Heard But Not Seen: It's the way you tell them
My dad told me to invest my money in bonds. So I bought 100 copies of Goldfinger.
Delivery is everything. This is true of jokes, of course, but also stories. How many times have you suffered through somebody telling you an anecdote and you've spent most of that time wishing you could hack them to pieces?
When I started writing Fairydust back in the day, my narrator was a dispassionate reporter of events. And, as I wrote, I found myself getting bored. Now, at this point, I'm the only person on the planet who thought 'Hey, here's a wee cracker of a story that just needs to be on people's bookcases', so if even I find it boring then there's not much hope for the rest of the world.
Some people will tell you narration is supposed to be invisible; you don't notice it; it's the equivalent of a window or a screen that you see through. Those people probably write books with boring bits in it, or important bits left out.
So, as I started work on Prism earlier this year, I had my neutral narrator voice on again because I didn't yet know who the storyteller was. In fact, I'm going for what academics call 'limited omniscience point of view'. In other words, the narration will be an extension of the thoughts of the character. It's angry, dark sarcasm that is particularly well suited to Tartan Noir (MacBride, Rankin and others do it marvellously).
For me, the persona of the storyteller is key. In this situation, that person is a selection of key characters. And so I redraft in earnest, bringing my attempt at life and verve to the page.
It's something I've learned. Readers evolve, and writers must too. Readers expect a different tone. We don't want to be informed of events, but entertained by them. Whether that be amusement, or tension, or fear, or sorrow. Prose must be so much more passionate, now. So much more emotive and so much more personal.
I'll be on an extended writing retreat in November, and I'll bring you more updates soon!