Archive for October, 2012

Interpretations

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

The optimist thinks the glass is half full.

The pessimist thinks the glass is half empty.

The conservative thinks the glass ought to make more out of its life.

The liberal thinks the glass is going through a midlife crisis.

Wipe that Smirk off Your Face

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

The news channels are playing this game after every Presidential debate. A group of people sit around and try to pontificate about whether or not, at a particular time in the proceedings, the debaters were wearing a smirk of a smile on their faces. Apparently the quality of the expression on their features goes a way-long way toward determining whether or not the voting viewers will decide these candidates are Presidential.

The channel will set up a really long table, absolutely filled with a phalanx of the best political analysts you can find out there. Of course the channel will do its best to make sure that the “balance” of these people will be fair between conservative facial feature analysts and liberal facial feature analysts. These people will go into laborious detail about every lip twitch, brow furrow, sideways glance and raising of an eyebrow. (Of course, we all know what it means when they raise the left eyebrow.) From what I understand, the final determination of these panels can be best defined by the following two examples.

Candidate #1: “I have a really great plan for this economy.” (Smile.) This is a very well thought out plan that should have this country booming in a few months.

Candidate #2 “I have a really great plan for this economy.” (Smirk.) This plan obviously sucks.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but wouldn’t it be a good idea for these news channels to get together a panel of experts to discuss exactly what the plans are all about?

I Say – Yeah but to Who?

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

When writing a story that’s in the first person point of view, who’s the narrator talking to? I mean, when the character starts off the book (as in Visions of Sugar Plums) “My name is Stephanie Plum,” who’s being addressed?

There are instances where the author identifies the audience. Often there is a silent character to whom the narrator is talking. It can be a bartender, confessional priest, psychoanalyst, or police detective. Dr. Watson explains that he is writing a journal describing Sherlock Holmes’s adventures. There’s even a few times in Narnia where C.S. Lewis directly addresses his young audience, although in that case, he’s becoming that seldom-used thing of the first person omniscient.

However, the sticky point comes up in most first-person narratives: who’s being addressed, and how directly does the narrator address them?

You can start with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum example above. It highlights one of the stickiest areas relative to audience: exposition. When the narrator is explaining how (s)he got to this point in life, how does the author go around addressing the audience?

In part it has something to do with the involvement of the reader. It’s like the fourth wall in theater. When a play takes place in an interior, three walls of the location are built as the set. The fourth wall is imagined to be along the foot of the stage, toward the audience. A play is said to be realistic when the actors play within the set as though the fourth wall actually exists. The audience is allowed to peek in through the invisible wall to observe the lives of the characters. Some plays are more presentational. An actor will turn to the audience to deliver an aside; Hamlet will soliloquize to the audience.

Is the reader of the book outside that fourth wall? Does (s)he observe the story on the page? Or is (s)he drawn into the book and involved with the characters who are swirling around hir?

And what happens when the narration includes such catch phrases as, “Would you believe?” or, “Can you imagine?” That second-person pronoun, you, is there. but does that mean that the narrator is directly addressing the reader? Or is that part of an internal monologue being addressed to oneself?

It’s a good question. One I haven’t seen entirely answered.