Invent Your Own Rules

And do it with FLAIR!

A few weeks ago I posted about novelizations and looking forward to Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood“. Well, I got my paws on it and ladies and gentlemen, it’s a BLAST.

Novel or screenplay?

The first thing I discovered is that this isn’t exactly written the way a novelist might write it. In fact, from the very first sentence, it’s clear that a screenwriter is writing it:

The buzzer on Marvin Schwarz’s desk Dictaphone makes a noise.

Novelization or…?

The second thing I discovered is that it’s not really a novelization, either. The book is an opportunity for Tarantino to tell all the stories he couldn’t shoehorn into the movie, give us gossip on real people, and backstory on fictional characters.

Much like the voiceovers Tarantino uses in his films, he often tells the reader what’s going on:

Rick doesn’t like Scott Brown, so when he mentions his name, he subconsciously gives a dismissive look.

Whose voice is it, anyway?

The dialogue, of course, is superb and each character has their own cadence and word preferences. It’s impossible to read this and not hear the characters speak in your head. But even more interestingly, the narrator has a personality and a cadence all his own. The narrator is omniscient–something beginning novelists are told to avoid at all costs. Why? Because it’s too easy to do it badly and confuse the reader. But in Tarantino’s exuberant hands, the omniscience is pure entertainment. He dips into a character’s head without ever breaking stride in the narrative or losing the grip on the difference between characters. Since it’s easier and faster to say that a character feels a certain way and move on, that’s what Tarantino does and rather than taking the reader out of the flow the opposite happens. The prose hurtles along, the general effect being of listening to someone tell a story they are deeply interested in.

I picked up this book hoping to learn how to write a novel from a master, but what I’m learning is that character and voice is everything, the author should love the story, and prose details aren’t crucial.

And really, what I’m learning is that I should stop analyzing and enjoy the ride.

Who are your favorite rule-breaking authors?

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.

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