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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Saw that one coming....

Bronzerider! Like B'lerion, F'lessan, and K'net
you would ride a bronze dragon, the largest of
the males. You are intelligent and courageous,
and have the leadership ability it takes to
lead a wing into Threadfall. More than
anything, you love the thrill of riding a
flaming dragon.

A Pern Quiz: What Color Dragon Would You Ride?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this third-person omniscient thing.

The consensus from both me and the writerbrain so far is: It's hard and we don't like it. We hates it, the precious, hatesss it. And we think we're screwing it up royally.

So why do we keep doing it? Well, it's obviously a very powerful tool, and one I should learn to use, but it's freakish and unnatural to me. I write, generally, by strong identification with and immersion in my characters. I'm not so much a character-driven writer as a writer who is unaware that the world exists beyond the needs of the characters. This is a strength.

It's also a weakness.

Omni won't let me do that. Omni doesn't permit me the narrative unreliability I rely on, the misconceptions, the in-character delusions and the conflicting perspectives I use to bring dimension to a story, almost reflexively at this point.

I am finding omni incredibly restrictive, because it robs me of a good fifty percent of my usual toolbox. I have to stop and think every paragraph, even every sentence, consider my transitions between the narrative POV and character POVs, make sure I understand why I'm dipping into any given character and what that character's perspective has to offer me. There's far more ability to just tell the reader something, to launch into little historical lectures... and the temptation to overuse that is enormous.

Moreover, I can *feel* the way the POV distances me from the characters. I can't simply sink myself into a character and understand him from the inside, grok him, feel what he would he would do. I have to think about it, and I'm making far more missteps than I normally do, getting stuck, having to go back and redraft. I'm outside them, with the ability to look in... but they remain aliens. It makes me feel trapped, frantic, like I'm not doing my job and getting to where I need to be with regard to the character motivations, because I have to understand them in such an intellectual fashion in addition to grasping them on my more normal intuitive level.


On the other hand, it's good to stretch. And I am learning a heck of a lot. And boy this is hard.

Fortunately, I have all the time in the world (the earliest I could possibly need to have this book done is January of 2006, *if* Blood & Iron gets picked up after my contract is done) and I have my friendly little toy book, nice fluffy calm little One-Eyed Jack, to keep me distracted while I try to work out this new skill set. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually.

But in the mean time, expect whinging about how hard it is and how much I hate it. *g*


ETA: neat post here by st_crispins on the tripodal narrative structure. She's specifically writing for Man From UNCLE fanfiction writers. However, there's a lot of useful stuff in here for all of us--and it ties in tidily to some of the things tar_pith has mentioned in IM about Ted Chiang, and building stories on a tripodal structure (his example was two sfnal ideas and a human situation, sufficiently developed, equal a story).

Sadly, Jer hasn't blogged about his plot theories.


I find your discussion of TPO very interesting - DJ has suggested I use it for a story, but I've only seen it used well very rarely, and poorly very often (see: many a romance novel). Got any good examples of someone who's used it well?
J.R.R. Tolkein. *g* John Gardner. Anthony Burgess does first person omni in Dead Man In Deptford. It's astounding. Kurt Vonnegut.

How's that?
Stop that! If I think too much about what I'm doing, I start to think about what I'm doing, and then I can't do it!

And if I miss my deadlines, You Know Who is going to be Unhappy...

(no, not Voldemort, someone much scarier... L'Agent!)
Right-O. Writing stuff cut-taged for Suri's sanity and my own physical safety from now on... *g*
"Stop that! If I think too much about what I'm doing, I start to think about what I'm doing, and then I can't do it!"

Ueah. The centipede's downfall. Besides, if you are _thinking_ about writing, you aren't _writing_.
I'm trying to fumble my way toward understanding why the narrative voice won't let you be unreliable, or sink into the characters...these two items in particular appear to me to be the strongest two aspects of omni.

Tight third, as I apprehend it--and I'm having to use it right now--shoves several walls between writer and characters, only surmountable when one does single POV, and that's damn constraining.

Once the narrator's motivation is clear (and tight third doesn't seem to deal with this at all, the structure requires a different approach altogether) then =everything= else is clearer, deeper, sharper.
I think she's saying that while she can show characters being unreliable, she can't immerse the reader in it.

Exactly. I have to show them being unreliable. I can't just *let* them be unreliable.

It requires much more author contact with the reader than I'm used to.
See, I'm finding that the concept of 'narrator' comes between me and the characters. I usually write an extremely immersive POV--if my characters don't know it, it doesn't exist--and I am compfortable shifting from one POV to another as it's experienced, and having them contradict one another cheerfully, because such is the way that the characters perceive the world.

The concept of having a 'narrator' with an agenda at all is alien to me, except in terms of first-person, where it's easy. Normally, I simply plug the reader into the character's head and stand back.

Now, there's the layer of, I have to understand the narrator and the narrator has to understand the character, rather than my simply role-playing the character and reporting his experiences. It's external/intellectual for me, and alient to my normal manner of thought. Whereas a tight POV is internal/intuitive for me. I just... do it. I've never had those wandering-POV problems that plague so many beginning writers.

And I think it would be... auctorially dishonest... for my omniscient narrator to be unreliable. (Anthony Burgess gets away with it in Dead Man In Deptford, but that's a peculiar case, indeed, and I'm not the writer Burgess was) I'm perfectly comfortable with a *character* being unreliable, or just plain wrong--but as a writer, I feel like it's an abrogation of my contract with the reader for an omniscient/god narrator to be fallible or to lie.

(I'm not trying to dismiss your comments by any means. It's *really* interesting to see the world from the extreme opposite end of the POV-writerbrain continuum.)
I don't know if this helps, but I always think of my 3omni narrators as being first person, whether or not they veil their presence. That is, while some not only plant their I's in their telling (or even address the reader), others never call attention to themselves — but are still there with their proper persona.

This can go to extremes, of course. The most startling mid-story transformation I've ever had, the veiled narrator suddenly inserted herself as an active character, as the player called up from the bench. I had to go back and retreat the story to date, because suddenly the narrative attitude was all wrong — it was the unreliable in the wrong ways. Okay, that's another ObPointlessPersonalAnecdote, but it is one more example of why you need to know your narrator.

Just for the sake of discussion, I too get impatient with trickery with a narrator...knowing the narrative motivation can, at least in my own experience, free up the meta-structure of a story. It doesn't have to be about skewing, but about worldview or perception.

As for sinking into character and voice, but the good authors do that too. Take Tolkien. When he sinks into his Rohan characters you get that echo of the rhythms of Norse verse; when he's deep in Sam's or Frodo's POVs you get the homey English tone and perceptions, and ARagorn's is altogether different.

O'Brian does it as well. When we're deeply in Stephen's POV, the tone is radically different from that of Jack's segments, the observations different, etc, and then suddenly, counterpoint, we slide along the same orthagonal link into the mind of a watching crewman and see Jack from the outside, or STephen from the outside, and our view is corrected...we understand that what Stephen or Jack perceived as truth is only their truth, but not Truth.

It seems to me that that can be so elegantly done in omni, without sacriticing any intimacy or immediacy.


You know, part of the problem is that when I write tight POV, I write even my third person in a voice--every character has a tone all their own. And I can't do that in omni. The narrative voice supercedes the character voices.

And that's *damned* uncomfortable for me. And distancing as hell, because it's the narrator reporting on the characters rather than the characters reporting on themselves.
It occurs to me that while 3omni does mean losing narrative unreliability, at the same time it adds whole worlds of dramatic irony. This isn't as important if you don't naturally write in ironic modes, but, well, I resemble that remark. It also occurs to me that the decisions made in 3omni, of moving & switching and when not to, is exactly analogous to the decisions of when to present POV thoughts & reactions as narration in 3limited.

I'm having fun, revising a novel in really tight 3limited, after having written 3omni for several years -- what's happening with the other characters has to be in-clued. Since I wrote it by immersion, I know, but my POV doesn't always (especially when she fights with her love interest).

*nod* I usually handle dramatic irony through POV switches... which is the same technique. It's just faster here. And this is complicated by the fact that what I've got going in this book has long bits of third objective, with only brief dips into character thought here and there--as opposed to a head-hopping omni.

I think it's probably closest to, say, LotR... but not QUITE that objective.
I just realized I've never written 3limited with more than one POV. I'm used to falling back to 3omni to handle POV switches. How ... odd. And it points to something to work on next. Especially if I try to write another romance.