F. Scott “Teacher”

Maybe it is my academic research background. Maybe it is a bolshie side. Or maybe I am just awkward.

I don’t know why it is. There must be a reason I enjoy seeing real-life examples of some writing “rule” I see pushed on social media, and finding out it is not necessarily as “clear cut” as is presented. Best of all is when it does not even take much “digging” to do so.

Consider this I saw from a tweeting editor the other day:

“POV” is author/editor-speak for “point of view.”

(As an aside for clarity since he mentions it, if you don’t know “deep third” there refers to a style of “third person” writing in which the main character is essentially also the narrator – meaning we as the reader see what the main character sees, but it is not a book full of “first” person “I” “I” “I” all over but rather “he”/”she.” My books are probably best described as approaching – but are hardly pure because they have several “viewpoint” major characters – “deep” third person; but that is neither here nor there here.)

How to make such a transition between characters’ “POVs?”:

Okay. I then reached over on my desk just in front of me where I type this, and picked up a famous and highly regarded 20th century novel:

[Tender Is The Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1934. Photo by me, Bristol, England, 2019.]

After just a few moments of page-turning, look what I found:

[From Tender Is The Night (1934), by F. Scott Fitzgerald.]

The “she” there is “Rosemary.”

The “he” is “Dick.”

The “thinking” each do there could be said to be courtesy of a “god-like” narrator. Yet what is also the case is each character is doing their own “thinking.” Moreover we are jumping from “Rosemary’s” thoughts to “Dick’s” on the same page in quick succession.

Is that “head hopping?” Or some change in a “point of view?” Or is it a “god-like narrator?” Or some combination(s)?

In the end, it is rather subjective. Some editors (and readers) now might not like that arguably abrupt “thought shift” mid-page between “Rosemary” and “Dick.” Others might think it is fine.

As we see quoted on Wikipedia, it is also said of Tender Is The Night (1934):

Modern critics have described it as “an exquisitely crafted piece of fiction” and “one of the greatest American novels.”

So, yes, there are suggestions we as writers see on social media that we may find useful. However, we must not treat what are most “suggestions” as “rules” that constitute “absolutes.” From my perspective as a reader, I want to be able to follow what is going on and it is up to the author to share the tale as they feel best fits how I as a reader may best comprehend – and even, yes, really, enjoy perhaps – it.

Personally, I will run with a Fitzgerald example anytime compared with what I am told on the internet. I think the key to learning to write is to READ lots of books in the broad genre in which you want to write and SEE how others have done it. Taking in well-reviewed literature is the best teacher there is.

Speaking of that sort of literature, look at what just arrived in the post yesterday:

[Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, 1877. Photo by me, 2021.]

Well, that will give me a new hobby – because I have never read the original full novel – for the next year or so. LOL!

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

3 thoughts on “F. Scott “Teacher”

  1. “Headhopping!” 😂 Thank you for this term. Never heard it before. As an academic, I know you are well familiar with the egregious student habit of shifting POV from third or first into second, lol. “Headhopping” will make my students laugh, always a good thing. Re the “absolutes” thing, one of my favorite adages is, “You must first know the rules in order to break the rules.” I stand by this with every fiber of my being as I’m so thoroughly convinced that the art of proper grammar is dying, but once those rules are known, by all means break them for the sake of creativity, clarity, and beautiful words. 🙏♥️

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    1. If you Google it, you get all sorts of people explaining why it is worst thing other than confusing “your” and “you’re” and providing examples. Actually, it is probably worse, because it is far easier to correct a mere spelling error.

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