Thursday, January 5, 2017

Getting Person-al

Some of your favorite stories are told in the first-person narrative form, thus Huck Finn and the destined-for-greater-things Mr. Pip, or, indeed, that rather long winded Ishmael,where a character comes forth to relate a series of trials, tribulations, and accelerated risk.

Most such stories remind the reader they are not the author, speaking directly to them, rather they are the impressions and sensitivities of a character the author has invented to filter the dramatic information forth.

Is there some of Huck's author within him, one traces of Dickens in Pip, some aspects of Melville embedded within Ishmael? To be sure, there are traces, but the author has with some deliberation contrived a filter with a finite vocabulary, vision of reality, and range of emotional experiences that provide governing factors for that character's narration.

Your observations of such stories lead you to believe the first-person point of view, more often than not, signifies a cautionary tale to follow. Even Frank Chambers' confessional first-person rendition of The Postman Always Rings Twice , although straightforward in its confessional intent, fits the designation of cautionary; here is Frank, warning us not to be so carried away and caught up as he was with Cora.

Beginning writers seem to you not to have spent much time pondering their choice of first person except to respond, when asked, that first-person narration seems somehow more natural and personal, two attributions that don't advance a clearer picture  of how or why that natural and personal state is achieved, if, indeed, they provide a picture of how the naturalness and personal-based provide the alleged closeness or authenticity.

Nor can beginning writers always tell you why one character from the ensemble cast of characters in a tale is chosen to step forward as the narrative filter.

You are fond in equal measure of stories rendered in the third-person point of view, the he.she approach. Even more so, you enjoy the multiple point of view, such as Wilkie Collins' famed The Moonstone, in which a group of individuals, often from different social strata, convey their impressions of a singular event.

If, as you believe, first-person POV cautions, then it must follow that third or multiple are chosen more with the intent of illustrating potential outcomes and their interpretations rather than flat-out warning against their pursuit.

The difference between a warning and an illustration, to borrow an observation from your highly regarded Mark Twain, is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug ("The right word--not it's second cousin."). 

Because of another recent expression of your believe relating to beginning writers, wherein writers who love words (more than they love story) are still playing in the kiddies' sandbox, writers who chose first person for their narratives (rather than allowing the narrative to dictate the individual(s) to do so) have yet to attend any significant graduation ceremony.

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