Consistently Teaching Inconsistency



Writer’s Chronicle, May/Summer 2013


This writer’s mag isn’t always thematically consistent from issue to issue, but this time I see a pattern.

In Liz Radford’s interview with artist/novelist Audrey Niffenegger we discover that Niffenegger cares not a whit about the traditional consistencies of first person narratives in fiction. She opts to go where the action is, dropping in and out of characters’ lives and minds as she deems the story demands.

And then poet Andrew Hudgins dishes in an interview with another Andrew, (McFayden-Ketchum) about the difficulty – no, the impossibility – of overcoming one’s cultural beginnings through fiction, especially through the vehicle of free verse. (“All poems, after they are written, exist independently of their maker…”)

And perhaps the most succinct statement about the wandering thread I’m attempting to weave here is in Catherine Brady’s essay, “The Partial Glimpse – Perspective and Dynamic Plotting:” Like the final flourish in a magic trick, says Brady, the reveal in a well-made plot is never exactly what it seems. When we deploy perspective to enrich this effect, presumed rules for consistency are over-ridden. This violation of what we sometimes assume is the obligation of the narrator to be impartial catches the reader’s attention, all but forces the reader to wallow deep enough in the story to take sides.

These examples are, as I see it, a slow but inexorable drift away from the traditional structure and characterization of modern fiction. Of course, coloring outside the lines has to become an art in itself for this to work well enough to captivate readers.


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