Author Topic: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.  (Read 4926 times)

Offline Gayle

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2012, 12:14:44 PM »
Skip:
NIP is novel in progress.
SSIP is short story in progress.
"I was born of writing. Before that, there was only a play of mirrors." - Jean Paul Sartre

Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2012, 02:54:10 PM »
Tony, I liked your response very much. It was completely logical and I agree wholeheartedly. There is however one more clause in word choices concerning narratives.

Depending on how close the narrators voice is supposed to mirror the main character’s tone will also have bearing on word choice or word economy. Am I correct?


Miss Gayle- Thank you. I'll add both of these to our glossary.

Tony_A20

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2012, 04:29:20 PM »
Hello Skip,

I’m not sure what you mean by “mirror,” or “tone.”

Character “voices” (speech pattern, word usage, etc.) should be distinct enough to allow a reader to recognize individual characters without a formal attribution. Making a character’s dialogue similar in form to another character would be very confusing for readers I would think.

The only time I can think of where writer would want a character to speak with the same “voice” as another character, is to show sarcasm.

Perhaps you could explain further?

Tony


Offline 510bhan

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2012, 05:02:42 PM »
Perhaps the 'mood' or setting demanding a response which mirrors the tone? :-* Jacked up on Mountain Dew/exploring potholes/attending a funeral/whacking a pinata -- could affect the 'voice' and therefore word choices of the character.

Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2012, 05:20:10 PM »
A story written in 'Third-Person-Close' can waft from TP to 'First-person'. In FP the narration is also the main character's voice.

In the TPC the narration should mirror the main character's voice, and syntax somewhat, to show the connection. Agreed?

Offline Taylor

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #20 on: March 19, 2012, 10:45:30 PM »
Perhaps, as Sio indicated, only insofar as the story dictates, Skip, rather than the style of the narrative.

And talking of which, I'd like to include two aspects of style which I think may have some bearing on this discussion.

That of brevity and conciseness. They're not quite synonymous. The difference is one of quantity vs quality of the material - volume vs concentration. Brevity, however desirable, isn't always possible. A novel has to cover a lot of ground, and will necessarily cover a lot of paper as well.  :) But what is possible, given the vast vocabulary of English, is conciseness - succinctness, concentrated efficiency. That is, conveying each point as briefly as possible, even though there are too many points for the text as a whole to be brief.

The more long-winded a piece of writing, whether it be in a novel or in any other form of creative writing, the greater the risk of losing your readers - either because their minds wander or their patience snaps. To write concisely, on the other hand, is to do them a courtesy. Simply, it saves them a great deal of time. But, as most of us know or must soon learn, an inverse proportion operates: to ensure that readers spend less time reading, we the writers have to put in more time writing.

How fair is that?
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Tony_A20

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #21 on: March 19, 2012, 11:16:45 PM »
Hello Skip,

Your terminology Third Person “Close” is new to me.

I googled the term and found this example:

Third Person:

Fenrir ground to a halt, the length of chain he held knocking against his knee at his sudden stop. He gripped the links more firmly in his fist.

“Let him go,” he called out.

“Will you come?” the voice asked again.

“Let me see him.” Fenrir demanded.

“If we do, and he’s safe, you’ll come with us?”

Fenrir hesitated. Lifting his chin, he replied, “I’ll come.”

Third Person Close:

Fenrir ground to a halt, the length of chain he held knocking against his knee at his sudden stop. He gripped the links more firmly in his fist, readied himself to use the makeshift weapon when his opponent decided to show himself.

“Let him go,” he called out, the chain heavy and hot in his hand, his heartbeat slowing as he let his senses travel over the surrounding woods, searching for those who had stolen what was his.

“Will you come?” the voice asked again.

“Let me see him.” A demand this time. Fenrir didn’t believe in playing meek, didn’t know how.

“If we do, and he’s safe, you’ll come with us?”

Fenrir hesitated, his mind going back to Aesa, her face pale, drawn, worried. If he went with them, would he see her again? But…his fist tightened around the chain…if he didn’t, if they went through with their threats? That would kill her…kill him too.
Lifting his chin, he replied, “I’ll come.”


I’m not sure if this illustrates the point you wish to make.

The dialogue is the same. The third person version is devoid of observation or “beats.” The third person close version, has observation or beats. In my essay on dialogue I harp on the theme that:

““Dialogue,” must be accompanied by “Observation.” These story companions should be presented together. Dialogue provides the spoken words, Observation, provides the reader with the speaker’s and listener’s reaction, their movements and gestures, their thoughts, and their identity.”

Comparing the character “voice” of the dialogue and observation in the example above I can’t see much difference.

So, going back to the question in your post  at 06:54:10 PM,

Quote
Depending on how close the narrators voice is supposed to mirror the main character’s tone will also have bearing on word choice or word economy. Am I correct?

My answer would be, “Yes.”  

However, if my understanding of your question is correct, I don’t think there is any advantage to narrative observation mimicking a character’s dialogue “voice” to the extent that the narrative observation voice used for one character is noticeably different than the narrative observation voice used for another character.

To my mind, narrative observation should be neutral, and as far as the reader is concerned, as unobtrusive as possible—a story signpost pointing the way for the reader's imagination.

Tony


« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 11:19:51 PM by Tony_A20 »

Offline 510bhan

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2012, 11:30:04 PM »
There is an interesting argument on narrative distance and the complexity of voice in the article this thread links to: http://www.mywriterscircle.com/index.php/topic,41688.0.html
http://www.basilsdream.com/fiction_technique_in_creative_nonfiction_106527.htm

Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #23 on: March 20, 2012, 01:18:24 AM »
To my mind, narrative observation should be neutral, and as far as the reader is concerned, as unobtrusive as possible—a story signpost pointing the way for the reader's imagination.

In standard Third-Person I would agree with you. However, in Third-Person-Close as I stated, the narration is, or rather can also be the main character much like it is in First-person. Now if the main character is an English teacher, you may not notice where MC and narration cross. Yet if the MC is an unrefined, ill-mannered, crass, heathen, he'd better not sound like, William F. Buckley, Jr. in the narrative.


http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art42620.asp

http://www.tianevitt.com/2010/11/linnea-sinclair-on-deep-third-point-of-view/

http://writingonthewallblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/close-vs-distant-pov.html


In my opinion, for a writer to blindly accept, ‘always’ or ‘never’ it’s akin to sealing up their creative spirit.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 01:56:44 AM by Skip Slocum »

Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #24 on: March 20, 2012, 02:33:41 AM »
From the link Miss Sio put up for us, here is an excerpt of that article written by Christine Hale.

Notice that scene allows for four of the six techniques of characterization I mentioned above: dialogue, action, setting & appearance details, and the comments of other characters. It’s awkward to report a character’s thoughts inside a scene, and nearly impossible to have a central-intelligence, aka the author, explain the character to readers without breaking down the scene. These limits are a big plus for most of us, forcing us to do less of what we’re inclined to overdo.
When we watch characters act out a scene in a stage play, our experience of them is objective. We are outside them, watching them move and listening to them speak. As I began this lecture, however, I said that what a reader experiences from the page may be subjective or objective, depending on the writer’s use of the technique fiction writers call POV: who speaks, and from what distance. We can write scene in 1st person, 2nd person, or 3rd person, singular or plural in each case, whether we’re writing nonfiction or fiction. “Person”—who speaks—is the aspect of POV that’s most obvious, since the pronoun gives it away. From what distance—the technical term for this is narrative distance—is a more slippery concept, because in practice it’s a nuance.
There are three parties to narrative distance: reader, writer, and character. The concept of narrative distance describes where—at what distance—the writer positions the reader relative to character. [front-pack image] Long narrative distance occurs when the writer/reader observes a character from the outside—relatively objectively, as in a stage play. Or, as in Hemingway’s frequently anthologized short story “Hills Like White Elephants.” In fact, Hemingway’s stance via his characters in that story is referred to as “objective author” POV by Burroway (299).
Short narrative distance, on the other hand, places the reader way up inside a character’s mind and body, giving the reader a very subjective, embodied experience of what the character is seeing, feeling, and doing. Narrative distance is not to be confused with person; narrative distance can be long or short whether one is writing in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person. Another point to keep in mind, one I’ll return to later, is that narrative distance is seldom static. Throughout a story, a novel, an essay, a paragraph, and sometimes even within a single sentence, narrative distance can and does shift. Manipulation of narrative distance is a technique, a clever stratagem, for creating the reader’s “ride” or experience, whether in fiction or nonfiction. How this is done, I’ll come back to in examples in a moment.


 . . .If you didn’t know this was memoir, you’d accept it as an incident from a short story written in the 1st person POV. Wolff is, after all, a consummate short story writer. Wolff uses scene to show rather than tell us that although his then-self Jack has a chip on his shoulder and will fight, he’s not a particularly aggressive or skillful fighter. His inner self is a sensitive boy who readily reads emotional cues from others’ facial expressions and cares enough about another person’s dignity to draw public humiliation to himself instead. “Who speaks” in this scene is, of course, Jack. Let’s take a closer look at “from what distance” he speaks. Notice the clues that Wolff is recounting this fight retrospectively; that is, his now-self, Tobias Wolff looking back across the years, describes vividly what happened then:
• And at that moment it came to me – Wolff is standing outside the moment looking back at it. Ditto for There hadn’t been a moment since the fight began. From deep within the moment of the fight he wouldn’t have the perspective, nor the breath, to come up with these interpretations.
• The description of the fight is vivid but not particularly embodied; with the exception of the weight of the news bag, we readers don’t really feel in our bodies what Jack felt.
• Gasping strenuously – this is the adult author’s diction, not young Jack’s.
The writer has positioned the reader at a kind of middle distance from the character Jack for most of this scene. However, sometimes the narrative distance collapses, placing the reader inside Jack’s body and emotions:
• It wounded my spirit to have a dog against me. The diction and syntax (word choice and sentence structure)—and the insight are probably those of the adult Tobias Wolff. But “I liked dogs. I liked dogs more than I Iiked most people,” this is the voice of Jack-then, isn’t it? We hear his boyish angst. We chuckle, but we also sympathize.
• My clothes were caked with mud. My news bag, full of mud and ruined papers, pulled down on me. My ear hurt. I trudged homeward. In these statements, the reader wears the mud, feels the weight of wet papers and lost income, and has a stinging ear. The reader feels exactly what Jack feels.
So, the writer’s stratagem, variations in narrative distance, creates a ride for the reader that lets us experience the fight as onlooking adults while also, at some points, feeling Jack’s adolescent pain.

When we read fiction, especially novels or stories written in 1st person or close 3rd person, we are also attuned to voice. Why is this so? Why is voice so important to readers, and why do I consider voice in nonfiction a form of fiction technique?
The term “voice” is hard to define. The simplest definition, the first one that made sense to me as a student writer, is “personality on the page.” Through a writer’s voice, readers feel or sense his or her nature. Voice, then, implicitly creates or at least suggests the “character” (in the fiction sense of the term) from whom that voice emanates.
Recall that I said earlier, “The reader wishes to engage with a consciousness that feels ‘real’, that seems to emanate from a person.” James Wood, writing about fiction, says “narrative can and often does give us a vivid sense of a character without giving us a vivid sense of an individual” (100). In other words, whether in fiction or nonfiction, readers do not need a lot of information to sense the presence and the nature of a character. Less, in many cases, is more, or at least enough. Wood goes on to quote the novelist Henry Green who says: “Nothing kills ‘life’ so much as ‘explanation’” (213).

Tony_A20

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #25 on: March 20, 2012, 11:03:57 AM »
Well Skip,

I can see there are academic depths to POV I shall never plumb!

It’s been very interesting and informative, but since your point of view question deals primarily with a sliding scale of an author’s intent and reader awareness, and has now reached murky depths of confusion beyond my ken or desire to know, I will leave further discussion to you and more learned authors to pursue.

Quote
In other words, whether in fiction or nonfiction, readers do not need a lot of information to sense the presence and the nature of a character. Less, in many cases, is more, or at least enough. Wood goes on to quote the novelist Henry Green who says: “Nothing kills ‘life’ so much as ‘explanation’”

I think the quote at the bottom of your last post provides an appropriate summation.

I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.

Tony


Offline Annmarie

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #26 on: March 20, 2012, 11:51:02 AM »
I second MC on this:

Quote
Take a short story you're working on - let's say 500 words. Now adapt it into a script - play or film. Don't worry about the formatting, just take the essential details and see what you have left. It will be a lot less than you think!

It's a useful exercise in seeing what really matters to the story and how you convey the information with action.

Since I started doing this, my writing has dropped a lot of its telly side. I still have quite a bit. I don't believe for one minute "tell" is all bad.

Skip, you're right about word choice depending somewhat on narrative distance. In third person limited, if your camera is very close, you can filter everything through the point of view character. Your word choices in narrative or description would share the vocabulary or cadence your character might use. The story is saturated by a certain personality even if it's not first person. If you pull the camera away somewhat, still in third person limited, you can use more neutral language for the narrative beats.

I agree with Tony's point that for a novel where you have different point of view characters, it's not necessary to change the entire tone or vocab of the narrative when you change POV. You *can* do this, of course, and it might be excellent literary work. But usually, a book has a certain voice or tone that is consistent throughout the story no matter how many POVs you have. I prefer this because I like relatively clean, unadorned writing styles. It's a matter of taste.
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Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #27 on: March 20, 2012, 03:31:23 PM »
Who was it that said, 'the more I learn the harder this gets'?

Offline Gyppo

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #28 on: March 20, 2012, 07:06:12 PM »
Relax a little, Skip.  You don't have to apply everything you learn to every job you do.

Look at it this way, the skills needed to drive a car aren't all the same as those you need to ride a motorcycle or drive a tank.  Some will be the same.  Some will overlap, (transferable skills), and some will be very specialised to the specific vehicle.

If writing could be reduced to an an idiot proof list of 'do this but don't do that rules' then anyone could do it.  Which is clearly not the case.  Writers and their techniques are as variable as the weather.  During their 'apprenticeship' each builds up his or her own list of techniques and theories they can believe in, and then makes them their very own with personal touches and tweaks.  Once they have that central core they will dabble in other ideas, but probably default back to the tried and tested unless the new idea offers some really tangible advantage.  If so it become absorbed into the regular skill set.

As an example.  Some people in this circle hate writing in first person.  It feels clumsy, alien, and restrictive to them.  Others love it and claim it is wonderfully direct and 'hands on'.   The bottom line is that any viewpoint or technique, if it feels right and comes naturally, or is a trained response, will work for the individual writer.  But this feeling of 'rightness' will vary from tale to tale.

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Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: ‘Word-Economy’ // A coffee-clutch discussion please.
« Reply #29 on: March 20, 2012, 08:43:03 PM »
I'm nodding, yes.