May 11th, 2004


Tricks o' th' Trade

93, all!

One of the coolest things about lj is reading posts by strangers on your friends' "Friends" pages. You learn things you wouldn't have otherwise (who knew there was, after some forty years, a film (animated?) version of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time coming out?!, Yow!), you hear passionate arguments in favor of notions you loathe (hence at very least may come to understand them better)...and occasionally you encounter something worth passing along to others.

Since many of my readers are either writers, or interested in writing, I hope intralimina won't mind my noting her most recent post, an excellent "writer's piece" on (among other things) plotting, and the limitations of point of view. Well worth a look.  :)

In his meditation "The Soul of the Desert" (one of the finest things ever written, btw), Aleister Crowley quotes somebody or other's couplet about there being (I forget the number) "ways / of constructing tribal lays," adding that every single one of them is right...and Right for A is often Wrong for B. Writing fiction is very like that, I think: the Real Stuff eludes dogma. For example, my own work was hopeless until I forced myself, fifteen years ago, to learn to plot (though not straitjacket)...and OTOH, my personal fave, Ray Bradbury, refuses to do anything of the sort, insisting that plot is merely the footprints left in the snow after his characters have gone by. Bottom line: do what works for you, and hope for the best.

While we're on the subject, a trick I learned from (another major favorite) John D. MacDonald (ignore the quirks of his day, and just look at that writing!): imposing the limitations of a specific character's point of view -- and use of language -- even when writing as the omniscient narrator. This is easier to illustrate than explain, so (with apologies that improvisations for an lj post ain't gonna be Deathless Prose)....

(1) STANDARD OMNISCIENT NARRATOR: At three o'clock that morning, Dave and his little daughter Sara were awakened by a heavy crash of glass and metal against the streetlight outside their house. Dave was the first to the window: sure enough, single-car accident. Damn drunks. / "Daddy?" / "It's a car accident, honey. You'd better call 911. I'm going to go see if I can help."

(2) OMNISCIENT MODIFIED FOR DAVE: The heavy crash of glass and metal woke Dave with a start, and it took him a moment to realize it wasn't from inside the house (hence that little Sara was okay, thank God). Sure enough: three ayem, and some bonehead has wrapped a bitchen old Dodge Charger around their streetlight. Damn drunks. / "Daddy?" / This could be bad, don't let her look at it. "It's a car accident, honey. You'd better call 911. I'm going to go see if I can help."

(3) OMNISCIENT MODIFIED FOR SARA: There was a big explosion of breaking stuff in the middle of the night and Sara was scared that Daddy was angry again, but it was outside. A car crash? On their little street? / Daddy was already at the window when she got there. He was looking mad and sorry at the same time. "Daddy?" she said, trying not to bug him (she shouldn't be awake at this hour), but he was barely paying attention to her. / "It's a car accident, honey. You'd better call 911. I'm going to go see if I can help."

Not the best examples -- in particular, they turned out more as omniscient narrator, limited pov: three "narrative" passages skewed for pov woulda been better -- but I hope they made the point. Omniscient narrator, subjective style, hence (I'd argue) an improvement in the trance state that makes fiction feel like "real life." If that costs some extra words (sez logorrheic AJ), it's wuth it.  ;)

Anyway, great post, intralimina. Hope you don't mind my calling it to the attention of others (if, uhh, you ever find out).  :)

93 93/93 -- AJ

P.S. Back to Nightmare Village: three chapters down, sixty-one to go, and we're only on page 32, thank the Gods.  :D


Wrinkle in Time



As apparently everybody on earth but myself (until just now) is aware, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was, in fact, a three-hour film on ABC last night.

I've enabled replies, if anybody wants to post a review.

*Sigh*. I've waited forty years for someone to adapt it...waiting a little longer for a rerun won't kill me.


93 93/93 -- AJ