Burnt several many investigative candles over the past year on the topic of narrative point of view. Or, as often asked for formal workshops discussion, who's the narrator?
William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" is one that's tough to answer "who" the narrator is -- plural first person at least, though in terms of narrator identity and narrative authentication therefrom, the answer is sublime: the collective town grape-vine gossip. Even who the narrator is contributes to the overall wholeness and unity of the story. Exquisite.
Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction graphs a number of narrative points of view, a seven column by six row matrix, forty-two possibles total, though deprecates thirteen possibles, plus two more variables, central (viewpoint) character and other characters. The graph aligns to grammatical person, degree of internal access, from an external or internal perspective, subjective or objective, both senses to mean, respectively, subject to interpretation or axiomatic or empirical observation taken as valid and authentic, a global truth, and subject observed and observer of subject, and multiple characters.
Though the graph is rather on the comprehensive side for its detail degree, narrator features like "Rose's" gossip nature do not fit the graph's otherwise tangible features. The gossip is an intangible feature, perhaps as crucial, if not more crucial for appeal value, as that its narrative point of view is plural first person, objective, external, and about two focal characters recounted from a multitude's consensus array. One example worth note.
However, my investigation derives from a want to find a rare if even extant narrative point of view; not per se any within Knight's graph's purview, or without. Rather a narrative point of view which I've encountered only in snapshot parts of narratives, that are so excruciatingly vivid and lively, so energetic yet quiet, so emotionally and morally charged that they at first appear invisibly significant, yet add up to wholeness and unity and exquisite appeal from subtle miens.
Of course, this speaks to intangibles, metaphor, analogy, figurative language generally, and T.S. Elliot's "objective correlatives," though more so those as extended rather than situational features. Like an extended metaphor spans across a narrative parcel or whole, instead of a once and done instance. Symbolism, emblemism, imagery, such and others included, when extended, impart a glue which binds all together into a glorious symphony.
Such language poses the challenge of overshooting reader accessibility, though as well affords opportunity to enhance reader accessibility -- from providing readers grounds for feeling smarter than a narrative due to appreciating and comprehending such features judiciously deployed and their narrative functions. However then, who's the narrator becomes ever more critical than otherwise narratives. First person; close, limited third person; selective omniscient (not included in Knight's graph, barely scratched at possible edges' hints), these seem suited for such a device, ideally, not gimmicky, though, at which "Rose" succeeds.
Short prose is less amenable to selective omniscient; the short form and focal necessity favors singular events, settings, characters, and viewpoints. Selective omniscient, though, is most flexible as regards psychic and viewpoint motility, variable degree and number of viewpoint accesses, includes a vested or detached, or both, narrator persona. First person, though amenable to subjunctive mood access to other characters' internal lives, its selective omniscience is largely hampered by the irrealis mood of first person's access to others' internal lives. Close option, though as well the need for narrator presence limits a first person narrator's access -- possible godlike selective omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence is a severe limitation of and deprecation for first person.
Third person selective omniscient is flexible enough to span the strengths and shortfalls of first person and short fiction, maybe likewise third close, limited, though is by default a degree removed from most possible closest narrative distance, psychic distance, emotional distance, aesthetic distance, etc.
Anyway, altogether, what I'm left with at this time is third person, limited, close main narrative point of view, with selective omniscient auxiliary, yet one crucial start feature is narrative point of view introduction, which the auxiliary in this case is the best practice outset narrative point of view introduced. The start, then, selective omniscient that timely, invisibly transitions to close, limited third.
And there's where I hang on the process's hurdles, an inside looks out perspective of a viewpoint persona who is nonetheless narrated by an invisible selective omniscient narrator from the outside. The narrator reports the received reflections of a focal persona with no overt commentary, yet no less charged and such that readers default to the viewpoint persona's viewpoint. The other narrative points of view are less a challenge than this one, though it's what I want and as yet for which haven't developed enough proficiency.
No models out there in the wilderness are available for emulation or insight -- nowhere. Only glimpses of possibility from rare situations. This narrative point of view, whatever it is, surprise-surprise, is one which readers desire, know it or not, especially prose writer-readers. A deeper type that's as close dramatic distance-wise as first person, as flexible as selective omniscient, and resembles limited, close, yet is akin to aural-visual media's uber-real motion picture recordation, though more strongly charged.
Anyway, at least now I have a working goal defined and parameters, from that knowledge, an end in sight at the exitway of this long tunnel.