Dear Gather Fiends:
Itâ€™s Narrative Point Of View Week! This is our final POV topic.Â That stiff breeze youâ€™re feeling is the collective sigh of relief from GWE members. Â ;-)
Todayâ€™s Narrative Technique is:Â Anonymous Narration: No Character Point Of View. With the help of our mentors, James Moffett and Kenneth McElheny, we have examined almost a dozen narrative/point-of-view techniques, ranging from smallest to largest, most intimate to most remote.Â We began with Interior Monologue, whereby the entire story takes place inside the main characterâ€™s mind.Â We finish with the most remote and cinematic.Â The narrator (who is not identified and does not have a role in the story) relates the story as an eyewitness.Â S/he may be an omnipresent eyewitness: Â as a non-specified person, the narrator can be anywhere s/he wants.
The narrator may also function as a Greek chorus:Â s/he may add historical or folkloric background to the story, or poetic interpretation. (More on that in a second.)
What the narrator cannot do is take us inside the minds and motives of any of the characters.Â We must infer the character and motivation of the players from their actions and words.
Again, the $64,000 question:Â Why would you tell a story that way? As I mentioned earlier, itâ€™s the most cinematicâ€”itâ€™s the most like watching a movie.Â Of course, there are movies which let us inside a characterâ€™s head via one device or anotherâ€”American Beauty comes to mind.Â But in general, just as in real life, we must infer Joe Blowâ€™s motives, integrity, sincerity, etc. from his words, actions, expressions, and the outside forces acting upon him.Â It forces the readers to empathize with the characters, to draw their own conclusions about so-and-soâ€™s motives, and to decide for themselves who to root for.
As I said, the narrator can comment on the proceedings, as a Greek chorus, by supplying historical background or poetic interpretation from a broad perspective.Â Let me give you a couple examples to illustrate this idea (remember, this is in addition to describing the action and dialogue):
Historical Background:Â From â€œThe Lotteryâ€ by Shirley Jackson:
The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box. There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here. Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done. The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.
Poetic Interpretation:Â From â€œPowerhouseâ€ by Eudora Welty:
Powerhouse is playing!
He's here on tour from the city--"Powerhouse and His Keyboard"--"Powerhouse and His Tasmanians"--think of the things he calls himself! There's no one in the world like him. You can't tell what he is. "Negro man"?--he looks more Asiatic, monkey, Jewish, Babylonian, Peruvian, fanatic, devil. He has pale gray eyes, heavy lids, maybe horny like a lizard's, but big glowing eyes when they're open. He has African feet of the greatest size, stomping, both together, on each side of the pedals. He's not coal black--beverage colored--looks like a preacher when his mouth is going every minute: like a monkey's when it looks for something. Improvising, coming on a light and childish melody--smooch--he loves it with his mouth.
A note about this latter example:Â The anonymous narrator is not identified and is not a participant in the story. The narrator is, however, an individual (not the author!) with an obviously outdated, jingoistic perspective on ethnic diversity.
Prose:Â Read the examples linked to above. Then write a story using the narrative technique of Anonymous Narrator:Â No Character Point Of View.Â Pretend, if it helps, that you are a screenwriter, writing a synopsis, or â€œtreatmentâ€, for a scene or sequence from the new movie you are writing.
Poetry:Â Keep working on that poem using the Metaphysical Conceit (SunWinks, July 29)!Â Â Big brownie points for getting it in by next Saturday!
PutÂ SunWE in the title and tags.
- Indicate in some way which devices or techniques I should be paying attention to.
- This prompt does not turn into a pumpkin a week (or even two) from today.Â If your piece isnâ€™t done in the next week or two, get it in when you can.Â This is supposed to be fun.
- I will comment on every submission and include a link to it in the next column.
- If you would like a little more academic critique--but still very friendly and positive--include the word "rigorous" in your post (e.g. "rigorous critique wanted").
I found no responses to previous prompts this week.Â Let me know if I missed yours.
Â© 2012 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved. Â Please share this on Gather.com, and elsewhere on the web by means of a link back to this page, but please do not copy. Â Doug's latest book is The Depressed Guy's Book of Wisdom from Chipmunka Publishing.
Doug's Gather Group is Depression and Creativity, devoted to creative writing about depression and related illnesses, and creative writing as therapy. Â Please consider joining. Â You can read more of Doug's posts there, or here.