Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Interiority and Voice

Our society is becoming increasingly image-driven. And although it is true that an image is worth a thousand words, as fiction writers it is important for us to remember that a novel is not a screenplay, and that although strong images are necessary building blocks of memorable fiction, the narrative form begs for interiority.

Every character sees the world in a different way. So that if a certain section of the novel is a close POV on one character (as it often happens), then actions and objects noticed are uniquely his/hers, so that if the same scene were told from another character’s perspective, it would seem completely different; even the “facts” of the events might differ. Stories do not have to be factual, but they should be truthful.

This is not to say that the narrator cannot pull back and use the tools of an omniscient POV (in fact, omniscience is vastly useful if done well), but that the writer needs to keep in mind, at all points, just who is filtering the story. Obviously, the type of interiority in a given work depends on the author’s choice of POV. I want to clarify that by “interiority” I don’t mean a constant bombardment of “She thought…” I mean utilizing every opportunity to illuminate the character’s interior want. As Grace Paley puts so succinctly, “The job of the writer is to illuminate what is hidden.”

Filtering plot through a unique perspective, personality, and set of opinions is also a step toward achieving a unique voice.

Creative Writing MFA

1 comment:

Kathleen Irene Paterka said...


I love the line "Stories do not have to be factual, but they should be truthful".

Each one of us carries a truth deep inside. It's our job, as writers, to search out that truth, then present it to readers in such a fashion that they feel safe discovering and embracing their own truth. No one is ever alone on the journey.

Story magic. Love it.


Women's Fiction