adventures in dysthymia

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On 'Psychological Realism'

Perhaps the one thing I most dislike in fiction is an omniscient narrator who attempts to psychoanalyze the characters. Aside from being a blatant breaking of the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule (though all rules are made, of course, to be occasionally broken), it almost always seems simplistic and forced. Humans are far more complex than such narratives typically suggest.

This is one reason I am not very fond of many novels from the second half of the 19th Century. And why I love many novels from the first half of that same century — I’ll take Austen over Conrad anytime. I prefer an author show me his characters, let me see their actions, and form my own ideas about them.

Of course, the author does have to have well-formed ideas himself as to why his characters act as they do! He just doesn’t have to set them out for us.

Hemingway wrote of the importance of knowing things about ones characters that are not told in the story. Being able to discover the characters, to know there is depth and back-story, is an aspect of any good work of fiction.

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