Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Perspective of a Community

One of the interesting choices Fingerman made with Pariah was to give it a jumping limited third perspective. In a not-so-smart book, a similar effect is often just the laziness of a person who doesn't read but watches movies and television. They simply write the camera's perspective. Dan Brown did this in The DaVince Code. But his wasn't really a limited third jumping perspective, and it wasn't an omniscient third, it was the perspective occasionally just becoming a movie camera. It once followed an item down a sewer that none of the characters could see, but the narrator wasn't an intelligent narrator, rather a movie camera.

Folks, novels aren't something you write because you don't have the knowledge or funds to be a film maker. If you want to make a film, then do it.

(Quick aside: if you love Templar conspiracy, read Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Ecco. It's the ultimate, incorporating basically all of history.)

So why did Fingerman used a technique which has a close cousin that is often associated with bad writing? Community.

As I said in the review post of Pariah, significant portions of it have a novel-in-stories feel to them. So what is the difference between a novel-in-stories and a story collection? The novel-in-stories has some level of unity. In Pariah, there's a unity of community. I know, it rhymes! Fingerman examines a community that's under extreme pressure, so the community itself becomes more important than any single character (well... for about half the book).

Another book that uses this technique is Salem's Lot by Stephen King. That dude lets the perspective jump from character to character a paragraph at a time. But with purpose. He's trying to portray an entire community under attack inside of a normal-length novel. He could have done it chapter by chapter if he had been writing his 1000+ page paper-cubes at the time, which is basically what he did with the unedited version of The Stand.

Another example is Trailer Park by Russell Banks. This is another novel-in-stories, with two heavily themed novellas bookending less-themed short stories all about a trailer park in New Hampshire. The difference here is that the narrator has omniscience and a personality, something rarely done these days. It was my feeling by the end of the book that the narrator was almost like voice of the trailer park, because while sometimes it remained above the fracas, other times it didn't feel impartial. There's a lot of frackin' fracas in this book. It's really good.

There are other reasons. I guess the main thing is to know that you should probably have a reason for this sort of perspective. Portraying a community is one. Morgan Gallagher described another reason when I interviewed her about The Changeling.

So there you go.

I like to give my readers a treat if they've stuck with me for this far into an post. Have you noticed that?

I love Weird Al. But I'll tell you what, there's a new generation of comedy songsters who are creating crazy good music. For instance, the recently posted Roll a D6. Between Flight of the Conchords, The Lonely Island, and Flynt Flossy (aka Charlie Murphy), I barely need to find new "real" music. I can appreciate the cleverness of these songs instead of having to block out the cliched, overwrought emotional lyrics. A lot of people know "Smang It," but this video is amazing:

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