It’s an odd one to consider but punctuation can be employed in various ways to change the way that the audience reads the story. For example in K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs series, the characters when they have transformed into animals are able to communicate telepathically with each other, and in order to convey that in the writing rather than use “” Applegate enclosed the thoughts between <>.
Charts, Graphs and Images
I have recently read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, and in the book I came across charts of computer data and lots of coding as well within the book which was used as part of the story telling process. I mention it because to me this was unusual and nothing I’d ever found before in a book. Then again I don’t read thrillers particularly often so it might be something quite common in the genre, but without them certain revelations within the book would have been a great deal harder for the writer to convey.
While not a written form, the use of images is similar to this as well. In Dan Brown’s book he is regularly talking about items that have very intricate details and for that to be conveyed easier, images are included to help the audience to image what he is talking about. This is especially true in Angels and Demons.
I personally don’t use charts, graphs and images, but I do think that if they are needed and are used wisely then they can be very helpful in adding depth to the story and to make it easier for the audience to image what’s going on.
The only occasion when I’ve seen images used and weren’t needed is in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, where there have been a lot of images included, but this is Tolkien’s we’re talking about, and for that reason alone I’m willing to forgive it. I would however say again, and images are great but only when needed.
Speaking of images that are needed though, maps can be essential. As a fantasy writer and a massive fantasy fan, I think maps are really necessary, especially for fantasy world types. I know from plenty of experience of reading fantasy books, the inclusion of a good map really helps with my imagination but also because at least for me they are just as fascinating as the story itself.
Middle Earth has become iconic, but plenty of fantasy maps can become detailed beyond the need of the story telling, such as George R.R. Martin’s maps for a Song of Ice and Fire. Trudi Canavan employs maps well also, including a generalised map of the world but then more detailed maps of the city of Imardin.
As you can see there is a great possibility for you to go beyond just words in telling your story. Some of it is about the style of your words, and some of it is about looking at various types of images that could be used to help tell your story.