Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Key Signatures

Thinking as you do from time to time about the places where music, acting, and writing overlap, your latest awareness came in response to the approach the musical composer takes to choosing the key in which a work is cast.  The actor uses a similar type of approach in selecting a vision of the character to be portrayed.  The writer gets to chose point of view.

Your own favorite for the short work is third person, the he or she, although you are not adverse to first person.  You can't sort the reasons for this preference (which would accordingly make for a focused investigation) although you do know that from time to time, you do find yourself using first person without having questioned the decision (you are quite fond of any decision seemingly reached without conscious thought).

When it comes to a longer form, a novella, novelette, or novel, you gravitate toward the multiple point of view, a medium you have favored since the approximate time when you were moving away from the influence of other writers and settling into the practice of heeding your own inner voices.  From time to time, as you read something rendered in multiple point of view, you find yourself nodding in agreement with the author's choice.  It was likely your reading of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone that set you off on this track.  The current work in progress, is in multiple; you did not for a moment even pause to consider other choices even though the throughline is a character you've known for lo these many years.

This seems a natural progression from your earlier use of an authorial omniscient, which allowed you to comment, as it were, on any character who interested you.  Now, of course, they all interest you and you find you would be trying to upstage them if you did not back off and let them have the opportunity to develop on their own.  Following this path, you use revision to--among other things--remove as much of your own commentary from the story at hand.

Two writers you admire, each for a particularly different facet, seem to intrude more into the story than you.  William Trevor seems to own the omniscient point of view, his deftness and control admirable to the point where you find yourself occasionally rereading a passage or a scene to make sure you didn't miss any relevant nuance.  A.S. Byatt is all over the place with authorial observation and control, doing things--such as describing works of art or music--you admire but would not think to do (perhaps because you can't?), leaving you to run the risk of letting your characters do the description for you (and thus running the risk of reader feeder, imparting information you want the reader to have).

Multiple POV seems also to sit nicely astride your vision of the ambiguity and complexity of event and the interpretation of event.  Multiple also allows you a range of naivete to be shared among your characters with sometimes the most blustering, self-assured, desk-pounding sort being the most naive of all.

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