Monday, March 7, 2011

Boredom with Broken Springs and a Hint of Steam, Part 2


Onto Part 2...The Steampunk that hints at greatness, but has yet to grab me by the ass and send me flying down a road of adventure.

Vampire Empire by Clay and Susan Griffith seems plagued with an oddly detached perspective. I don't know what yet to make of it. I'm only 60 pages in, but the POV seems to distance me from attachment to the characters, killing any sense of mystery and the prose is so spartan as to read like a comic book. Which would be fine, if it were—with compelling pictures to back up the action—but it isn't.

It's also my first PYR book. I had high hopes of being amazed, but now I don't know what to think.

First, I'm not an expert in POV, but it appears this book was written as third omni. The reader is given information and personal perspectives from everyone without pause. Everything is laid out, clear and obvious. There is no mystery. The reader is not involved and for me it means there is no tension. The perspective distracts from the attachment I want to form with the characters. Despite knowing what is in their heads, I never feel like I am actually IN their heads.

I can't claim to remember reading many other books in that POV, so I don't know if this is a problem of this book or if it is a common hazard of the perspective.

I could nitpick about other things—the urge to include information dumps and over-explanations—but I think my biggest qualm is the POV and how it is treated.

What can be learned here? Well, for me, I think third-person limited perspective is an ideal. Yes, there are  exceptions, and I have at least one experiment I want to try with a different perspective, but third-limited gives the opportunity to get close to the character without experiencing the displacement of head-jumping from chapter-to-chapter in first person. But WHY is it better? That is a far more important question than finding out WHAT seems better. Especially for a writer that is trying to learn the craft.

I think it has everything to do with character. I feel strongly that, though stories can entrance from every perspective and from many different genres and varieties, I would hazard to say that all of the good ones share one single commonality: strong characters, that the reader can empathize with in some way. There are many good books out there that focus on concepts and ideas—science fiction in particular—and while these can grab a reader just as a good character can, I don't think they equal a balanced story or have much staying power.

A good example would be Old Man's War by John Scalzi. The ideas in there may have been fairly new at first publish, but with the book's popularity there is no doubt they will (and probably already have been) copied profusely. However the book could easily remain a classic, with its strong character.

If the only thing pushing your story along is a fascinating concept/idea/machine you will fail over the long haul without strongly conceived and executed characters.

My favorites have all been done before, or if they were unique at publish, they've been copied since. But they stand up to the test of time because of strong characters. Those stubborn, insightful, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants characters that can pull you along the familiar road and entertain for generations.

What about you? What's your favorite perspective to read or write? Why? And, do you find character to be the lynch pin that keeps you on the road, or not?


  1. Well, most of the time that perspective is third-limited. But, there are exceptions. Some writers have voices so unique that I marvel how they are able to string together such profound sentences.

    One I enjoy, a lot, is Tom Robbins. For an interesting read, written in a strange second person present tense perspective, try "Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas".

    Most of his work will bend your mind.

    "Mediocrity is a hair ball coughed up on the Persian carpet of creation." - Tom Robbins (from HAFP)

  2. THAT'S quite a visual. When I get a moment to breathe I'll have to check him out some day. Right now, focus is on getting a buffer for the webcomic.

    You're right of course, it all has to do with the individual writer. Used more effectively I'm sure Omni POV could astound.


Thanks for reading, now tell me what you think.