Points of view

Here’s an article from the Times Book Review about the return of the omniscient point of view in fiction:

Most 19th-­century novelists didn’t try to hide their authorial presence. With modernism’s emphasis on the self and the rendering of individual consciousness, omniscience became unfashionable. ­Twentieth-century realists moved closer to their characters and wrote in the first person or limited third.

I have been thinking a lot about point of view lately.  All my novels to date have been told either in the first person or limited third-person (where you can have multiple points of view, but you’re only in one person’s point of view for any one scene).  All of them, that is, until Terra, where ninety percent of the novel is told in the first person, and then in the final chapter I switch to limited third for two different characters.  I worried about doing this, but I did it to set up the next novel in the sequence, Barbarica, which I’m working on now.

Barbarica is structured as a kind of kaleidoscopic limited-third novel — that is, we shift constantly from one point of view to another as the story progresses.  Will this work?  Dunno.  My writing group, which is experiencing this in real time, is getting antsy to see something from the point of view of my original narrator, Larry Barnes.  So, I have finally reached him in the sequence I’ve vaguely laid out, and suddenly I don’t know how to proceed.  Should I go back into his familiar first-person narrative style?  Or should we encounter Larry for the first time in limited third?  I think the decision will be fairly important to the reader’s experience of the story.

So now I’ll end this blog post and make the call.

Writing is hard, by the way.

Terra now available on Kobo, Google Play, iTunes…

For those of you who like to take less-traveled roads, my new novel Terra is now available on Kobo, Google Play, and iTunes.  I’m not sure what’s taking Barnes & Noble so long.

Here’s an article about the market shares of ebook vendors.  iTunes has 11% of the market; Barnes & Noble has 8%; Kobo has 3%; Google Play has 2%; Amazon has almost all the rest.  Oddly, most of my sales come from Barnes & Noble.  I do see a smattering of sales from the other vendors not named Amazon.

I will now start reminding people that customer reviews are the life’s blood of book sales.  So far Terra has none.  I expect that they may be hard to come by, since the novel will be of most interest to folks who have read The Portal.  So it’s all the more urgent for me to browbeat you into both reading and reviewing the thing.

Here’s the plot summary and first chapter.

“Terra” is now available from Amazon!

It took longer than I expected — but Terra is finally here.

Terra is the sequel to my novel The Portal; it extends and deepens the story of Larry Barnes and the cosmic gateway he has discovered to parallel universes.  Here’s a summary, along with the first chapter.

Terra cover

The ebook will be available on Barnes & Noble and other online vendors before long.  A print version will show up shortly thereafter.

By the way, if you read the marketing description of Terra on Amazon, you’ll notice a reference to the next book in the series, which is called Barbarica.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to appear, though; I’m about a quarter of the way through the first draft.

The Girl on the Train; also, chapter titles

Everyone seems to love The Girl on the Train.  It was a number one best seller; it’s being made into a movie; it’s on Obama’s summer vacation reading list.  So fine.  I just read it on my summer vacation.

The first thing I noticed is that the author used the technique I have settled on for my new novel: the point-of-view character is identified at the beginning of each chapter (along with the date and time of day).  I have become a little dubious about this technique since my
writing group reviewed my latest chapters, and Jeff pointed out that I hadn’t correctly established my point-of-view character in one of them.  “But I don’t need to,” I said.  “The point-of-view character is identified in the chapter title.”

“Oh,” Jeff replied.  “I hadn’t noticed that.”

So maybe I need to remove the “Chapter” designation; maybe I need to make the name of the character bigger.  That’s what Paula Hawkins does.  It’s probably all that stands between me and a deal for a major motion picture.

Anyway, her novel is well written and cleverly constructed, but I ended up being pretty disappointed.  Here are the problems I had with it (moderate spoiler alert):

  • I figured out who the murderer was pretty early on.  I kept expecting there would be a further twist, but the twist never came.
  • The critical event in the plot is witnessed by one of the narrators, but she doesn’t remember what happened because she was having an alcoholic blackout.  Or perhaps it didn’t happen.  Or perhaps she remembered it incorrectly.  But finally she remembers it, and that solves the mystery.  Meh.
  • One of the other narrators solves the mystery because the murderer unaccountably holds onto a key piece of evidence against him.  Phooey.
  • The climax is straight out of a Lifetime movie.  Woman finally realizes that the man she loved is really a lying cheating murdering psychopath.  The man comes after her.  Can she summon up the moxie to defeat him?  Ugh.

But really, her chapter titles are pretty good.

Life is stupider than fiction: Trump edition

Here is me complaining about how stupid it was for Mitt Romney’s campaign manager to go public with their plan to “Etch-a-Sketch” his campaign after he won the nomination.

Those were such innocent times!

I find it difficult to imagine Trump as a literary character, because the humorous parts of his character (his absurd vanity, for example) are so hard to reconcile with the incredible damage he could if he somehow managed to get himself elected.  This is real life, unfortunately.

Fiction (the kind of fiction I write, anyway) needs to assume a level of competence in the protagonist — that’s where the tension comes from.  You want a real Russian spy, not the dim-witted dupe that Trump apparently is.  You want a real billionaire who is nefariously turning his attention to politics after mastering the business world, not an unsuccessful huckster.

Trump’s incompetence would be disqualifying in a novel; it should be disqualifying in real life as well.  Too bad reality doesn’t play by the same rules.

We’re hearing a lot of denouncements of Donald Trump lately

But why aren’t they denunciations?

Here’s the sort of thing I’ve noticed, from the Times:

Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, said his party was aiming to ensure that Republicans would be tarnished by Mr. Trump, even if they distanced themselves from him.

“A denouncement of Trump at this point is too little, too late,” Mr. Luján warned.

In another article, I spotted a Times writer using denouncements outside a quotation, but later the word was switched to denunciations in the online version.

Here’s a HuffPo article with denouncement in the headline and denunciation in the subhead.  “Trump’s Denouncements of KKK Leader Don’t Matter Anymore”:

“Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see the denunciations are not sincere,” said a Southern Poverty Law Center fellow.

Maybe there’s just been a lot of denouncing going on lately.  Or maybe the language is changing, and denounce/denunciation is going the way of repel/repulsion, and the noun/verb pair is becoming similar.  In the case of repel/repulse, Google Ngram Viewer shows us a big uptick in the use of the verb repulse over the past twenty years, although repel is still more frequent.  Denouncement is used about ten times less than denunciation, Google says.  But maybe this campaign will change all that.