Dear Diary…

The end of the month is approaching so, as I try to finish both my page requirements for April’s novel and the book I’m closest to finishing for the 100 Books Project, my brain turns toward what May’s novel will be about, as well as trying to think of topics to babble about until I do finish the book I’m reading. That’s always a fun one; I had a few unformed ideas, but, ultimately, what won out, was considering doing May’s novel in the form of a journal/diary.

How do you, dear readers, tend to feel about novels written as a diary of the protagonist? As I think on it, I realize I have not read many, overall, but I have enjoyed several. Case in point is Catherine, Called Birdy, which I read earlier this year; it’s one of my favourites. The nice thing about the journal direction is that you definitely get in the head of your main character. You get all the thoughts and perspectives; they focus on what is important to them and the story unfolds as they see it. But the same things that make this direction interesting can also be the genre’s shortcomings. You can’t get as close to the other characters; you’re restricted on what you’d be able to show. One could have a lot of fun working with the idea of a very unreliable narrator, so that the story that the reader is getting is distorted, since perspective is distorted, and I like playing with that idea, but I’m not sure I’m good enough to make it work.

I know I briefly started a novel from the perspective of Solomon Demarkus, a scorned young man out to destroy his philandering father by seeking out all the illegitimate children he’s had over the years, which would solve my male main character problem, but the majority of the other characters, I’ve realized, are female. Bad ass females, too, so I might just do it anyway, because I like them and I have been wanting to write this book for a while, but there’s a few days still to decide.

The idea of stealing a page from Mr. Bram Stoker’s book came to mind, too. Of constructing a novel entirely of letters (or perhaps a few newsclippings), as he did for Dracula. With this construction, you have a few more voices than just a journal, and, in fact, the book could read much like a conversation between two characters (if one restricts it to two, that is). Then, you have the nuances of what they may be willing to share with each other, what might be hidden, what might really be unsaid or between the lines…

It could be fun, if anything, and it’s an idea to work on in the next few days as we get closer to the newness of May. Part of me also just shakes her head and wonders why I don’t just write a story, why do I feel I need to lean on some little neat convention or trick to make things more interesting, but, ultimately, a story will get written as it wants to get written. We are just the people holding the pens to bring it to reality.


  1. I agree you can go into a person’s feeling deeply but also the story may/should be plot driven and you must know your character very well so as not to confuse the readers.

    I would still choose for the zombie-apocalypse-mayhem theme. That ought to be good.

  2. “How do you, dear readers, tend to feel about novels written as a diary of the protagonist?” – My first Nonowrimo novel (and my personal favorite) was written as a journal. I tried to emulate author Carlos Castaneda, spinning a journal with daily entries that became more and more questionable as the story transformed from a basic travel journal into a supernatural thriller.

    The only drawback to using the journal/diary form is that, if it were to be submitted for consideration to an agent, I would have to clean up many of the entries in order to move the story along at a faster pace.

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