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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Chapter 17 - The Girl

   
Author Topic: Chapter 17 - The Girl
Denevius
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[ March 29, 2014, 09:30 PM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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extrinsic
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You know where I am about what's not working for me with past perfect tense and to have used in to be cases generally ("he'd" three times that I feel could be more dynamically constructed sentences' subjects), negation statements, and confusing subordinating conjunctions like "when."

However, having read a number of this novel's chapter openings, and reflected at length on what works for me and what doesn't, in terms of strengths and shortcomings as I see them in the sense of artful mechanical style, craft, voice, and audience appeal, overall, the pattern I see is one of narrator reflection being the source through which the narrative is received by readers. That's a degree removed from the immediate moment and place of the unfolding action. Not per se in and of itself working or not working for me, but at this time my overall and first-tier impression of shortcoming and drawback for the novel's arrangement.

If that is the intent, narrator as the novel's center through which readers receive the novel, then as reader, my alignment and readers' alignment generally, ideally associates and identifies with the narrator. The shortcoming I see from that is open narrative distance, though at times portraying closer narrative distance with viewpoint character perspectives. Although aesthetic distance may at times be close, I feel that narrator persona distance also is too on the remote side for a best practice.

In short, I don't know who or what I'm following as bystander or participant as reader. I need a seat upon which to sit, be that from within the mind of a character or narrator, or on one of their shoulders, or a spy eye camera. I'm left with the writer's desk--farthest possible aesthetic removal from the narrative's internal reality--as the only place from which I have a vantage into this novel, one which is bumpy from at times longing for an anchor and at times thinking I've found one only to have it taken away and given another one and again and again. The reading spell of feeling transported into the narrative's illusion of reality and participation mystique for me doesn't emerge.

Though I come to this novel and its parts through fragment portions, and come initially with an automatic willing suspension of disbelief, my willing suspension of disbelief is challenged at every moment. That is a deal breaker in my sense of the implicit writer-reader contract. The law broken: Do not interrupt the reading spell.

I understand an organizing structure intent is the episodic form. I just don't feel the dramatic flow orients on a particular central dramatic complication, either an event, dramatic persona, or setting of circumstance. A dramatic persona can be a narrator as well as/or a character, even an object or setting, so long as the persona is vested in the complication's complication, efforts to satisfy the complication, and the complication's outcome. A dramatic persona is who, where, or what readers align with.

The way William Thackeray Makepeace manages the challenges of his episodic novel's, Vanity Fair, central alignment is through use of narrator commentary expressing an attitude about a value system, social code, more, belief, of the era depicted. At every turn, the narrator's commentary reminds readers that rigid conformance to class stratification principles is an important and noble social policy, otherwise chaos and great harms will befall all. Of course, Makepeace's extended ironic ambiguity expresses otherwise. An underlying subtext meaning is that dynamic society takes and accommodates all kinds. That's the novel's intangible but stable moral message, though, not the overt, tangible one.

I don't cite that novel's example to imply this novel in any way seek that degree of depth, but to recommend that if a narrator is needed to be a novel's center upon which readers accompany the action as bystander-participant, as is the case for episodic novels with multiple characters under observation or as observing viewpoint characters, then the narrator's identity introductions, development, and ongoing presence is essential for preserving the reading spell.

For a narrator as a center through which readers receive an action, or all the action, the narrator's physical appearance description is not necessarily crucial, nor even the narrator's anything per se, except the narrator's attitude toward subjects, topics, objects, characters, settings, events, anything and everything, and from especially an attitude toward a value system with which readers either identify with or object to. That to me, for me as reader, editor, publisher, or critic, is fundamental for this type of episodic structure approach. I don't see it yet, but that recognition from finishing the draft and then its realization in the text may come.

This is for me a voice shortcoming, doesn't work for me, in that the narrator's emotional and moral attitude doesn't come through strongly enough to determine if I like, trust, and respect the narrator's account of events, or if I'm at odds with the narrator. The portrait of dramatic events overall may be there. I don't feel the emotional meaning of the portrait evokes what it ought to for best practices purposes. Yet, fortunately, that's what revisions is for. Raw draft: craft--content and structure organization put down on the page. Reworking: copyediting ironing out craft glitches and realizing the narrative voice. Final edit: proofreading for mechanical style.

I bothered for years attempting to understand what in writing discussion is meant by "a fully realized narrative." I finally found a satisfactory answer in Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction; that is, a narrative that accomplishes a consistent illusion of reality, the reader spell of participation in a narrative's mystique, even if the reality of the narrative portrays fantastical features.

[ February 15, 2014, 03:12 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
However, having read a number of this novel's chapter openings, and reflected at length on what works for me and what doesn't, in terms of strengths and shortcomings as I see them in the sense of artful mechanical style, craft, voice, and audience appeal, overall, the pattern I see is one of narrator reflection being the source through which the narrative is received by readers.
I *think* I understand what you're saying here. It sounds like a variation of what a professor of mine used to always asked. Who's speaking? Exactly who's saying, "Two hundred years a model employee"? Me, the writer commenting on a character's situation? An omnipotent narrator within the world of the story who's privy to the thoughts of a range of characters, but not every character mentioned? Or Koh Dong Su thinking this of himself. In the way it reads, I can see how inconsistency is borne as it seems as if the answer is all three. It's Dong Su reflecting on how two centuries of getting it right on the job is now falling apart, but the way it's written, it's not exactly framed as if it's him thinking. So then it kind of seems like an omnipotent narrator, yet why would this narrator only stick to one head in each chapter? Which makes it seem as if it's writer commentary intruding on the prose.

I suppose I only have one response. In the rewriting/revising of this over time, it'll probably change and become more consistent.

quote:
a narrative that accomplishes a consistent illusion of reality,
I don't know about you, but I find this increasingly impossible as a reader because I'm always critiquing what I'm reading now (and have been for years). I can't take off that hat anymore and just submerge myself in a story. Like, I finished reading "Ancillary Justice", and in my head all I've done is broken it down into a list of pros and cons. Pros: lots of interesting concepts. Cons: a discordant narrative that hit the pitch wrong way too often and left a lot unexplained or poorly explained.

[ February 15, 2014, 07:04 PM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:

I don't know about you, but I find this increasingly impossible as a reader because I'm always critiquing what I'm reading now (and have been for years). I can't take off that hat anymore and just submerge myself in a story. Like, I finished reading "Ancillary Justice", and in my head all I've done is broken it down into a list of pros and cons. Pros: lots of interesting concepts. Cons: a discordant narrative that hit the pitch wrong way too often and left a lot unexplained or poorly explained.

My reading experiences were like that from 2003 through 2008. I slogged onward, distraught by the loss of immersion; reading for entertainment, my lifelong passion, companion, pastime blasted and darkened like the nova extinguishment of the sun; so that I could at least develop my writing skills. I broke through by developing yet stronger reading skills.

Writing study, grammar study, and critical theory study--critique--were the stepping stones that crossed the darkened raging river. My reading experiences are now all the better than they had ever been priorly. Not reading rate, that's remained the same swift pace as before, but comprehension: deeper, stronger, clearer, brighter, more lively. It's just getting better moving forward.

One kernel essence I developed through discussion here at Hatrack became the pivot of it all; realization of the proxy reality within any given narrative. If a narrator is the source of the received narrative, for example, then through that persona's reality I am secondary to I am a proxy to the action. That persona's opinion of the action is the one I accompany by proxy, responsibly knowing full well it is but one persona's opinion position.

I sample vicariously the proxy reality's authentication of that persona's opinions, emotions, feelings, value systems, sights, sounds, touches, smells, tastes, evaluations, and judgments, no matter whether--however artfully they are--the expressed opinions and such align with mine or not and yet I think consciously and critically for myself all the while. Glorious!

Edited to add: You do understand what I'm saying. More importantly, you're aware of your understanding's import and at least have a strategy for managing its development in revisions, if not a powerhouse of strategies. I'm particularly impressed that you appreciate how character, narrator, perhaps implied writer, and writer voices may overlap and either row forward together or clash with each other and go nowhere.

[ February 15, 2014, 09:46 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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