Archive | February, 2013

What is this, anyway?

27 Feb

Something strange is happening in the world of writing fiction. I have to admit I don’t get it.

Some of you may know I’m also a book reviewer, so I frequently end up with books that I might not ordinarily choose for myself to read. I mean, I do get to choose them, it’s just that a particular book might never have appeared in my reach prior to the book review list that is issued twice a month. It does make for eclectic reading. For instance the last batch of four I received included one reissued private investigator type book (A Matt Helm story, if anyone cares,); a non-fiction book about Jane Austen; a contemporary romance novel and a novel about Southern womanhood.

I started reading one of these shortly after the package arrived, and on page two came a strange occurrence. The book started in first person, which is fine with me. I happen to like first person. But then, in the middle of a paragraph (I mean, the paragraph began in first person) the point of view shifted to omniscient! Whoa! And then it shifted back again. I think the narrator is actually the main female character, but if she wasn’t there, how could she know her best friend called the narrator’s husband because she was in trouble? Sorry about those ambiguous pronouns, but I’m trying not to name names in this instance.

This is the fourth book I’ve read in the last 8 months (three of them commercially published) in which the point of view shifted around. The first one, (part of a series by a very well-respected mystery writer) has always been in first person. But now the main character is aging and has employed a wise-cracking youngster who needed his own point of view. So, after much cogitation, the author decided to alternate viewpoints AND chapters. It’s not strictly one-for-one, but each chapter is identified as being one or the other of the two men. This makes it very easy to keep track of, and the voices are entirely different. I thought it a masterful job.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read one that again had specific chapters all in the voice of choice, depending on who was doing the reporting. It worked, and wasn’t overly distracting.

Over the weekend I proof-read a book prior to submission, in which again, the viewpoints changed between first person and omniscient, but were pretty orderly by chapters. No mixing in between.

So while very strange indeed, this particular tactic isn’t exactly new to me. But this latest one really threw me! Changing in the middle of a paragraph? That’s beyond the usual ‘head-hopping’ in my opinion. Of course, I’ve only made it to page 4 at this point, so I don’t know if this will continue or not. But is this a new trend or what? Do readers find it difficult to follow? I’d certainly like to know your opinion!  Please feel free to comment below?  Thanks!

Do we become what we read?

13 Feb

A recent blog post was titled ‘What are you writing?’  Seemed simple to me, but a good friend who usually proofs these things for me was in a hurry and mis-read the title, seeing it as ‘You are what you write.’

Oh, dear. What a can of worms that would open, right?  If that were true? ARE we what we write? I certainly hope not. I DO hope it’s only that some of us have more active and inventive imaginations than others of us.

For instance, the above mentioned person says:  I write historical romantic fiction, and yes, that’s me to a T. I wallow in the past and am at my happiest writing about it. I become my own heroines and through them I live all the things I’d long to experience, with the sort of hero I wish we had around now.

Oh, yeah! That’s me, too, although those words are not mine. But I can absolutely identify with them.

So, then, is the person who writes techno-thrillers with automatic weapons and so forth (on every page!) really a super-violent person underneath what might be a Mr. Milquetoast exterior? Is that person really dreaming of living in an alternate world where he/she is KING of the world? Probably not. At least I hope not!

What about those persons who write primarily for children? Do they wish they were still or could once again somehow be a child?

I rather think not in either case. I prefer to think that each of these authors is really a sensible, talented and creative person who can easily transport us by the value of their words to a far distant place that we might not ever have considered visiting – not even for a split second!

And what about science fiction? Now, there I can see a possibility. A century ago there were explorers a-plenty. Unfortunately these days, not so much.  However, not everything has yet been discovered or every place unveiled in front of the world. But, to be sure, there are fewer and fewer of these still secret places left any more. In the words of Star Trek:  ‘To boldly go where no man has gone before?’

On the other hand, I can readily believe that a person totally dedicated to historical settings (especially the genteel side of history) might wish very much to inhabit a less pushy place in the world. One where there was still some semblance of civility and manners – else why would PBS’s Downton Abbey be so popular. Or for that matter, any of the books of Jane Austen. Underneath the sweetness, she does have some good snark going, or haven’t you noticed?

There are authors who write in more than one genre. Hmmm. Wonder what a psychiatrist would make of that one? That old proverb probably says it better than I can: Variety is the spice of life.  Well, maybe.

I can only add that my imagination runs overtime, but generally in the same old areas that it’s occupied for the last several decades. Occasionally (through a book, of course!) I am intrigued by a new setting. But then, I wander backwards again. At times, I stumble over something new and/or different, and I mumble: Now why didn’t I think of that?

But at least I found that book. And that’s good. I still have my boundaries, and you have yours, and that’s good, too. The terrific variety of books available now,  primarily because of self-publishing and Print-on-Demand, is a great service to man-and womankind.  Someone else once said: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and that’s very true, too. So, just grab another book and keep on learning. And if you’re a writer, too, then write something! That’s the answer, after all.  Nothing happens until someone writes something!

Well, what are you waiting for?  WRITE!!!

Please feel free to pass this along to your writing pals. And, if you have questions or comments, please write to me at: bookmechanic@gmail.com