Monday, May 3, 2010

Pancakes, the shakes, and point of view

Last Thursday was spent in Nighthawk Diner getting the shakes over some very fine pancakes. Not only because the pancakes came with a bottomless cup of coffee, you know, where the waiter keeps showing up with a steaming pot to top off your poison.

And not only (but mostly, I'll admit) because it was the day before Magnus' surgery (which felt very dramatic at the time, but went very well. The surgeon's description of what they had done made my belly churn, and yet Magnus seemed happier, scraped eyelids and open sores notwithstanding, than before the procedure. Which goes to show how much pain he was in before, I guess. What an incredibly brave little robot fighter).

It was also because I suddenly decided to wrestle with all sorts of giant writing monsters, all arising from this question: Is the point of view that I've chosen for the story really the right one?

So far (and we're getting pretty close to the climax, here), I've kept true to a third person, omniscient, semi-limited point of view, where you get the story from Lin's perspective. By semi-limited I mean that the you've admission to Lin's thoughts, but her thoughts only, except for a very few instances where the narrator quietly comments on what she does not do.

LIKE THIS: 'Lin waded out of the huge drift around the empty house and used her mittens to brush snow off her dress and tights while she hurried to the railing at the rim of the hill. From there she had a fair view of Sølveros. Some neighbourhoods remained hidden in the folds of the town, but the broad and busy Main Street was easy to spot, and using that as a guide line, she quickly located Peppersnap Nook and the narrow roof of Theodor's house. She would need to backtrack a few blocks from the statue square. Quite pleased with herself, she ran into the lamplight and down from the hill. She did not look back.'

Here 'She did not look back' is added to give the reader a sense that perhaps Lin should have looked back. Perhaps she missed something important. Perhaps she wasn't alone on the hill. Which of course is not Lin's reflection, or she would have turned around. There are a few other examples of this as well, for instance where Lin and Gwen fail to see boot tracks in the snow outside the window of the Waffle Heart.

So, not entirely true to the limited third, but not so far off. And will that do? Should these suggestions be weeded out, or will that detract from the suspense? Or perhaps I should go further, perhaps I should even include passages that tell the story from other characters' point of view, to broaden the lense (I could show stuff that Lin and Gwen couldn't possibly know) and cut exposition (I could show what happens instead of having characters tell of it afterwards).

LIKE THIS: 'Gwen watched Lin stumble through the gallery door and listened breathlessly as her footsteps raced down the stairwell and into the depths of the Observatory. Then she turned around and faced the bird gliding towards her through the hall, beak open, black claws glinting in the blue mirror light, giant eye locked on her. She snuck a quick peek down to the now quiet archive floor. Yup, still a horribly long way down, plenty long enough to crush a brittle mouse bone or two. - Well, she thought as she jumped onto the banister and threw herself into the air, arms flailing despite herself, - I did always want to try my hand at flying.
INSTEAD OF: '- I waited until I knew you were well on your way, then I threw myself off the balcony to meet Teriko mid-flight.'
See what I mean? It seems tempting, but if I do decide to do this, all sorts of question arise.

1. Which characters should we 'dip into'? I have a few mystery characters, where you don't know if they are good or bad, or what they're really up to, such as Theodor, Trasher and Eleonora. I should obviously (?) stay away from them. But, barring Gwen, these are the most prominent characters in the story, except for Figenschou, the villain, and I don't think I should let you into his head. Or should I? And how about the really, really bad villain, the one who is behind it all? Do you want to know what he is up to? Or is he better glimpsed, hinted at, at the very end, as real evil finds its way into Sølver? Do the characters need to be important to borrow the microphone, or do they just need to be where something important happens?

2. How much rewriting will it require? Is it a good idea to start fidgeting with this now, or do I need to push through to the end before I tear everything apart? The very reason I started thinking about it in the first place, is that it felt as if I could make the end less laden with '- But what happened to you? - Oh, you'll never believe it, first I...' and fuller of juicy bits. And there are so many threads to secure. I'm daunted, and this seems an out. An easy, ill-advised out that will cost too much, perhaps? Or a solution that will make my story richer and better?

3. Will this be too much for the reader? The textbook says to stick with your point-of-view. And yet Laini pulls off multiple POW-shifts with braveur. Rowling does it. Tolkien does it, even slipping into the POW of a random fox in The Lord of the Rings (as Frodo, Sam and Pippin slip out of Hobbiton, if you're wondering). (By the way, nice crowd, huh, L?).

Sigh. The shakes, I tell you. Any input?


Li:ne said...

Well, to conclude our talk about this, I think you should.
There are several reasons, and the most important one is that you are stellar at describing scenes.

camilla said...

as you very well know, my dear, I haven't read your story yet, but I agree with Line.
I think you should go for a shifting point of view.
it makes stuff even more interesting, and I bet you'd do it sooooo incredibly awesome, like in the example in this post. loved it!!! LOVED it I tell you!
oh, and btw, I am very relieved that Magnus is doing better and the surgery did the trick (fingers crossed!)