Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Authorial Flagging

You can see the inherent good sense and logic behind the rhetorical question most writers of fiction must face: "Whose story is it?" Good sense and logic in place, nevertheless you find the occasional glitch in your early drafts of a composition. Someone other than the main character, the Jane of Jane Eyre, the Huck of Huckleberry Finn, the Jim Burden of My Antonia, has overstepped the boundary of point of view, and you must repair.

The repair becomes a metaphor linking roadwork and paving to the narrative drive of storytelling. You've come to accept the view that all dramatic information must come from the character of choice, the protagonist, if you will, or the ironic reversal in which the antagonist is made the filter to comment upon and react to the agenda and behavior of the protagonist.

In no case must the information come from you as author, hence the reason for and title of these paragraphs--Authorial Flagging.

The repair work you do on your own work is the equivalent of you driving to a familiar destination and on occasion failing to respond to familiar landmarks or becoming abstracted to the point of forgetting entirely the destination. Each of these occasional areas causes a momentary sense of disorientation.

Under similar circumstances translated to the act of reading, the reader becomes disoriented, suddenly divorced from the familiarity of destination. Under proper circumstances, the reader is made aware early on of the potentials landscape for the destination, even if said destination is, shall we say, Chekhovian, thus left in some degree for the reader to resolve off stage.

Your equivalent of repair is resurfacing the surface of narrative so that the bumps you intend the characters to experience are seen by the characters, not by you. When the speed bumps are put in place by you--in any form--they become Authorial Flagging.

Some brief examples of authorial flagging:

It was hot.
She was frightened.
He was hungry.
She didn't know what to do next.
Just then...
At that moment...
Later that day...
He didn't see...
She couldn't hear...

You're alert to reading the expressions of students in your classes when you present this information, which often comes when you're discussing and/or examining the concept of point of view.  Presented in the abstract, you see nods of assent, young, middle aged, and elderly emerging writers, reaching for and grasping the essentials of narration.

Back in the day, you tell them, there was a form of narrative referred to variously as the omniscient point of view or authorial presence. Now, twenty-first century, the characters have staged an intervention. They've demanded and in large measure been given the entire burden of story to convey to the reader.

You like to equate narrative styles to determining the age of trees from the rings apparent in a cross section of the tree. True enough, in order to do so, you must cut down the tree. In doing so, you are then face-to-face with a record of that tree's growth and experiences.

Now you, as storyteller, put a character in place to read that record and interpret the life and times of the tree. If you were to step in with such examples of authorial flagging as those listed above, or yet others, you'd in effect be reverting to the you who was reading earlier records from previously hewn trees.

Tempting as it may be, Authorial Flagging is also a step or two backward in time, to those moments where you were when, whatever your reasons for wishing to turn to composing your own narratives, you were influenced by other tree ring segments to the point where you heard yourself saying, "I wish to do that. I wish to interpret the lives of individuals I invent."

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