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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Looking Through

I really love this shot. It was one of those random things that turned out decent; I snapped it this weekend while putting in a new gate down at the entrance. This is an old board that's part of the original fence that was in place when we first moved in. There's such character to the old wood. And though out of focus, you can see the entire shape of one of the chestnut trees through the knot. It frames the tree. It's the same landscape, but there's something intriguing about looking at it through this narrow scope that makes it seem infinitely larger, and ripe with possibility. Like peering into a room through a keyhole. What you're looking at doesn't change; what changes is the way you see it.

Perspective in fiction greatly impacts the way we see the events that unfold within the narrative. I don't mean first vs. third person (I will forever and always choose third every time, and no one can ever change my mind) but the narrator. Whoever tells the story helps us see it in his or her light. As an author, you have a choice to make: will this narrator be telling this story as a newcomer? Or as a fixture? How does he or she see the world of the novel?

There's an approach that I've affectionately dubbed the Harry Potter Approach. Meaning, like Harry, the narrator is plunged into a new world of endless fascination, and we the readers experience all of these wonders for the first time alongside the narrator. I think this is part of what makes the Harry Potter books so immersive and believable.

Then there's the Inside Track: stories in which the narrator is a fixture in a world that is new to the readers, and through the narrator's experience and navigation within this world, we come to see what "normal" is in the life of someone unlike us.

Both approaches fascinate me. With God Love Her, I took the Harry Potter Approach, Layla resolving herself to this new way of life she'd never considered. It's an approach that carries through for some of the characters in Keeping Bad Company. But in my next project, I'm taking the Inside Track, writing narrators deeply immersed in a less-than-normal life who know no other reality. It's something I've done before, and am returning to, and it's fun. It's so fun. There's a certain freedom that comes with shaking off "normal" and "supposed to."

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