Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Sunday January 18, 2004. The predicted high temperature was 7F (-14C). Nowhere near a record low, but I didn't go outside.

Thoughts on writing:

It may not be the writer who tells a third-person story.

There are stories which begin with the introduction of an outside character who tells the story. If the narrator is also a character in the story proper, it might be told in third person for various reasons. (For example, so that finding out which character is later the narrator can be a surprise.)

In some frame stories, the narrator in the frame isn't connected to the story proper. In _The Bridges of Madison County_, the purpose is to make the story seem more realistic to readers -- who included a high percentage of people not used to reading fiction. (This used to be done a lot more often.) In science fiction, the narrator in the frame might be a historical romance novelist who sets her work in the quieter, simpler times of the 27th century for the enjoyment of her 28th century readers. Or it might be a nonhuman archeologist, working to understand why our species and Earth's next three intelligent species died out.

Sometimes the frame story is left out, but there's still a narrator other than the writer.
The writer may drop heavy clues on the reader, such as continually mentioning that the 23rd century was primitive in ways which the modern reader can't comprehend. Or the clues
might be subtle enough to go unnoticed by readers and editors.

In this kind of story, there's an implied narrator. (In literary theory, third person fiction always has an implied narrator separate from the writer -- whether or not the implied reader or the real reader is aware of this. I'll let my implied literaturologist
do the worrying about whether this is true.)

Here's where I think implied narrators can be useful to the writer: Some people can't write fiction well unless they work from a character's viewpoint. Without implied narrators, these people are limited to first-person and tight-third (looking through one character's eyes) viewpoints. (Second person always has an implied narrator, I would say.)

With an implied narrator, the writer has a character who can tell the story in loose and omniescent variants of third person. And the reader doesn't have to know that this narrator isn't the writer.

As you know, Gil Elvgren is today considered primarily as a notable figure among American pin-up artists of the 1940s and 1950s. However, recent shocking developments suggest that his importance to 20th century art far transcends the narrow genre of the pin-up. The recent discovery of a number of his paintings from a brief early foray into fine art has deeply unsettled the theories of art historians who have been allowed to view his revolutionary work.

For example, Glenn D. Lowry, director of the New York Museum of Modern Art remarked after visiting the Elvgren paintings: “Holy s**t!” Jeremy Strick of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art could only manage: “Heavy, dude.”

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