Msnowe's Blog

Cutthroat Narrative

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on January 7, 2010

Don't Scratch

James Wood says in “How Fiction Works” that the author is in constant battle to reconcile three separate yet intertwined languages/styles/perceptual equipment. Each voice is vying for victory over the other like a game of cutthroat, trying to sink their own set of numbered pool balls in order to win the reader’s attention. In m.snowe’s crazy extended metaphor, the 3 players would be assigned thus:

–The author’s own voice=high balls

–The character’s presumed voice=mid balls

–The larger world’s collective voice=low balls

Wood argues that all three of these voices can be amalgamated in free indirect style, so that the reader is simultaneously aware and unaware of all the voices working at once, jockeying, knocking into each other on the felt table of the story. Of course, somebody’s got to win or at least come out as the dominant voice, but sometimes you forget just who is supposed to sink 1-5, 6-10, or 11-15.  Like any difficult game with multiple players, really, it’s all about strategy. And in the end, the author is the one making all the shots.