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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » A question regarding the narrative of Ender's Game

   
Author Topic: A question regarding the narrative of Ender's Game
SonoranN7
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6/18/12 – Monday.

Mr. Card,

My name is Samuel Mansfield. I’m your proverbial, aspiring writer hoping one day to become something of a professional author: a profession in which all but my mother-- surprisingly enough-- would rather classify as a hobby merely gilded with all the silver linings that would/could fool one into thinking or finding it as something capable of putting food on the table, and keeping all the lights in the house on.
Or whatever.
Regardless of what one’s priorities might be, or what my priorities are—although I think already gave that one a way—the ugly truth of it all, or at least the way I perceive it as being, is that the end result is all but completely polarized either way. It’s not a matter of putting bread on the table, although I guess it could be—is—; assuming the way you look at it starts from the ground up first, and not the other way around. But as important as all the bare necessities might be, or excuse me, are—for the proverbial, aspiring writer such as myself, however typical he might be these days, it’s all a moot point if his work doesn’t get off the ground. It’s sink or swim at its most primal. At its most simple and basic form, minus all the gilding and whatnot.
For the most part, or at least for someone writing fiction (AKA, me), your work will either make it, or wont. Forget “breaking” it, as the expression goes: you can’t break what was never used, or cared for; or even noticed at all. You either get your J. K. Rowlings, or your J. R. Tolkens, Lewis Carols C. S. Lewis-es, or even more recently, someone like Suzanne Collins with the Hunger Games.
Or you become somebody like a Dow Mossman-- and forgive me if you’re not familiar with the name as he’s not very well known, if barely at all—who only wrote his one book, The Stones of Summer, which he pegged all of his hopes on, and poured all of his heart and energy into, and was actually critically-acclaimed by all who actually reviewed it… which is to say, to the best of my knowledge anyways, only one person. And then no one ever heard of it again, and all were none the wiser, except Dow, of course.
To the best of my knowledge, he never wrote again. Instead, he lived with his mother, taking care of her in the house he was raised in, living for all intents and purposes in complete obscurity, somewhere in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and getting by packing boxes in a factory until, as fate would have it, or had had it, he was laid off.
All to put “bread” on the table, right?


Yet in a way, that’s fine. That’s what storytelling is; it’s what makes it great, and extensive to more things than just writing books. So long as one person listens, it perpetuates the story in his memory, or at least prolongs its existence—its lifespan. It’s what makes the endeavor worth it, and worth endeavoring for. Worth working on, and worth looking forward to. But forgive me when I say that, for me, that’s not good enough.

I don’t need to have a fanbase, nor do I want one. I want to tell stories. Good stories. For me, that’s my food for my table, more so than actual food would actually be. Physical sustenance has no precedence here: it’s more important to me than eating. Living without purpose—what would we be if everyone merely prioritized on the bare necessities? If everyone focused on what the body needs rather than what the soul needs?—or whatever it is that drives a person, be it something biological, or otherwise. Short answer is that we’d probably still be hunter-gatherers or something whose existence, and as well, of course, the nature thereof, is equally as… dry; meaningless.
Well, I probably wouldn’t last long as a hunter-gatherer— or even maybe as a writer. Who knows? Not me, or at least not completely. I can’t lie and say I know something will happen for sure when I know anything could happen, even for reasons I would/could never be sure of. Or take into account—or whatever; it doesn’t matter.
What matters is putting bread on the table: the food for the soul. And in this case, that food would be a well written, or just well executed tale, capable of giving me as much of a reason to care as it should others. And that’s why I’m asking you—because your books accomplish just that.

Whether you are truly aware of it or not, and excuse me if I come off as sounding presumptuous, as I’m all but entirely certain that you are aware, the reason why your books are so enticing and are such good reads is because the progression of your plot coincides in your books with development of the characters in which the plot concerns itself with, and who in-turn, concern themselves with it. Or learn to. Or how to want to.
It’s the best way, in my opinion, to craft a story: by starting with the characters, and having their development drive the story forward. They are then the fuel that provides the locomotion, and thus are proven indispensable. Made indispensable, if utilized correctly. It’s how I came up with my own idea for the series I’m writing: a planned trilogy. Fiction, of course, though for the sake of digressing eventually, I’ll try not to say any more about my work than that.
But I have no problem with writing it—with plot and character development—, as it’s practically writing itself as I develop my characters, as well as because I’ve been conditioned over the past twenty years of my life to be able to do this. To do it well, even—or at least, I would hope, to understand it. But to accomplish that end, what I myself concern myself with the most is the language: the unavoidable means to that end, but potentially the medium-- the golden chariot-- that will carry you to that end in a way that none could soon forget as well.
Before I go any further, I’d like to quote a bit of Stephen King from his book, On Writing,
“One night while we were eating Chinese before a gig in Miami Beach, I asked Amy (a fellow writer) if there was any one question that she was never asked during the Q-and-A that follows almost every writer’s talk—that question you never got to answer when you’re standing in front of a group of author-struck fans and pretending you don’t put your pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. Amy paused, thinking over it carefully, and then said, ‘No one ever asks me about the language.’
“…Amy was right: nobody ever asks about the language. They ask the DeLillos and the Updikes and the Styrons, but they don’t ask the popular novelists. Yet many of us proles also care about the language, in our humble way, and care passionately about the art and craft of telling stories on paper. “
So, blocking out all the other questions I’d love to ask, but consequently would be afraid I’d take too much of your time in enquiring about them, or more than I have already, I’d like to keep it simple. Here’s some brevity for you, or as much as I can come up with.


In regards to the narrative, why did you choose to write the Ender series largely in third person, yet with lapses into first-person as well? Typically, this would happen almost always when the narrative became introspective, yet you would also at times change the subject of the narrative during a point in a chapter, and then have that new character go into his own introspection. And these transitions into the introspective breakdown of characters, or the transition from one character being the subject of the narrative to another, and then going introspective with whoever that might/could be—none of this was marked in a way that would be deemed… conventional. Whereas most use italics to do this, or something to that effect, you don’t.

And it really bugged me in a way, at first. Forgive me if I sound trite, but it seemed lazy to me at the time. But now it seems practical, in the sense of writing it: practical for the author, to help keep things flowing. But most importantly, it works. For the reader, at least—but hopefully for me too.

Could you please tell me why you chose to write the series in this style? Did you ever try anything different? Any different method of establishing a narrative that would be consistent throughout the entirety of the series? Has anyone else made a big deal about it, or at least made an inquiry as to why you chose to write the books that way, in that style of narration?—be it your editor, your wife, or even your editor’s wife—or your wife’s editor. Or even Carmen Sandiego.
Your response would be most critical in providing me my own insight into how I wish to tackle my own fiction, and to fill all the countless lines in between the margins.
Even with nearly 70 or so pages of my first book written so far, I still can’t tell if all that remaining empty space is more inviting than it is intimidating. Or even vice versa.
Maybe a bit of both?
Although probably a bit more of the prior than the latter—probably.
But I would love your opinion of narrative and the method of providing your work one that works before I set my own narrative into stone, and bind myself to its yoke, for better or worse.
Please, if it’s not too much, your opinion would move mountains—narrative mountains!
The best kind!

Again, I appreciate your time,
Please do not feel obligated to respond if you don’t want to: it’s your prerogative, sir.
Thank you Mr. Card, I love your work, you’ve done science fiction literature much credit!
Have a good one, and I hoped you had a wonderful Father’s Day this past Sunday!
Thank you!

-Sam Mansfield

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Jeff C.
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If you look on the website under the writing lessons tab, OSC has quite a bit of information and personal opinions on writing. They're really useful and you may find some of what you're looking for there.
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aretee
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He's also written a book called Characters and Viewpoints which can be very helpful in writing and I have used it myself.

http://www.amazon.com/Elements-Fiction-Writing-award-winning-ebook/dp/B004GUSDIG/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1?_encoding=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

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Szymon
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hobby merely gilded with all the silver linings that would/could fool one into thinking or finding it as something capable of putting food on the table.

Wow, you really wanted to impress the guy.

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trance
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Under his writing lessons, what you're looking for is, "hot and cold third person."
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trance
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Also, while you wrote a novel for a simple question in hopes of admiration, or something to that effect, a busy person wouldn't waste the time. A direct approach might have served you better. If you were looking to impress a best-selling author with a wordy summary of your commonly-shared dream, don't call hin lazy-nor question his writting style. There's a reason why YOU'RE writting to HIM. [Roll Eyes]
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odouls268
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quote:
Although probably a bit more of the prior than the latter—probably.
But I would love your opinion of narrative and the method of providing your work one that works before I set my own narrative into stone, and bind myself to its yoke, for better or worse.
Please, if it’s not too much, your opinion would move mountains—narrative mountains!
The best kind!

Um...Holy crap.

If I wasn't 100% certain that OSC needed a bodyguard before...

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jer1911
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quote:
Originally posted by odouls268:
quote:
Although probably a bit more of the prior than the latter—probably.
But I would love your opinion of narrative and the method of providing your work one that works before I set my own narrative into stone, and bind myself to its yoke, for better or worse.
Please, if it’s not too much, your opinion would move mountains—narrative mountains!
The best kind!

Um...Holy crap.

If I wasn't 100% certain that OSC needed a bodyguard before...

Yeah Orson old boy.. Better get some security. lol [Smile]
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Scott R
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quote:
In regards to the narrative, why did you choose to write the Ender series largely in third person, yet with lapses into first-person as well? Typically, this would happen almost always when the narrative became introspective, yet you would also at times change the subject of the narrative during a point in a chapter, and then have that new character go into his own introspection. And these transitions into the introspective breakdown of characters, or the transition from one character being the subject of the narrative to another, and then going introspective with whoever that might/could be—none of this was marked in a way that would be deemed… conventional. Whereas most use italics to do this, or something to that effect, you don’t.
No, and he doesn't need to write in italics, either, to help his audience understand that these are the character's thoughts. One of OSC's most effective tools is a thorough understanding of how to utilize deep-penetration POV.

(I've never heard of hot-and-cold-third person)

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