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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Technique problem

   
Author Topic: Technique problem
TheUbiquitousMrLovegrove
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This is a sentence from a story I'm writing.
The view point is third limited, tell me which way works better.

The way I wrote it.
"Deep in the distance, just audible above the water, Gerio heard a sound like a constantly droning tuning fork."

The way I thought about it.
"A sound like a droning tuning fork came from deep in the distance, faintly ringing."

The question is.. When do I use "Gerio heard"
"Gerio felt" "Gerio saw" ect, as opposed to just writing out the action and not filtered it through the viewpoint character? Which is better? Should I switch it up like I do?

How about this... the idea of a tuning fork, is a perfect description of how this thing sounds.. but as I wrote it, I thought... this takes place in a rural, medievel setting, so would the character even know what that is? Is it a good idea to drag out an comparative explantation like "...sound like the tuning fork he had seen the old ministrals using in the city."


[This message has been edited by TheUbiquitousMrLovegrove (edited September 16, 2000).]


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Albatross
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I like it the way you wrote it. "Deep in the distance" plunges me into a sense of space and time in a way "A sound like...." does not. I feel like I am with Gerio rather than a meaningless observer. In your first sentence, I am involved.

As for the tuning fork... Perhaps earlier in the story you could have Gerio encounter a tuning fork? I have no idea what the rest of your story is like, but if there is an opportunity to work in a tuning fork, why not?

Good luck. I love the simile.


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TheUbiquitousMrLovegrove
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Thanks for the advice, but the bigger question I'm looking for an answer to is whether it is better writing to filter action through the senses of your character or state the actions directly as they effect your character.

It's seems like a trade off to me, so I switch alot between the two...


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jackonus
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Okay, I think #1 is better, but not because of any POV issue. It's more like active vs passive voice that swayed my opinion.

My more preferred version would be:

A sound rang in the distance. To Gerio it sounded like the drone of a tuning fork.

It is active, and gives you the two separate POVs right next to one another. I'm betting 99.9% of the people here will hate this alternative, but It's exactly what I like in 3rd person OMNISCIENT. The character doesn't have to do things like "muse" for us so we get his opinions. (A la: "that sounds like the drone of a tuning fork," Gerio mused). YUCK.

I LOVE an all seeing narrator. It NEVER bothers me in the least. And switching from a POV outside or inside the character is no big deal either. For me.

I've never sold anything, though, so I defer to others who have done so and actually may worry about this issue and resolve it to the satisfaction of publishers.


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Survivor
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No, "A sound rang in the distance. To Gerio it sounded like the drone of a tuning fork." is still third person limited omniscient.

We don't actually have to have "Gerio heard/ saw/thought/felt/remembered/mused" in every sentence. Once you estabish the POV, it's pretty much set. An occasional reminder if the penetration isn't deep is probably necessary, but can be slipped in just whenever it's natural, like when someone else just did something and you are observing Gerio's reaction.

Deep POV identification--like what Cherryh (thanks to KDW for explaining the name so that I can remember how to spell it) usually writes--almost never needs such tags at all, you never forget for a moment who's the POV character. But even if you are writing shallow POV, you never need to subordinate sentance impact or structure to noting the identity of the POV character once you've established it.

That's the beauty of good POV handling, your reader never wonders who's POV it is, so you never have to point it out.

And about the tuning fork, musicians in the middle ages didn't need or use them. They tuned their instuments by ear, and they sang in their own key. Tuning forks didn't become necessary until large ensembles playing written music made absolute pitch a requirement for musical instumentation.

Even if there were tuning forks around in the middle ages though, it would be a mistake to try and justify his having heard one. Don't make the reader question your POV by being eager to explain irrelevent points. And don't try to stick a reference to it elsewhere in the story, since it's both unrealistic in this case and a bad idea generally.

Never try to write something into a story that good style won't allow. Never recast a character to express your opinions instead of his own, never have a character go off explaining something for the benefit of the reader, and never have the character become conscious of or speculate about how the audience is different from him (you know what I'm talking about, "so and so tried to imagine how his actions would seem to a person from a culture that made no distinction between a avenger and a murderer...").

Never write a scene that serves no purpose other than to justify including in the text something that you have been told does not work.

Explication is bad because it is out of character. A character that would take something for granted should never be made to comment on it, or even hear comments about it from someone else unless there is a totally separate justification for the other character to say it. A character that comes from our world (and you have to have a valid story reason for that person to be there) is one reason such an explication might occur.

My advice on the tuning fork thing is to describe how the sound seems to him rather than referring to a sound that we are familiar with. When you say "tuning fork" I think of a particularly boring sound. But to a person who rarely or never has heard such a sound, it would be quite remarkable. There is a shimmering, ethereal quality about the perfection of the pitch, never hinting that it had ever a beginning or will ever have an end, pure as nothing in the world is pure, without a hint of origin or destiny...to a person that has never heard such a sound, it is an experience utterly like what I might experience if I heard it.

I remember a particularly amusing passage in Midshipman Hornblower, when he first goes with a boarding assault on another ship. He hears this sound from the deck, while he's still in the boat, and for the life of him he can't figure out what it is. It sounds like a tinker fixing a pot, or something. Just this dinky, ordinary noise.

So he gets on deck and sees that the sound that he couldn't identify is the ringing of swords, and for a moment he can't even believe it. He's like, "this is the 'clash of steel' that I've heard of?" And when he thinks that, you imagine what he must have thought the sound of swordplay would be, like a hammer beating a red hot iron against the anvil or something I imagine. And you're totally empathetic. The 'tink' 'tink' and occasional metal scraping noise of a sword fight really doesn't sound anything like "the clash of steel", even though that's just what it is. You also understand, in a moment, how different it is to never actually see or hear the portrayals of action that we are used to.

Anyway, this post has long ago been carried away...should have quit while I was awake...


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srhowen
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A sound rang in the distance. To Gerio it sounded like the drone of a tuning fork.

I like the above one. You get the sound---hmmm he ponders and then he remebers the other thing that it sounded like. That's the feeling I get anyway.

as to the tuning fork--have you ever gone to a midievel fair? To me the tuning fork sound might come out of a black smith's shop---or from the Knights sharpening swords-- that ting of the sharpening stone going across steel.

SRHowen


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jackonus
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I bought a bamboo saxophone at a mideaval faire. Hazaa!!

Come to think of it, when I play it, sounds exactly like a blacksmith hammering on a horseshoe. Or the drone of a distant tuning fork.


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Survivor
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Hah! I'm having trouble mentally imagining that...

Anyway, I'd think that the sound of a cathedral bell, after the clapper has stopped but while the bell is still ringing, particularly if heard from a distance, would be the closest thing.

But still not very close for all of that. The reason that a tuning fork is a fork is so that the vibrations of the tines balance each other out, meaning that you can hold it by the handle and not dampen out the sound. Even a bell has a significant drop off (part limitation and part designed function, they wanted to be able to have the bells stop ringing once they stopped pulling on the clapper), and most other medival impliments don't even come close. If you want it to be the sound of a tuning fork that the reader hears, then just say that. But be aware that if it's the effect that hearing such a completely strange and unearthly sound would have on the character, you hardly want to mention a tuning fork because then it will become obvious to the reader once you begin explaining how he's never heard this kind of sound before. And that only works if you are doing a narrated third person limited omniscient, which is a slightly intrusive style that tends to divorce the audience from the character. And it's chock full of "he thought to himself"s and "to him it seemed that"s and like phrases that are less frequent in third person limited omniscient.

My take on it is that you should just write what it sounds like to the character. Forget cinematic surround sound THX (tm) digical audio reproduction. How often do you try to specify the particular RGB breakdown of a color or the molecular composition of a smell? Well, if you're writing in HTML, I guess that you do have to give the RGB breakdown, but...

Well, to get back to the original point, I would have said. "From deep in the distance, just audible above the water, came a constant..."

There is no reason to reassert that Gerio is the observer if you have properly established that in the mind of the reader. You'll give commentary on his internal reaction to the percieve sound in a line or two anyway, unless you're a goober head . Dip into the character's head whenever something happens that they need to react to, and there will no confusion about who's POV you're following.


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