Monday, June 18, 2007

The God Module

Next week I'll begin taking "The God Module," a course on point of view with Andrew Altschul. From the course description:
All the elements of fiction writing are affected by the author’s choice of point of view. What information can be told and what must be shown indirectly, or hidden? What is the reader’s relationship to the main character(s)? Is the given narrative a reliable account or is it guided by a hidden agenda?

Point of view has been a nightmare for me in my novel. I started over 4-5 times, all from different points of view. I finally settled on "omniscient," which I now know, from reading Jonathan Culler, is a non-category. (See his article "Omniscience" in Narrative 12:1.) Especially if you confuse the author with the narrator, which it's very difficult not to do, you have to ask: don't all authors know everything about all their characters? Is it more a matter of what they choose to reveal? Do we ourselves posit a narrator where there is one, because we have such a strong need for a human presence of some kind? That's been the hardest part of all: do I always need to be in a particular character's head, and if not, do I need to have a narrator with a distinct personality (a la Fielding or even Henry James)? How do I jump from head to head without confusing people and without constantly relying on "he thought," "she thought" tags?

I've been studying The Corrections again to see how Franzen does it. I'm still not sure. He does spend a lot of time in close third person, with the different main characters, but he'll slip in little sparks of other characters' povs in the midst. Also he goes places where the current pov character is not physically present (the kitchen with Mom and Denise, while Chip, the pov character, is in another room). Also I think the very first section is a kind of double point of view, mingling the father and the mother; sometimes they come un-twined but then they merge again.

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