Thursday, 2 October 2008

A Greater POV

So we're in first-person and we're limited to what this character knows and to how this character experiences the world about him right ..?

Hokay, take a look at this simile used by my first-person narrator/protagonist to describe the sound of the rain on his umbrella:

... like a bonfire of tuneless glockenpiels.

Given that his quest is a musical one, I chose for him an auditory PRS. Note that this is a Primary RS and not an exclusive one. (By choosing a Primary RS, I am siding with the likes of Hemingway. The argument here might go something like: Because we each have a PRS, by giving one to our characters, they become more like real people, and we can use their PRS to characterise. However, by choosing to prioritise one RS over the others, we jeapordise our chances of forming any rapport with those readers whose PRSs are different to any given character's.)
So my protag hears the world about him - his map of the world is defined primarily through an absorption of sounds.
The associated word palette would reveal itself like this:
I hear you; that rings a bell; sounds like a good idea, etc.
His love of music - his PRS - would influence every observation.

In NLP, Representational Systems are referred to as modalities. Modalities are our means of experiencing the world.
The building blocks of such senses are called submodalities. Here are some examples:

Visual: colour (or b&w), brightness, contrast, movement, speed, size.

Auditory: words/sounds, volume, tone, timbre, duration, speed.

Kinesthetic: intensity, pressure, texture, weight, temperature, duration, shape.

In expressing our thoughts, each of us works up from a Deep Structure - the abstract stuff prancing about in our minds. As this stuff makes its way out, it is pruned and jumbled (generalised), and the resulting expression is revealed.
For a simple example, imagine a forest and then describe it. Note the things that you choose to mention and those things that you choose to omit. Note too how accurately (or not) your description reflects what is in your head. And, if you can't imagine how different your description of a forest would be to everyone else's, get some pals to join in. We can see how varied multiple interpretations are of the same word: forest.

We do just this with our chosen style: we mention some stuff and not other stuff.
But a first-person narrator dictates the style.
In order to control the style, we would need to understand this narrator - his RSs and his psychology - the way he maps the world and the influences born from his experiences.

This works to our advantage in plotting.
At any one moment in our plot, we mention some stuff and we suggest some stuff and save some other stuff for later.

So let's imagine that my protag is already making some destructive plans in his head. It's just this kind of internal conflict that seeks to reveal itself, through words and body language and so forth. Rather like those police training videos in which the audience is invited to spot the tell-tale signs of guilt. (I remember the drug search in which the villain simultaneously professed his innocence whilst backing towards a cabinet. Can you guess where he kept his stash? :-)

Our first-person narrator isn't necessarily going to confess his guilty thoughts (or any other of his private and clandestine thoughts). Indeed, they may not be fully formed in his head. But, they are likely to edge out of his consciousness.
This could be regarded as a first-person form of Chekhov's gun - a subtle bit of foreshadowing.

The point of a palette is that an entire scene or, more probably, chapter is painted with it.
Therefore, the theme would be repeated. In this way, Chekhov's gun is dismantled into many parts and spread across the prose such that the foreshadowing is ingested subconsciously.

In these ways, we can link the reader not just to the first-person narrator's conscious musings, but to something much deeper within him: just as we impart knowledge at strategic moments in order to give a plot momentum and changes in direction, we can connect the reader to the narrator in the past, the present, or the future - we can allow the reader to consciously understand things beyond the narrator's understanding, just as we can allow the narrator to withhold information from the reader.
There are things even within a first-person narrator that he himself is unaware of.

So we're in first-person and we're limited to what this character knows and to how this character experiences the world about him right ..?

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