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Opinion needed

Switch Blayde

I begin a chapter with:

In the basement of the largest house in Diablo del Norte, a small Mexican village twenty minutes from Cactus Point, a young woman's tear-soaked eyes darted between her husband and two children, a four-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. Her husband was bound to a chair with ropes around his arms and legs, his chin resting on his chest. He had two black eyes. The gag digging into his cheeks and parting his lips was soaked in the blood oozing from his nose and mouth. Some blood flowed down his chin to stain his shirt. The children stood before the woman—fear in the girl's eyes, confusion in the boy's.

A man towering over the children pressed them against the front of his legs with a hand large enough to hold both in place. A second man leaned against the wall with his knee bent, the sole of his foot flat against the wall. His hands hung at his sides, knuckles bloodied. …


The last sentence was originally:

His hands hung at his sides, knuckles covered with the blood of the woman's husband.


Is it obvious why his knuckles are bloody? Or do I have to use the original sentence?

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Is it obvious why his knuckles are bloody?


Yes, IMO.

AJ

sunseeker
Updated:

Is it obvious why his knuckles are bloody?


yes it is,,,

gruntsgt

I like the original, it paints a more complete picture. just my humble opinion as a non-writer.

Dominions Son

Yes, it's reasonably obvious why his Knuckles are bloody.

Of course in the new version, it's not completely obvious that the blood on his knuckles is that of the woman's husband. There are a number of ways that he could have broken skin on his own knuckles while beating the woman's husband.

That said, personally I think that in this case, leaving the exact source of the blood on the man's knuckles unstated works better.

Switch Blayde

Thanks, everyone.

I agree it's better than the original. I guess it's more showing than telling (show his bloody knuckles and let the reader deduce he was the one who beat up the husband).

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Is it obvious why his knuckles are bloody? Or do I have to use the original sentence?

Your sentence is fine. This is yet another example of cutting unnecessary words from sentences. If the extra words don't improve a sentence's meaning, then there's really no need for them. Good writing does not explain everything.

As Scott Westerfeld famously said: "Good books make you ask questions. Bad readers want everything answered."

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Your sentence is fine. This is yet another example of cutting unnecessary words from sentences.

I would go further than that. I liked the impact of the very short sentence.

SB, was that the last sentence of its paragraph? I think it should be. (The reason I ask is I'm not sure what the full stop then an ellipsis meant in the quote in the OP.)

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

SB, was that the last sentence of its paragraph? I think it should be. (The reason I ask is I'm not sure what the full stop then an ellipsis meant in the quote in the OP.)


No, it wasn't. This is the entire paragraph:

A man towering over the children pressed them against the front of his legs with a hand large enough to hold both in place. A second man leaned against the wall with his knee bent, the sole of his foot flat against the wall. His hands hung at his sides, knuckles bloodied. A lit cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth. The handle of a semi-automatic pistol stuck out of the waistband of his pants. One eye squinted from the floating cigarette smoke making him look that much scarier to the woman.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

No, it wasn't. This is the entire paragraph

Okay. I retract 'I think it should be.' Instead, I'll say that a very short sentence like that can be very effective as the final sentence of a paragraph.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

No, it wasn't. This is the entire paragraph

Okay. I retract 'I think it should be.' Instead, I'll say that a very short sentence like that can be very effective as the final sentence of a paragraph.

That was my inclination too, when I read Ross's statement, but the rest of your paragraph is a natural extension of the description. In order to break at that one sentence, you'd need to insert an action, which doesn't really fit. But as Ross points out, short summary statements after work best at the end of a dramatic paragraph—and then don't need to be explained in detail—as you actually want your readers to fill in the blanks about whose blood it was without you're having to nail down every detail. (See, now that's an example of a bad ending paragraph!) 'D

robberhands

@Switch Blayde

I also agree with Ross and can't see a problem to place the most expressive sentence at the end of the paragraph.

A man towering over the children pressed them against the front of his legs with a hand large enough to hold both in place. A second man leaned against the wall with his knee bent, the sole of his foot flat against the wall. A lit cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth. One eye squinted from the floating cigarette smoke making him look that much scarier to the woman. The handle of a semi-automatic pistol stuck out of the waistband of his pants. His hands hung at his sides, knuckles bloodied.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

[I] can't see a problem to place the most expressive sentence at the end of the paragraph.

Actually, it's not the "most expressive sentence" that warrants careful placement. It's the most expressive word, bloodied, that should be saved to the end.

This may not be Switch's style, but I'd be looking for a long, rambling sentence full of relatively insignificant details followed by a short sentence to end the paragraph with key detail. (Sorry to do this again, SB ... but robberhands started it.) Perhaps something like:

A man towering over the children pressed them against the front of his legs with a hand large enough to hold both in place. A second man leaned against the wall, one foot up against the wall, a lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, and a semi-automatic pistol stuck into the waistband of his pants. His hands hung at his sides, knuckles bloodied.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

I didn't intent to rewrite the paragraph. It's fine as it is. I merely placed the, to me, most expressive sentence at the end of the paragraph.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

I didn't intent to rewrite the paragraph.

No offense intended. I get a bit guilty about the number of times I suggest enhancements to SB's drafts. You know what they say: Those who can do; those you can't are "helpful".

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Actually, it's not the "most expressive sentence" that warrants careful placement. It's the most expressive word, bloodied, that should be saved to the end.

Moreover, if you're trying to get readers to fill in the blanks, you'd want to leave a questionable phrasing as the last line, so they have to consider whose blood it is.

If you instead rush straight away into the next sentence, you don't leave them sufficient time to contemplate the question.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Instead, I'll say that a very short sentence like that can be very effective as the final sentence of a paragraph.


My style is to write short sentences. They're not all short, but I often break a long sentence into multiple shorter sentences so it's easier to read. Originally,

A lit cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth. The handle of a semi-automatic pistol stuck out of the waistband of his pants.


was

A lit cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth, and the handle of a semi-automatic pistol stuck out of the waistband of his pants.


In fact, it didn't originally have the comma before the "and." But it sounded better to my ear with the comma, so much so that I changed it to a period.

Of course, who knows what this will look like when I'm done with my final edit.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@robberhands

place the most expressive sentence at the end of the paragraph.


I actually did. "One eye squinted from the floating cigarette smoke making him look that much scarier to the woman" is the important sentence. Well, the "scarier to the woman" part. The next paragraph is (even though she's not speaking to the man with bloody knuckles):

"Please don't hurt them," the woman said, wringing her hands in her lap.


It's all to show the danger she's in and her fear. Her beaten up husband. The man who did it. He has a gun. The man threatening her children.

And a little while later:

Marco brushed the little girl's cheek with the back of his fingers. "And you have a lot to lose if you don't."

The man against the wall snickered. The woman turned to see his smirk. He cupped his crotch, thrust his hips, and winked.


So it's the fear that's important which is how I ended that paragraph. The bloody knuckles are no more important than the pistol in his waistband.

And in my Lincoln Steele stories, the bad guys have to be monsters so it's okay for Steele to kill them.

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP

@Switch Blayde

Or do I have to use the original sentence?


I like the original sentence for there is no possible ambiguity.

'knuckles bloodied' clearly describes the knuckles, but fails to identify whose blood. The assumption is, it is the husband's blood. But if the second man skinned/injured his knuckles before or while beating the husband, it could be the man's blood.

For the original sentence, I would expect the husband's blood to cover more than the knuckles. Perhaps knuckles and fingers.

Switch Blayde

@REP

'knuckles bloodied' clearly describes the knuckles, but fails to identify whose blood.


Doesn't matter whose blood. What matters is he beat up the husband.

REP

@Switch Blayde

What matters is he beat up the husband.


I understand what you are attempting to convey to the reader. The opening paragraphs imply but do not state the man beat the husband. By identifying the blood as the husband's you create the link telling the reader the man beat the husband.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@REP

The assumption is, it is the husband's blood. But if the second man skinned/injured his knuckles before or while beating the husband, it could be the man's blood.


I actually like it that way. Presuming that it is the man's blood and that the injury occurred during the beating, it implies a particularly violent beating.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  REP
BlacKnight

One man is tied to a chair, with two black eyes, bleeding from the nose and mouth. Another man is casually loitering nearby with blood on his knuckles. If your readers can't connect the dots here without you making it explicit, there's no hope for them.

I wouldn't identify the blood for the simple reason that you can't tell who blood belongs to just by looking at it.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

What matters is he beat up the husband.


Oh well, since the nit-picking has started ...

Why don't you show the man beating up the husband? The scene you've painted is rather static.

The cigarette smoking would get the movie of your story an 18+ rating, so there's no reason to eschew showing explicit violence.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Doesn't matter whose blood. What matters is he beat up the husband.

@REP

For the original sentence, I would expect the husband's blood to cover more than the knuckles. Perhaps knuckles and fingers.

As Switch said, it doesn't really matter whose blood it is, only that the men are violent. As for the knuckles, fingers and toes, that's an example of an unnecessary detail which only minimizes the impact of the statement. Essentially, the extra detail only lessons the import by making the entire thing seem ... trivial. It's the literary equivalent of a 'death by a thousand cuts', or in this case, 'death by a thousand trivial details'.

P.S. I'm a little frustrated with the topic, as my editor keeps adding this niggling little details to many of my sentences.

Replies:   REP
Switch Blayde

@REP

The opening paragraphs imply but do not state the man beat the husband.


Exactly. That was why I asked the question.

Of course I knew it, but I wanted to know if a reader would know it without explicitly saying so. Everyone said they would.

Is the blood on his knuckles the husband's or did he cut his knuckles hitting the husband or is it both men's blood? That doesn't matter.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

it implies a particularly violent beating


Yes! Thank you!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde


Yes! Thank you!


You're welcome.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Why don't you show the man beating up the husband?


I guess it's like explicit sex or sex behind closed doors. Replace sex with beating up the husband.

Who knows, I may eventually come back to this chapter and start it with the beating. For now, I was interested in introducing the head of the drug cartel and how he forced a woman to do stuff.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

So it's the fear that's important which is how I ended that paragraph.

Just a thought - most of the time I'd trust your opinion on this question more than my own.

I think "... making him look that much scarier to the woman" is telling. I think you should show extra details about the man, such as a scar, a broken nose, facial hair, an item of clothing, ...

You should be able to make the readers scared of this guy.

REP

@Dominions Son

Presuming that it is the man's blood and that the injury occurred during the beating


I look at it as, if you want the reader to walk down your garden path, you need to guide them to the path. Letting the reader make assumptions isn't placing them on your garden path.

Granted SW's wording paints a vivid picture, but two black eyes, a bloody nose and mouth, and 'some' blood on the husband's shirt isn't the results of what I would consider a violent beating. But perhaps SW didn't want it to be a violent beating.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I think "... making him look that much scarier to the woman" is telling.


I'm writing the story in 3rd-person omniscient (which I haven't done in a long time). There is more telling in omniscient. And in omniscient, the only POV is that of the omni narrator's so I can't get into the woman's head. I can only have the omni narrator tell the reader how she feels.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

As Switch said, it doesn't really matter whose blood it is, only that the men are violent.


As Awnlee said, it is a static scene. SB hasn't shown the men to be violent. There is nothing in the OP that clearly defines the two men administered the beating and the results of the beating are far less than what I would expect of a violent beating. Although there may be more details in subsequent paragraphs. My point is that by stating the blood on the second man's knuckles is the husbands, SB would be insinuating the second man beat the husband without specifically stating it.

As a reader, I would probably just read the description with little thought to the things that bother me when I look closely at the description. What I get out of the paragraph is a man is tied to a chair who has been beaten by an undefined assailant. There are a woman, two scared kids, and two additional men in the room. The bloody knuckles of one man is supposed to tell me at least one of the two men administered the beating. It is a reasonably safe assumption the woman is their mother. Is she standing or sitting in the chair? I would expect her to be trying to hold and comfort the kids. If the kids are scared, they would be crying and trying to get to their mother, but SB has them placidly standing in front of a man who is holding both kids against his leg with one Big hand.

The description just doesn't read right to me.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

There is more telling in omniscient. And in omniscient, the only POV is that of the omni narrator's so I can't get into the woman's head.

I trust you know what you're doing.

REP

@Switch Blayde

the only POV is that of the omni narrator's so I can't get into the woman's head


Why? Omni knows all.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@REP


Why? Omni knows all.


And he can tell the reader all, even stuff the characters don't know. But everything is told by the omni narrator. Which is why omniscient is more telling.

In omniscient, you can't write: I wonder where they are? Joe thought.

You have to write: Joe wondered where they were.

If you do the former, it's head-hopping (hopping from the narrator to Joe).

Here's a short article on omni and head-hopping using Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" (written in omniscient).

ETA:
I forgot to include the link to the article: https://thewritepractice.com/head-hopping-and-hemingway/

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@REP

I would expect her to be trying to hold and comfort the kids. If the kids are scared, they would be crying and trying to get to their mother, but SB has them placidly standing in front of a man who is holding both kids against his leg with one Big hand.


The woman is scared shitless. The kids are 4 and 6. Not knowing what's going on. They saw their father beaten. Mother crying. A large adult is holding them in place and their mother isn't taking them from him. What are 4 and 6 year old kids going to do in that situation? Probably freeze.

As to the beating, there's an expression in fiction writing about scenes: "Enter late and leave early." I could have entered the scene earlier with the husband beating, but why? How they beat him isn't important. Only that they did and his wife saw it. "Enter the scene late."

robberhands

@Switch Blayde

I'm writing the story in 3rd-person omniscient (which I haven't done in a long time). There is more telling in omniscient.

Ross stated that "making him look that much scarier to the woman" is telling and he is absolutely right. It's the only telling in a paragraph of showing. To answer that there is generally more telling in omniscient doesn't change it. The question isn't whether it's allowed or not according to whatever rules the authorities of creative writing decreed, the question is whether the passage in your story is better or worse because of it.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

If you do the former, it's head-hopping


I think this is arguable for an 3rd omni story.

A true omni narrator can "hear" what the characters are thinking. So it could be argued that from the narrator's perspective, their thoughts are no different from spoken dialog.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Why don't you show the man beating up the husband?

I guess it's like explicit sex or sex behind closed doors. Replace sex with beating up the husband.

For everyone else, it's because Switch is more interested in the family's reaction to the beating than he is in the actual violent act.

That's the whole 'show vs. tell' argument, rather than explicitly telling the reader how the husband was abused, you 'show' the abuse by focusing on the reactions of his devastated family. Graphic violence only pleases those who gravitate towards violence, turning other readers off. Showing the grieving and worried family, that touches everyone's heartstrings, as they can relate to the emotions shown.

Replies:   robberhands
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I think "... making him look that much scarier to the woman" is telling. I think you should show extra details about the man, such as a scar, a broken nose, facial hair, an item of clothing, ...

You should be able to make the readers scared of this guy.

I'm sorry, but I couldn't disagree more. You're suggesting that Switch make the character a physically deformed Monster (through the use of disfiguring scars) in order to scare the reader, rather than focus on his actions, which are the basis of his protagonist's reprisals. The protagonist isn't hunting them down because of their looks, he's hunting them down because of the pain they inflicted on innocent people!

Your suggestions focuses entirely on literary 'cheap shots', shortcuts designed to trigger a response without putting in the necessary development. Switch is putting in the necessary work to create a scene which plays to the readers emotions. Thus he doesn't need such shortcuts.

Just my opinion, though, as many people thoroughly enjoy graphic violence—like the man with the blood on his hands.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I'm writing the story in 3rd-person omniscient (which I haven't done in a long time). There is more telling in omniscient. And in omniscient, the only POV is that of the omni narrator's so I can't get into the woman's head. I can only have the omni narrator tell the reader how she feels.

On the contrary, with 1st-person narrative the character themselves (the 1st-person narrator) tells the reader precisely what he's thinking, while in 3rd-person omni, the author has to show those reactions by focusing on the other characters' responses. You're conflating "showing" with "telling".

Granted, many times 3rd-person omni does contain a lot of telling, but the nature of 1st person is that ALL the observations are literally being dictated by the 1st-person narrator.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@REP


As Awnlee said, it is a static scene. SB hasn't shown the men to be violent. There is nothing in the OP that clearly defines the two men administered the beating and the results of the beating are far less than what I would expect of a violent beating. Although there may be more details in subsequent paragraphs. My point is that by stating the blood on the second man's knuckles is the husbands, SB would be insinuating the second man beat the husband without specifically stating it.


Relating to my Scott Westerfield quote (though I tend to dislike any author blaming authors for their choice in literature), you're essentially catering your writing to those selfsame 'lazy readers', rather than engaging the more active readers by forcing them to make the connections themselves.

Yes, you may lose a few slow readers who want all the dots connected for them, but by engaging the readers, you make a more personal connection with your readers, and they'll care more about the story than if every single detail is spelled out.

According to James Richardson, in his On Writing: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays: "Only half of writing is saying what you mean. The other half is preventing people from reading what they expected you to mean."

Switch, in keeping the source of the blood in question, forces the reader to step back and question "whose blood is it?" Thus instead of giving them exactly what they expect, Switch is purposefully making them question their own assumptions.

You may want to pay attention of Richardson's next point:

19. Believe stupid praise, deserve stupid criticism.


Personally, I prefer #20:

20. Writing a book is like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle, unendurably slow at first, almost self-propelled at the end. Actually, it's more like doing a puzzle from a box in which several puzzles have been mixed. Starting out, you can't tell whether a piece belongs to the puzzle at hand, or one you've already done, or will do in ten years, or will never do.

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

That's the whole 'show vs. tell' argument, rather than explicitly telling the reader how the husband was abused, you 'show' the abuse by focusing on the reactions of his devastated family.

That might be how you use it but 'showing' isn't a technique to turn story content G-rated.

On the contrary, with 1st-person narrative the character themselves (the 1st-person narrator) tells the reader precisely what he's thinking, while in 3rd-person omni, the author has to show those reactions by focusing on the other characters' responses. You're conflating "showing" with "telling".

And this statement is simply wrong. You can show or tell regardless of the POV the story is written in.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

A true omni narrator can "hear" what the characters are thinking.


And the narrator can tell the reader what the character is thinking.

So it could be argued that from the narrator's perspective, their thoughts are no different from spoken dialog.


Read the article.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

You're suggesting that Switch make the character a physically deformed ... rather than focus on his actions

I wrote "such as ..."

Facial hair and/or an item of clothing would show choices a character makes about their appearance.

I'd agree that mentioning both a scar and a broken nose would create a ham-fisted caricature, but one, within a list of details about his appearance, would imply a history of involvement in violent conflicts.

Mostly, I was suggesting an alternative to Switch instead of telling about the woman's fear. He already had a list of details about the man's appearance. I was suggesting that he expands on that list if it is not yet adequate to show a character others would fear by just looking at him.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Granted, many times 3rd-person omni does contain a lot of telling, but the nature of 1st person is that ALL the observations are literally being dictated by the 1st-person narrator.


From a scale of telling to showing (1 = most telling), I believe it's:

1. omniscient
2. 1st-person
3. 3rd-limited

That's simply my experience writing in the 3 POVs.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

And this statement is simply wrong. You can show or tell regardless of the POV the story is written in.

You can 'show' what someone feels by how they express themselves in dialogue. But, when a 1st person narrator expresses something in thought, they are explicitly telling you how they feel, only it's masked in single quotations.

I never stated that a decent writer can't show in a variety of different formats, I was merely countering Switch's declaration that 1st person narrative is all show and no tell. Instead, it's all the narrator relating how he feels, with less of the reader observing how the other characters respond to events.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Facial hair and/or an item of clothing would show choices a character makes about their appearance.

I'd agree that mentioning both a scar and a broken nose would create a ham-fisted caricature, but one, within a list of details about his appearance, would imply a history of involvement in violent conflicts.

I agree, including personal details about a character nearly always makes them more relatable. But here, Switch isn't interested in making the character 'relateable'. At this stage, the bad guys are simply the 'strong silent' types, and the characters are simply responding to the violence, not specifically to how the bad guys appear. That would come later, once the protagonist first meets with and sizes them up.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Switch's declaration that 1st person narrative is all show and no tell.


I never said that. I said that omni is more telling.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

From a scale of telling to showing (1 = most telling), I believe it's:

1. omniscient
2. 1st-person
3. 3rd-limited

That's simply my experience writing in the 3 POVs.

I agree with that assertion, but that doesn't mean that simply putting what 1st-person narrator THINKS in quotes suddenly makes it "showing". It's still TELLING the readers what he's thinking.

Showing isn't how something is told, it's instead showing how the actions impact the characters. The easier way to do that is in dialogue, as the characters themselves relate how they feel. But if someone thinks "I'm feeling hungry today", then that's ALL telling, despite the quotation marks!

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

... in 3rd-person omni, the author has to show ..

Why has the author in a 3rd-person omni story to show what someone is thinking? He can also simply tell what someone is thinking or feeling.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I never said that. I said that omni is more telling.

You asserted the reverse: that 1st person is more showing because the narrator is relating how he "feels" in thoughts, rather than in an omni-narrator relating those details.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Why has the author in a 3rd-person omni story to show what someone is thinking? He can also simply tell what someone is thinking or feeling.

That was Switch's point: that in 3rd-person Omni, authors typically tell more than they show. My counter argument was that simply having a character think something in a 1st person narrative is just as telling as it is in 3rd-person Omni.

That's doesn't mean an author can't show whenever he wants, I'm just arguing with the assertion that 1st person is always more showing, by default, than 3rd-person Omni is.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

But here, Switch isn't interested in making the character 'relateable'.

WTF? Surely he wants to make this character un-relateable.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

WTF? Surely he wants to make this character un-relateable.

My point exactly. But he's doing that through their actions, not via their physical characteristics (aside from their being big and menacing).

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Read the article.


I read it, I don't necessarily agree with it.

It offers no justification for the way Hemingway did it being the ONLY right way to do it beyond argument from authority and the author's own personal opinion.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

The article seems to contradict itself more than once. For example, it claims that head-hopping the way Hemingway did isn't head-hopping.

I doubt the authority of the article.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

The article seems to contradict itself more than once. For example, it claims that head-hopping the way Hemingway did isn't head-hopping.


That was the "cute" way the author said it's not head-hopping.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

It offers no justification for the way Hemingway did it being the ONLY right way to do it beyond argument from authority and the author's own personal opinion.


Not his personal opinion. That's like saying your instructor in school who tells you 2+2=4 is his personal opinion. It's the rules for head-hopping.

Now is it the ONLY way to do it? Do you have to follow the rules? Of course not. I once sampled the beginning of the first Harry Potter book to see how Rowling wrote. It was written in omniscient yet she got into Harry Potter's thoughts. So she broke the rule. Is she wrong for doing that? Of course not. She's now a billionaire.

Replies:   REP  robberhands
REP

@Switch Blayde

It was written in omniscient yet she got into Harry Potter's thoughts. So she broke the rule. Is she wrong for doing that? Of course not. She's now a billionaire.


I don't understand why you think she broke the rules. Every definition of omniscient narrator that I've read says that the narrator knows the thoughts of all of the characters .

A story in this narrative mode is presented by a narrator with an overarching point of view, seeing and knowing everything that happens within the world of the story, including what each of the characters is thinking and feeling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narration#Third-person,_omniscient

robberhands

@REP

As I understand SB, an omniscient narrator can tell you what someone is thinking but it's not allowed for the characters to 'voice' their thoughts directly. So it's allowed to write:

The man thought his mind was an open book.

Whereas it is not allowed to write:

My mind is an open book, the man thought.

That's an opinion not reflected in the article he linked. Of course, I might have misunderstood SB.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
robberhands

@Switch Blayde

Not his personal opinion. That's like saying your instructor in school who tells you 2+2=4 is his personal opinion. It's the rules for head-hopping.

Creative writing is not a science, it's an art form and there are no laws of nature in art.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

A story in this narrative mode is presented by a narrator with an overarching point of view, seeing and knowing everything that happens within the world of the story, including what each of the characters is thinking and feeling.


That is a good definition. But what does it say?

1. The only POV of the story is that of the omniscient narrator's ("is presented by a narrator").

2. The narrator can tell the reader everything and everything about the world and the characters ("including what each of the characters is thinking and feeling"). But it's the narrator who is telling the reader what each character is thinking and feeling (#1 above).

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Switch Blayde

@robberhands

As I understand SB, an omniscient narrator can tell you what someone is thinking but it's not allowed for the characters to 'voice' their thoughts directly.


Yes

Switch Blayde

@robberhands

Creative writing is not a science, it's an art form and there are no laws of nature in art.


But there are principles (don't want to call them rules). Unlike math, they can be broken. But there are rules. I was simply stating the rules for POV. I'm not saying they have to be followed.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

The narrator can tell the reader everything and everything about the world and the characters ("including what each of the characters is thinking and feeling"). But it's the narrator who is telling the reader what each character is thinking and feeling (#1 above).


But that applies to spoken dialog just as much as it does to what each character is thinking and feeling.

The narrator is telling the reader what each character says.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

But there are principles (don't want to call them rules).


You say you don't want to call them rules, but you keep doing exactly that.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

That was the "cute" way the author said it's not head-hopping.


The author might well have a valid underlying point about what sort of head-hopping is acceptable to readers, but throwing in Hemingway and blurring the definition of head-hopping in my opinion detracts from that point.

AJ

REP

@Switch Blayde

I don't understand why you think she broke the rules.


Rowling's omniscient narrator knows everything that is going on in all of her characters' heads.

You are saying she broke the rules. What rule(s) did she break?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

I was simply stating the rules for POV

Poverty begins with POV. (This is intended to be a humorous comment.)

Switch Blayde

@REP

You are saying she broke the rules. What rule(s) did she break?


She went from the omniscient narrator's POV to Harry's (or maybe it was another character).

Replies:   REP
REP

@Switch Blayde

Are you saying she had the narrator provide Harry's thoughts and then had Harry express them in dialog? Or did you mean something else like the narrator and Harry expressing different thoughts?

Also, where do I find this rule? I have never heard of something like this.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

Also, where do I find this rule?


It was obvious the beginning was an omniscient narrator providing information about characters and their thoughts. And then it jumped into a character's thoughts rather than have the narrator tell the reader what those thoughts were.

I don't know where the "rule" would be defined. Where are any rules for fiction writing defined? The article I posted said so. I've read it in other places. Authors who I trust at wattpad say so.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Switch Blayde

I sounds to me like you are saying that Rowling presented the story in a way you didn't approve of rather than her breaking a rule.

How can a story line jump into a character's head if the narrator or the character isn't telling what is in the character's head. If it isn't the character or the narrator providing the thoughts, then who is providing the thoughts? The only way that could happen is by Rowling talking directly to the reader and I doubt that is what you mean.

You and others have quoted many rules for writing fiction over the years with citations, so they are written down. If Rowling's transgression broke a rule then someone should be able to cite the rule. If you can't cite the rule, then she didn't break a rule.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

My style is to write short sentences.

In principle I agree, but there's one exception: lists.

Sentences can easily become unwieldy with more than two independent clauses, i.e. with a main verb, when you start including dependent clauses, appositive phrases, and asides in those clauses. Sometimes even two is too many.

However, I find no problem with even very long sentences consisting of a common subject and multiple predicates in a list. They are no problem at all for readers to process. Readers hit a comma followed by a new main verb after the first predicate. They know the subject is the same as before and they must remember that subject because at least one more predicate will be coming. That can go on indefinitely, i.e. another predicate ended with a comma then the main verb for the next predicate. Eventually they hit a comma followed by 'and' before the next main verb. That's when they know this is final item in the list using the common subject.

(For CW's benefit ... that is my reason for preferring serial commas. I like that the explicit warning readers are given that the current list is about to end when they a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction. No need to explain why you think differently. I know I'm preaching to an atheist here. :-)

The important thing, of course, is the author must start each element of their list with the same part of speech. That can be a new verb each time, which produces a sentence with one clause with multiple predicates. Alternatively it can be a new subject and verb each time, which produces a "compound sentence" with multiple independent clauses. But note, it is the common pattern for starting each new clause which allows readers to easily process even very long sentences.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@REP


How can a story line jump into a character's head if the narrator or the character isn't telling what is in the character's head. If it isn't the character or the narrator providing the thoughts, then who is providing the thoughts?


Because the narrator did not tell what the character was thinking. The character basically told what he was thinking.

1. Harry wondered what his aunt wanted.
2. What does my aunt want? Harry thought.

The first is the narrator telling the reader what Harry is thinking (narrator's POV).
The second is getting into the character's thoughts directly (Harry's POV).

So she jumped (head-hopped) from the narrator's POV to Harry's.

It could work. Most people wouldn't even notice. In fact, I once read that a skilled omniscient writer can do that seamlessly. But don't do it well and it's annoying to many readers.

ETA:

Don't confuse the narrator with the author.

Replies:   REP
richardshagrin

@Ross at Play

serial commas

Cereal commas are like Cheerios, but broken in half.

REP

@Switch Blayde

Now I have a better understanding of your complaint.

In earlier threads, we seemed to reach an agreement that an author did not have to maintain a single POV throughout the story. The consensus was shifting between POVs was acceptable as long as the author made it clear that the POV had shifted. The recommended means of accomplishing the transition between POVs was at a scene change.

Personally, I see no problem with Rowling changing POVs. I would have more of a problem with an author shifting a single narrator's account between 1st and 3rd person.

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