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Birch Bay Public Market

Friday, May 10 through the end of summer, Cathy and I will be selling her hand-made soaps, lotions, and toiletries, along with my photography, note cards, calenders, books, etc.

Come see us!

Across the street from the C Shop

4825 Alderson Road, Birch Bay, Washington 98230

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I had an automated blogroll here, powered by Google Reader, but Google, in its near-infinite lack of wisdom, killed Google Reader. Prior to this murder, all I had to do to put a blog on my blogroll (or to take it off) was to place it in a Reader folder called, appropriately enough, "blogroll" (or, of course, to remove it). I use The Old Reader now for following blogs, but it seems to have no way to something similar regarding the blogroll. If you know of a way to do this, please let me know.

Such were their first impressions of each other.

Apropos of my post on third-person omniscient…

…look what I just came across in A Hole in Texas, by Herman Wouk:

“You must be Dr Carpenter.” Small slight woman, classy dark suit, large brown eyes, engaging smile, swift stride. “Thank you for coming in.”

“My pleasure, Congresswoman.” Very tall man, white hair ill suited to an ascetic face and wiry build, trouble getting to his feet. Such were their first impressions of each other, as they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

A perfect example of the strength of 3PO. It would have been difficult and awkward to describe both of these people in one swift paragraph in any breed of third-person limited, but it would simply have been impossible to slip that “Such were their first impressions of each other…” in there at all without 3PO. It could be argued that the insertion is unneeded, but I think it is a swift and elegant summing up, sliding without any serious snag into the rest of the paragraph.

“Such were their first impressions of each other…” Who, exactly, is saying that? Mr Wouk himself, the omniscient third person, the narrator, the storyteller. It is ludicrous to try to pretend that he does not exist, or to try to pretend that he has nothing to say, or that everything that needs to be said can be said through the mouth of a character. In that direction lies those jagged cliffs known as the As-you-know-Bob Precipice.

Back to the Wouk example. Notice the lists of sentence fragments? Notice me not saying anything about them? I could point out the natural flow of them, the conciseness of the information they present, their smooth and innocuous nature. I could point out that what is good enough for Herman Wouk is good enough for the likes of you and me. I could hunt down the reviewer who said, in regard to one of my books, that a “good editor” would have detected and removed the sentence fragments. But I won’t. I will do no such thing.

3 comments to Such were their first impressions of each other.

  • Today the books are written in every way in any style, about anything. I do believe that a good writer has the talent to make any story great, using any person he wants, as long as the readers understand his words and his story. It’s hard for me to believe that “rules” like “not to use the third-person omniscient point of view” are followed by writers. Writing is creativity. If a writer wants, and has the inspiration to write an entire book using 3PO, and an editor tells him to change that aspect, that book will become an other book, more likely a low quality book…

  • There is a vast list of “rules”, including the admonitions against 3PO, adverbs, passive voice, sentence-initial conjunctions, sentence-final prepositions, so-called “singular they”, etc, etc, etc, that are passed around in reverent awe by new and aspiring authors, but that have never been observed or followed in any serious way by fiction authors in general. These “rules” all have their origin among better-known authors, but those authors do not follow them.

    Stephen King, very vocal in his memoir On Writing against the use of adverbs, uses adverbs as much as any other writer. E. B. White, perhaps the most famous passive-voice basher of all time, seems (in The Elements of Style) to not even understand what it is, and (in his other writings) to use it all the time.

    I’m not saying these authors tried to set up traps or snares for the unwary, only that when they talk about writing, they are doing one thing, and when they write, they aren’t paying much attention to what they said.

    You are right — writing is creativity. And when certain forms of writing are “ruled” against, it’s like telling painters that they cannot ever, under any circumstances, use a half-inch brush. Or red paint. Or vertical brushstrokes, or whatever.

  • This is a funny/annoying situation: An author sets up some rules. But those “rules are meant to be broken”. And the author that breaks rules is an innovator (unless an editor decides the contrary). From this perspective, knowing the rules helps you to choose whether to follow them or not. So, again, my conclusion is that theory has nothing to do with writing. :)