January 26, 2009
July 19, 2006
Voint of pew
It’s back to "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" today and we take a look at "Point of View" – or rather, what I learnt about point of view from the book 🙂 So let’s plunge in …
When I first wrote "Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog", I had a real problem with point of view :p I’d have one scene where things would switch between the viewpoints of two different characters. This concept, called head-hopping, is illustrated with a rather compelling example from Larry McMurtry’s "Lonesome Dove" in the opening to the chapter on point of view (POV) in "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers". Since I don’t know if I can reproduce even excerpts from other writers’ works (I don’t believe I can – not without permission …) I will have to rely on a much less effective method to illustrate the point. Basically, I will have to tell you how it works rather than show you (remember show vs. tell? :p)
But I guess I should draw back for a moment and get into the whole point of view thing first (even though anybody who’s a writer already knows all of this to begin with :p). Basically, point of view deals with the viewpoint that you present to the reader. Is the story told from the viewpoint of a particular character as the action unfolds? If so, this would be first-person POV as opposed to a story told from an external perspective looking in on the action taking place, which would be third-person POV. Even in third-person POV, you have to have one point of view character but the POV character can change from scene to scene. When the POV character switches from person to person within a given scene, that’s when head hopping takes place.
Then there is the omniscient POV, which is a whole another ballgame. I don’t think I want to get into that for the moment 🙂 Some books/authorities on writing get into a whole list of POVs. I believe I read somewhere that certain books list twenty-six different flavours of POV. But I believe if you break it all down, the basics come down to first-person, third-person or omniscient.
Of the above, first-person is probably the easiest one to write because it goes something like "I did this, I did that". I believe the one example that sticks most prominently in my mind for first-person POV is R. D. Blackmore’s "Lorna Doone" – that book has such a strong first-person voice that I still remember the voice even after about thirty years of first reading it 🙂 Another very popular example is of course, the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories which are all told in the POV of Dr. Watson.
The advantage to first-person POV? It’s the fact that the narrative voice is very intimate – it’s somebody telling their story to you personally. Third-person POV by comparison feels a lot more distant but the problem with first-person is the fact that you have to sustain the viewpoint character for the length of an entire novel. The character has to be strong and memorable and the reader has to be able to identify with the character enough to keep reading. With third-person, this becomes easier because you can draw on several different characters to provide viewpoints as you go along and there is a bigger pool of story tellers that you can get your reader involved with 🙂 The main thing to watch out for with third-person is head-hopping. Even in third person, readers feel more comfortable going through a scene with one POV character. When you start showing the thoughts and emotions of multiple characters in a third-person POV scene, people are unsure as to which characters eyes they’re witnessing the scene and this in turn tends to draw them out of the story.
There is much more on the subject of point of view but probably one entry is not going to be enough to cover it all. So I will try to continue on the same topic tomorrow 🙂
April 24, 2006
Sometimes, when you go hunting for something, (not snipe :p) you find something much more interesting 🙂 For instance, a few days ago, I was talking about King Asoka of India and in the process of browsing through his Wikipedia entry I happened to stumble upon a reference to the Nine Unknown Men.
Now I’m a conspiracy theory nut (OK, maybe nut is too strong a term – I don’t live and breath conspiracy theories but I do enjoy hearing them and coming up with ones of my own :p) and so I immediately pricked up my ears and went over to the new Wikipedia entry. I must say that the entry kept me enthralled (and immersed) for quite a while – much like the reference to snipe hunting that I linked above. (Incidentally, I don’t know if I’ve heard the term snipe hunt before a couple of days ago but since then I’ve come across it a couple of times and wanted to see what it was all about – good stuff :p)
But back to the Nine Unknown Men. Apparently, the story goes that India actually presents a facade of being a technologically backward/developing country whereas it actually is far more advanced than the other countries in the world. The story continues on to say that this is due to the efforts of King Asoka, who realized that there was a certain kind of knowledge that would always be used for evil in the hands of humanity and so set up the group of Nine Unknown Men to guard this knowledge so as to ensure that it didn’t fall into the wrong hands.
From all I can gather, this story/theory was not started by Indians themselves but rather by a few Europeans who visited India and later wrote about this mysterious cabal. Of course, later, the theory seems to have been picked up by Indians as well and it is said that some prominent Indian scientists are believed to be either part of the Nine or in communication with the Nine regarding various subjects such as microbiology, alchemy, communication and gravitation. In fact, there are quite a few corollary stories such as the one about a secret temple under the Ganges River which cleanses the water of the rive using radiation (or microbes according to another account).
It’s an interesting theory and if you want to write a story, there’s enough material for several books. In fact, the whole story for some reason reminds me of a Philip Jose Farmer novel (or rather, an amalgamation of several). Now that I’ve read about them, the Nine Unknown Men are probably going to turn up in my own writing at one point or another – just not in the same way that they’ve been portrayed before :p
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April 4, 2006
I was trying to remember a creature that was mentioned in an old Alfred Hitchcock horror anthology for a short story I am working on at the moment. I like to litter my stories with references to other characters, events, places etc. and this half remembered story about a guy who is pursued by a creature (or was it a family of creatures?) who can only be seen as movement from the corner of your eyes seemed strangely apt for this particular story. Only trouble was, all that I can remember is that the story was from an anthology which might have been called "Stories That Scared Even Me". That anthology name is correct since I looked it up but I couldn’t find the story in the table of contents for that anthology – at least, I didn’t find a name that rang a bell 🙁
Since I couldn’t find the exact creature I wanted, I decided to widen my search and simply look up mythological creatures in the hope of hitting upon the same creature while searching from a different angle. I didn’t succeed there either but I did dig up a lot of information on something that had interested me a lot in days gone by – cryptozoology. In case you’re not aware of it, cryptozoology is the study of animals which are presumed to exist but for which there is no conclusive proof of existence. This also covers animals which are believed to be extinct but the presence of which is sometimes reported even now. The creatures studied under cryptozoology are referred to as cryptids. Some of the more famous cryptids are the Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.
The problem with cryptozoology has always been the lack of conclusive evidence and the human tendency to believe in anything fantastic. It’s strange but we’ll grab on to a fantastic story about a lost humanoid race skulking around in the jungle much more readily than we’d believe that somebody might be duping us to think that there is such a race. Of course, given that there isn’t enough evidence to conclude one way or another, I guess the best course of action would be to keep an open mind. The world we live in is a strange and wonderful place and as the not so sensational areas of cryptozoology has sometimes proven, there are still creatures in existence that we thought had long perished or we knew nothing about. But does that mean that the Loch Ness Monster is real? I really don’t know …
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April 3, 2006
Laurie received a strange e-mail today. Somebody wrote to her in connection to a forum post she’d made about hairy legs in Sri Lanka :p This guy said that he liked women with hairy legs and so was wondering if he could pay Laurie to arrange a meeting with such an individual 🙂 Now everybody’s preferences are their own and I cannot judge them for what they like – or dislike, but offer to pay a complete stranger to introduce you to another complete stranger? I don’t know … that kind of seems a bit strange. Or maybe this was just a late April Fool’s prank? I have no idea 🙂
Speaking of strange things, we were watching "CSI: NY" yesterday and we came across the concept of BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder) – the desire to have your body parts amputated willingly. Now I’ve heard of some bizarre things in my time but this really takes the cake. This disorder, also known as apotemnophilia (now there’s a word for the day :p) has a counterpart called acrotomophilia – sexual attraction to other people who are missing limbs. So I guess that brings us kind of back to the whole hairy legs thing …
But what I found myself wondering about was whether all these disorders and neurosis and phobias and manias that people have today, did they exist before modern times? Is it just that something new that we’ve invented to obliterate the tedium of life that we have today? Are these the results of the comfortable, humdrum existence that modern life has given us? Or did these conditions exist in olden times when life was so much more harder and everybody had much more serious issues (such as how to get through that day alive) confronting them? Another question I have is whether apotemnophilia is limited to Western nations (or more developed nations) or if this is a global phenomena. I am doing some research on this at the moment but I had to put down these thoughts first …
May 15, 2003
Of etymologies and footnotes …
I started the previous entry (about the poem and the story idea) yesterday but got side-tracked and could not complete the entry till today. However, after I’d published the entry, I suddenly remembered how I’d gotten started on the poem in the first place and while it is by no means an important thing, it might make an interesting footnote if I ever were to write the story and since I probably would have forgotten all about it by then, I decided to jot it down here :p
I was trying to figure out the word to describe somebody who hated both men and women for some reason and was trying to work my way forward from misogynist and androgynist. I thought the latter was the opposite of misogynist because of the prefix andro- though I’ve later come to see that I’m probably in error there though I can’t verify for sure at the moment due to the fact that I am at home right now and don’t have access to my biggest research tool – the Internet :p Anyway, I was amused for a bit by the fact that homogenist wasn’t the term I was looking for (I later realized that the word I was actually looking for was misanthrope :p) and dallied a bit with other prefixes like duo- and bi- (which in my mind became bio for some strange reason – probably to create biogynist which would be similar to duogynist <g>) and so on.
Somewhere along the way though, I went back to androgynist but began working with the andro- prefix. From andro- it was just a step to android and this in turn led to me thinking about the story title of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and from that was born the poem 🙂 Incidentally, I remember thinking of other similar/strange story titles at that time like "Overdrawn at the Memory Banks" (again Philip K. Dick’s I thought at first but turned out to be by John Varley – "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale" is the Philip K. Dick story that I was thinking of …) and "’Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman". The latter story for some reason left me with a very strong impression of a strangely restricted world (even though I don’t even remember the story anymore) and it gives me a sense of a "New Wave" writer – I’m tempted to say almost Moorcock-esque but that’s not who I’m thinking of … – not that any of this has anything to do with what I started out to write about but all of these were things that passed through my mind at that point and so maybe has some relevance :p (Oh yeah, J. G. Ballard was the "New Wave" writer I was thinking of though I’m not even sure if he’s really "New Wave" :p)
Update: I realized later that I was working with the wrong prefix in looking at androgynist as the antonym of misogynist (talk about clueless :p) and then as soon as I figured that, I hit upon the correct antonym – misandry :p
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November 4, 2002
Solipsistic – what the heck is that? :p
Now I meant to write about this today anyway but then Jen went and asked me about it in a comment – but then again, we are like that in that we think and say the same things a lot of the time … Anyway, before I get distracted, back to what I wanted to say about the name of the site … The name has to do with my weird crazy ideas about reality – I sometimes wonder if the world around me is an illusion that I’ve dremt up and I am the only real person and that’s where the name comes from since Solipsism is (according to the dictionary)
- The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.
- The theory or view that the self is the only reality.
Anyway, that explains the Solipsistic part (but we’ll probably go into my idea and theories about reality more some other time :p) and the Meanderings is just because I ramble on and on about so many things …
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