it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken


Pam comments on Caitlin R. Kiernan's comments on narrative and POV choices, in which Ms. Kiernan mentions she isn't fond of first person, necessarily, and really dislikes it if there's no valid way for the narrator to be telling the story to someone, and doesn't wish to be forced to read 2nd person at all. And goes on to discuss the fact that she finds it irritating that people take her to task for being most comfortable in third-person present tense. She goes on to mention that she feels that accomplished/expert writers who feel most comfortable in first person do so because they're not stretching enough. (Forgive me, I may be misinterpreting her words: I'm restating to make plain the position I am arguing from.)

She also says that she got the advice from Neil Gaiman to write in present tense if present tense made her happy.

Now, I'm feeling a bit amused, as it seems likely that the first story Ms. Kiernan ever sees by yours truly is going to be first-person, self-conscious narrator, as she and I are going to be sharing anthology space with the estimable Mr. Gaiman in a Del Rey anthology forthcoming later this year. I hate to think my writing skills are being judged on the basis of my use of first person in a Rudyard Kipling/Arthur Conan Doyle pastiche that I felt rather demanded the POV choice.

So I'm going to weigh in on this one. I write in just about every POV and tense I can imagine, and blends of multiples of the above: I consider it a matter of pride to be flexible enough to find the voice the narrative demands. However, I respect writers who are more comfortable in a single or habitual POV (First person usage certainly didn't limit Roger Zelazny's skill or success, or J.D.Salinger's.)

Now, Silverberg (in the book I mentioned in a previous post) has some salient points to make about first POV. For example, that first-POV can be used by an inexperienced writer to justify infodumps, linguistic failings, and other awkwardnesses. On the other hand, it can also be used very effectively to inclue the reader (term stolen from Jo Walton) as opposed to "infobolusing" (a very short, concentrated, indigestible infodump).

As for second person... well, I don't use it much myself (although I may in fact have a second person flash story brewing... about Cthulhoid interstellar feeding habits, of all things) but I've gotta say that Hannah Wolf Bowen's "Among the Cedars" (readable at and Tom Robbins Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas prove to me that second person can be done, and done well.

So I'm not about to kick any POV, tense, choice of internalization (from very tight to omniscient) out the window.

They're all tools, I would argue, and an irrational dislike for any of them is certainly permitted (I know two or three pro editors hate loathe detest despise and abhor the present tense, but I think that's an irrational bias too.) but I also think it's limiting for a writer to remove any of them from consideration.

When all you have is a hammer, after all, everything looks like a nail. Give a man a screwdriver set, some ratchets, and a few nice saws and suddenly he's got a much better shot at making a usable piece of furniture.

And when you've got to the point where you can break every rule in the book and still make that furniture shiny... well, I think that's something like "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," then.

Anyway--Pam--Ms. Kiernan--if you happen to trip across this, thank you for making me think about this so clearly.
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