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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Omniscient POV

I have written a series of historical novels (three complete, four in various states of outline and finished chapters) in the omniscient POV—my favorite.

I am writing a contemporary legal drama from a first person POV, because it happened that way (fictionalized episode in our lives). A premise for a contemporary mystery is still formulating…can a mystery be omniscient? (Anyone out there want to help with Hollywood research? But I digress.)

My favorite books have been sprawling historic/fantasy epics; starting with James Clavell’s Asian series and Frank Herbert’s Dune chronicles. Followed by Jean Auel’s Children of the Earth and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

According to Oakley Hall, in The Art & Craft of Novel Writing, it is mandatory to write omniscient in the long historic/fantasy books because the scope is too broad for anything else, and it gets boring for the reader in first person or even third. Following several plot lines requires “insider” knowledge of the characters. Dare to be a Great Writer, by Leonard Bishop also addresses the need for omniscient POV in certain stories.

Barbara Kingsolver used omniscient POV in Prodigal Summer. The reader was inside the head of Deanne, Lusa, and Garnett. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is also omniscient, with the reader in the head of Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey and Gail Wynand as well as Howard Roark and Dominique Francon. But never in the same scene…

Tai-Pan, by James Clavell has omniscient POV in the same scene, and I copied some pages as samples. I have been rereading Shogun, (this is dangerous, because I can’t put it down!). Thus far, I haven’t found changing POV in scene, but it is a huge book, and ages since I read it.

Valley of Horses by Jean Auel is omniscient changing POV in scene between Jondolar and Ayla.

Diana Gabaldon shifts between first person, Clare Randall/Fraser and the omniscient narrator, which she says is the “book” telling the story. I have not found a changing POV in scene.

Personally, I LOVE knowing what everyone is thinking. It adds complexity and insight for me. Many other books achieve this through dialogue and body language. But then everything is “on the table”. There is a certain suspense in knowing more than the protagonist, I think.

Charlotte Cook of Komenar Publishing doesn’t like omniscient POV, and says Americans don’t know how to do it well...James Clavell was British and is deceased. It has certainly fallen out of favor. Prodigal Summer, Pillars of the Earth, are contemporary omniscient. Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley, I loved being in the Jack Russell, Eileen’s head. I sometimes write from the POV of the horses in my books.

I must also study Dickens. It has been AGES since I read any. While I religiously watch “A Christmas Carol” every Christmas season, I haven’t read it in ages, and must review it as well for omniscient or third person.

How about Atonement? Aren’t we inside the heads of Briony, as well as her sister and Robbie? Better check.

Back to me. I write omniscient because I like it. And I think perhaps because my early experiences reading were such. A Tale of Two Cities had multiple insights, while I can't remember if it was truly omniscient, my memory from high school is understanding multiple points of view, what motivated people. That is what interests me, what people think, and what motivates them.

Maybe it is a cop out. It is easy. As an author, I must know all the characters. Who, what, where, why and how. Of course I must know my protagonists inside out. Eloise and Dahlquin have a pedigree worthy of AKC registration. Roland, too. But I must know the Scragmuirs, Pingbee, Ainsley, the FitzGilbert’s, Charnley’s, etc. to understand what drives the story and keeps it plausible for me, and ultimately readers.

First person POV seems really hard to do. And limiting. Everything is filtered through one person, one POV. I am writing one book first person, because it is me. I have changed the names, and have taken fictional liberties. Maybe the book will rewrite itself in a different POV…I doubt it, because I don’t know the antagonist, I can only play off her actions. I can only presume so much of what my husband was going through. I must fictionalize this one, because I don’t want to do a memoir—too boring and all the participants are living (lawsuit and family strife). But the episode ended on a Capraesque/Hollywood note. It would be a waste not to capitalize on it. This was the lemonade after a year of a sour lemon harvest.

I enjoy first person of view. Please don’t get me wrong. Clare Randall/Fraser is one of my favorites. Write on, DG. CJ, the Social worker fashionista. Poisonwood Bible, with multiple first person POV’s…Li Hui (My Half of the Sky), Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, the list goes on and on in fiction. It is mandatory in memoir.

It general, it is just not how I write. Or, honestly, it is not how I hear the “voices”. Remember, I write fiction, straddling the razor’s edge of mental illness (see those blogs). My protagonists deserve worthy antagonists. (the maze and the cheese?) And those antagonists are the hardest part for me to create (or listen for), as I want to live in a pleasant world of happily-ever-afters. I don’t like strife or confrontation. Pansy that I am I avoid trouble.

Are there any rules dictating POV? If I read the word “wished” or “thought” regarding a character, then I’m inside that character’s head. If that happens for more than one character, isn’t that omniscient?

If I can't Get Boinked in a Medeival Castle...

If I can’t get boinked in a medieval castle OR cathedral then I’ll write about it.

That’s an attention getter. And it is true.

I don’t want to detract literary interest from my novel. It is not a bodice ripper. Good grief, bodices didn’t exist in 1224 AD! I’ve researched it and would be happy to discuss the fashion of the day. I even have a few re-creations. And, no, I don’t have costume sex.

The Middles Ages have always attracted me. Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” was a childhood favorite (and Tchaikovsky!!!). That opening scene, the castle. And let’s not forget Samson the horse. History and archaeology still fascinate me. But those castles and cathedrals…How disappointing in elementary school. Middle school, too, we never studied the good stuff. In high school I begged for medieval Europe. A compromise, the Industrial Revolution, starting in the Middle Ages. One of the few art projects I ever did that wasn’t a horse (that’s a different story) was a cathedral. Got an A. Oh, and my abject disappointment in discovering the Crusades were not about religion, but a zealous quest for wealth and power (there’s nothing new under the sun).

But the images of a mighty destrier and great stone edifice persisted, taking on erotic proportions with age.

An evening of horsemanship at Medieval Times, Anaheim, Calif., rekindled the fascination. I started rewatching old movies. Unsatisfied, I began researching for myself. And the voices started in earnest.

But, I promised sex in the title…what do sex and real estate have in common?

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Ultimately, I suppose it is all about the castle sex and cathedral sex.

My first trip to Europe was Paris precisely, and Notre Dame. OMG! Let the orgasmic fantasies begin. I was panting and had tears in my eyes. All those lit candles…that was nothing to my flame. Ste. Chappelle, more of the same.

One of my favorite cathedrals is St. Stephans in Vienna. There is this little spiral stairway, with a carving of the artist looking out a window…dude. Everywhere my husband and I walked, I was thinking: Right here, right now! Curse these jeans! Over and over and over.

I realize now in writing this blog, the same modesty that prevents my husband from ravaging me in the vestibule, censures me from further personal exposition. Effectively binding my tongue, wasting a lingual communion, a paradise lost in biblical proportion.

How I swayed beneath the thick, stone columns, engorged and reaching to the sky.
Penetrating the space within, thrusting heavenward. Each one a salient reminder of our sacred purpose: And woman shall desire her husband. And they shall lie upon the high alter and give thanks and praise. And praise and thanks. And a husband shall desire his wife, and they change positions, with more thanking and praising. With the laying on of hands the alleluias burst forth. The holy water flows. And they rest; and it was good.

You get the idea…pretty tongue in cheek…or _ _ _ _ _ in cheek to be more accurate. My husband may be modest, but he is happy.

It’s the same with castles. All that erect, hard stone. Projecting towers in phallic magnitude, arousing a sense of power and safety focusing onto the drawbridge and gate house…inviting, encapsulating; begging admittance, promising a welcome.

Peering out from the crenellations, sea birds soar below us on the salty breeze that pushes up rustling my hair, delighting the senses as I rock back and forth back forth, like the rise and fall of a ship, I ride the rhythmic swell of my love, pounding, pulsing, a relentless surge crashing against the fortress wall, wave upon wave, until the banks flood and all too soon, love spent, the tide ebbs.

I can be silly here, it’s a blog. But seriously, I do fantasize (size does matter) about having sex (with my husband--he’s the stuff fantasies are made of) in medieval locations.

***I am not soliciting on line medieval sex fantasies; please don’t send pictures or letters suitable for Penthouse. This is not a porn site or partner exchange.

This is one of the reasons I write, and people I talk to ask about it.***

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fiction Writers and Mental Illness

Fiction writers run the gauntlet of mental illness, living on the edge of schizophrenia. We hear voices. Unlike our homeless brethren we don’t do what the voices tell us. Instead we write about them.

My aim is not to disregard those who suffer debilitating mental illness or learning disabilities, but to distinguish the fine line that separates us, barely. Art and creativity go hand in hand with a variety of mental illnesses. Perhaps alternative brain power (ABP), or mental processing (MP) would be good monikers. Less judgmental and without the stigma historically and religiously placed on illness.

Dyslexic and suffering bouts of clinical depression, I possess a first person point of view of the absolute validity of an irrational state of mind. I have walked both sides of sanity. I’ll pick sane any day, thanks to Zolft and counseling. But I fully embrace the debt for creativity.

Artists are frequently on the outside looking in. Observing the world, reflecting it back in a chosen medium (visual, audio, performance, story). Clinical depression and bi-polar run rampant in the arts. Dyslexia, too: John Lennon, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison (ADHD, too!), Ken Follett, Walt Disney. There really are too many to list here, please refer to the web: http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/020307/awakenings.shtml; http://www.dyslexiamentor.com/famousdyslexics.php; http://bipolar.about.com/od/authorswriters/Authors_and_Writers_with_Bipolar_Disorder.htm; http://bipolar.about.com/od/celebrities/Celebrities_with_Bipolar_Disorder.htm; http://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/dyslexia_famous.htm

--Please respond back with additional information.—

I believe dyslexia is an open door to creativity (Although proof reading is a nightmare). In fact, the creativity comes unbidden. An urge as irresistible blinking. I have never been able to ignore a blank piece of paper. It exists, therefore it must be filled. There IS no otherse for a blank piece of paper (unless I start another philosophical blog on the spirit of paper and the killing of trees, papyrus or rag) than to write or draw (okay, okay origami and paper airplanes!). The fantasy surrogate horses of my youth; dragons and bunnies. Even margins and borders beckon my wayward hand, still!

Some might design a building, cure an illness or write the Declaration of Independence on a piece of paper. Others will formulate equations, solve problems and correspond. Artists might compose music, write stories, draw, paint or sculpt with the paper.

Writing about characters in medieval Ireland is comparatively easy. Say, to balancing a check book, algebra, tabulating figures, negotiations, framing a house. Characters come to me (who); scenes come to me (where). The endless “what ifs?” “hows?” and “whys” captivate me for days, weeks, years. One of the hardest aspects of writing for me (besides editing) is brevity, culling, focusing on the theme in a coherent story format for the reader and leaving out all the details, histories and back story unrelated to the book. “Killing my darlings” as the saying goes. (Ah, but with computers, I can just delete my darlings; save them in a cyber retirement home and visit whenever I want) But I digress from the topic—the theme of this blog as it were…

Everyone feels disconnected, alienated, disenfranchised or left out, at least part of the time. These feelings are universal to all peoples and cultures. I explore these feelings through my characters lives, bearing in mind the three “E’s”--entertainment, education, and emotion. In my first book, Eloise Dahlquin feels disconnected when her family invalidates her dreams. Roland feels disconnected leaving Leinster. Alienated geographically, Ireland dangles on the remote western edge of the known (flat) world. Women and the poor are disenfranchised in the male dominated warrior culture.

I hear their voices, their stories and want to share them with others. I want to paint the picture and evoke the aroma, present the textures and flavor, play the music, with words alone. There are other characters, in other times, pressing me to hurry up with the Dahlquin saga, so I can concentrate on their stories. I take notes, make outlines, and hope they will be patient. All the while putting on a normal face at school meetings, the office, while making dinner or brushing the dog. We are all waiting our turns. That is why I love writer’s conferences, I am with my brethren (the disconnected, alienated…just kidding).

Fiction writing is the best—Telling Lies for Fun Profit, as Lawrence Block wrote (great book). Publishing is the business end of it, and worthy of its own blog entry.

Fiction Writers as 'mad scientists'

As a fiction writer I feel like a ‘mad scientist’ observing lab mice negotiating a maze to find the cheese. My beloved characters are those mice. The cheese is their goal. I put up obstacles and write about the characters overcoming challenge or facing disappointment. I love the “what if?” followed by the “How?”

What if…a young woman wanted a different life than her family, her society had carved out for her? What if…like most adolescents, she didn’t know what she wanted? In my first book, Dahlquin, seventeen-year-old Eloise Dahlquin bristles under the patriarchal culture of medieval Ireland. Like most of us, she wants to choose for herself. Her cheese, her quest is for self-determination. Lord Roland enjoys his freedom to move about, unencumbered. The Scragmuirs want to see the Dahlquin’s vanquished. Ireland has been conquered by England, but the petty kings still govern themselves, yearning for an independent Irish voice. Power of choice motivates all the characters. But, what if…every thing is preordained, is anyone truly free to choose?

The ‘mad scientist’ fiction writer must put up road blocks, obstacles, ‘red herrings’ to test the mice, deem them worthy. What if…we don’t like our choices: The proverbial rock and the hard spot; with nothing, you have nothing to lose? What if…we can’t make up our minds? Circumstances change with the turn of a page and there are no choices. A future lost with the speed of a dropped call. How will Eloise save her family? What is she willing to do? How will Roland serve two kings? What treachery will Scragmuir devise to bring Dahlquin down? How will Ireland shed the English yoke?

Love, lust, betrayal, loyalty, fraternity, happily-ever-after…or death and subjugation…

And, how can I, the mad scientist, make my story fresh and alive. How will I retell the same old legends with new insight, joy and surprise? It has all been done before…around ancient campfires…Greek amphitheatres…Nordic ships…The Globe…lecterns…and preschool circle time.

For just that reason. We are endlessly entertained by those stories, the Who, Where, How, Why and ultimately What If…? Strong, memorable characters with universal motives, struggling against all odds for…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…simply people, seeking pleasures…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness)…Will the rebels defeat the Evil Empire? Can Tom Builder and Phillip the Prior construct a cathedral? Will Dorothy ever get home? Can a 15 year old boy with Aspergers negotiate the London underground? Was Penelope really so steadfast, and Odysseus worth waiting for?

Writing stories is so wondrous, so powerful. I love my characters. I love the Middles Ages, and I want to do them justice, continually learning and growing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Self-determination

Self-determination is what directed me to become a published author. Dahlquin, A Medieval Saga is the first volume, and is about finding a voice, recognition, and ultimately, self-determination.

Seventeen year old Eloise Dahlquin, in remote Connacht, Ireland rebels against a future bound in domestic slavery in the rigid, male dominated warrior culture of 1224 AD. Eloise simply wants a say in her future. A voice in the hinterland.

Self determination. The freedom to choose.

We all begin life with a will to live. And the struggle to find a voice in the world begins. Language is the first obstacle. Next the demands of parents, family and community. “Go to bed.” “Do not hit.” “Eat your vegetables.” “Work hard.” “No stealing.” Thou shalt and thou shalt not. Today teens rebel against parental restraints. Telemachus challenged his mother for his inheritance, to claim his manhood.

How would a young medieval woman cope? Would she be able to please her parents, the Church and herself? What would inspire her? Europe in the early 1200’s experienced a mini Renaissance, a glimmer of feminism. In the wake of the illustrious Hildegard von Bingen, lusty Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the rise of Mariology instigated Bernard of Clairveaux I could realistically explore this story with a strong female protagonist juxtaposed with the martial oligarchy.

History reveals an endless cycle of repression, whether by race, religion, gender or socioeconomics. One conqueror enslaves another; the poor are kept uneducated; congregations are manipulated by corrupt leaders; advancement and opportunity are withheld.

Self-determination is the driving theme throughout Dahlquin, A Medieval Saga. As Eloise struggles to make her own decisions; her parents fight to control their estate; the fractious Irish kingdoms fear another invasion by England. Is any one truly free to choose, or is everything preordained? And ultimately, what are the consequences of the choices made? If choices there be.

I have been married over thirty years, with one teen left in the house. I know about seeking a voice in alien and sometimes hostile cultures. To have my choice of music ridiculed, banishment because of my clothing (“Did you answer the door dressed like that?”). I remember a choice my husband gave me years ago, about a vacation. A bicycle tour, 6 weeks. He ripped our sole towel in half and asked which piece I wanted. Self determination, to dry my face or my…As it turned out, it rained the whole trip and I and my towel were wet most of the time. Was that pre ordained?