Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Brewing a Controversy

One paragraph in Bill Kirton's post the other day really resonated with me. It went like this:

"I’m wary of creative writing courses. I’m sure there are some brilliant ones, but there are also plenty which indoctrinate their graduates into parroting stuff about shifting points of view, not starting paragraphs with ‘And…’ and all sorts of other things that have little to do with creativity."

I've never taken a course in creative writing, so that part didn't concern me. What did was the part about parroting stuff about shifting points of view, etc. I admit I'm not much of an editor. I read from the viewpoint of a reader. I was a copyreader on a newspaper at one time, so I notice grammar and spelling. But if the story is well told and interesting, so that I can easily understand what's happening, that's a good enough brew for me.

Switching points of view is only a problem to me if it's unclear whose head I'm in. If I'm getting the thoughts of one guy now and another a couple of paragraphs later, I'm getting more into the characters and have no problem following the story.

Reading over some early manuscripts from my fiction writing career, ones that were accepted by agents and got favorable comments from editors (though no sale for one reason or another), I noticed I had yet to be indoctrinated on the blasphemy of point-of-view switching. Yet is was obvious who was speaking and thinking.

Bill's mention of starting a paragraph with "And" is one of many other such non-no's that I disregard. I think where we notice such things is in a story that has a lot of other faults, including protagonists we don't care for, wordiness, lack of a cohesive plot, etc. Some authors user words in a way that makes the writing sing like a ballad. Those are a treat to read. But if the story is competently written and intriguing, I'm just as happy with it.

Okay, let the purists throw me in the witch's cauldron. It wouldn't be the first brew I've ever spoiled (or should I say spoilt?).

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Bill Kirton said...

I hope there's room in the pot for me, too, Chester. You're echoing my own thoughts precisely.

Jaden Terrell said...

I think that even though POV shifts tend to distance the reader from the story, they can work if done well. The problem is that so few people seem to do them well. Chester's journalism experience gives him an edge, and I know others who do as well, but in general, it's a style that's very hard to pull off.