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staying out of characters' heads

Extollager

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I know this as the dramatic or objective point of view. It can elicit active, attentive reading. One can build mood and enhance meaning by including symbolic details, as Hemingway does in "Hills Like White Elephants" with the two sides of the river valley. In the same story, one should pay attention to where the two main characters are looking (he's got his eyes fixed on her; she isn't looking at him as he goes on and on). As CTRandall says above, one may include "use of the surrounding environment to suggest something about the characters' internal states." That's Eliot's "objective correlative," isn't it?
 

CTRandall

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I just read the Hemingway and what strikes me is the quality of the dialogue. That is what makes the piece work. The dialogue conveys the emotional nuance without a need to reference the characters' thoughts or to adjectivize (can I use that word?) their statements. There's no "he said angrily" or "she blushed in embarrassment". (Ok, he does that a couple of times in the piece, but not very often.)

Hemingway just writes really good dialogue that says everything all on its own. Anything more would be redundant, superfluous, even gauche.
 

tinkerdan

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One reason I think that Hemingway is effective in Hills Like White Elephants is that he is basically writing a conundrum.

The reader really doesn't know exactly what they are talking about...it seems easy to guess; however it becomes increasingly more difficult to guess at whatever conclusions might be drawn, because of the lack of internal thoughts. I think this is what Hemingway was striving for.

The reader is sitting somewhere close enough to observe the couple and hear what they say; however they are not privy to anything about what they are truly discussing and have to draw conclusions from assumption. They aren't privy to what they are thinking and have to draw conclusions from what they might assume by their actions and expression.

The usual conundrum is either hearing something or watching the actions; one without the other, so this conundrum is easier, because it has both elements. Getting inside the character's heads would reveal too much for purposes, because I think Hemingway meant for the reader to be forced to draw their own conclusions.

This works well for the short story. Too much, as in a novel, might make the whole become some maddening conundrum that might become too tedious to read. It probably would suit literary fiction best.
 

CTRandall

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I think Hemingway meant for the reader to be forced to draw their own conclusions.

This works well for the short story. Too much, as in a novel, might make the whole become some maddening conundrum that might become too tedious to read.
This is pretty much where I'm coming from. My background is in music and this is how music works; each listener takes his/her own meanings out of it. I agree that has limited value for most novels (Thomas Pynchon aside) but I find many recent fantasy/sci-fi novels go to the other extreme, giving huge internal monologues from characters that reveal too much, to the detriment of the story. (Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker comes to mind. I got barely a third of the way through the book before givimg up on that one.)

Keeping the reader out of characters' heads is one way of holding back important information and saving it for dramatic reveals and turns. And as for conundrums, most readers like a mystery that keeps them guessing--so long as it's done well.
 

sknox

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Pretty much any of the best of the detective genre will provide great examples. From the old days, that would be Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler. More modern would include Leonard but also Walter Moseley, Chester Himes, and of course The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins.
 

CTRandall

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I'm a little surprised at the detective novels. When I think of Dashiell Hammet, I think of those long, noir "of all the gin joints in the world" internal monologues. Perhaps that is just Hollywood's version of them? I'll take a look.
 

sknox

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Definitely absolutely the Hollywood version. Also, just ftr, that line was dialogue, not internal. :)

Personally I think detective novels--the best of them, mind you--are among the finest American literature produced in the past century or more. Certainly the most purely American. But the writing itself is stellar. From the British side I'd put up Graham Greene and John Le Carre.
 

tinkerdan

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The old detective fiction is a all well and good as they say. However, it's all steeped in dialogue or at least those mentioned seem that way. Elmore Leonard(who is more current)can be included and Dashiell Hammitt and Raymond Chandler; though the latter two do it with first person and the narrative often sounds like an extension to dialogue, only where the POV is talking directly to the reader and they are detectives, so it doesn't bother the reader that they are like a wideangle lens that takes in everything and describe it all in detail and flushes it out on the page. It all reminds me of a good play with all the snappy dialogue, you know the ones that used to make great movies because of that dialogue; and back then they only had black and white pictures sort of a noir thing that translated well with those if the actors did well enough with the dialogue to pull it all off and you don't see that much today because we have technicolor and special effects that like to crowd out all that interesting dialogue or even that narrative over-voice.

But it all makes the narrator judgmental because the story is done in such a way that they end up being the omniscient narrator that we have to trust because everything is influenced by their own judgment of people and places. They have to be careful about consistency, because if they slip up they might become an unreliable narrator and then the whole house of cards begins to crumble and the story becomes weakened. Then again it all boils down to writing well and then the reader wont notice when the dialogue peters out a bit and the narrative starts up and it might sound like we are in the characters head except that the dialogue has carried the reader far enough that he believes this is just an extension of dialogue that we already know is judgmental and, if there is a character they can attribute it to, it doesn't matter that it looks like we are in their head because it's just something they wanted to say and just didn't say it for some reason and sometimes the reason they don't is even mentioned in passing. It's about how to balance things and make the whole thing easier to read and harder to analyze on the fly so that if the reader wants to see what the author is really doing they have to go looking with that intent and that could ruin the story.

Have to go back and read those with the more analytical mind some day.
 

CTRandall

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Then again it all boils down to writing well and then the reader wont notice when the dialogue peters out a bit and the narrative starts up and it might sound like we are in the characters head except that the dialogue has carried the reader far enough that he believes this is just an extension of dialogue that we already know is judgmental and, if there is a character they can attribute it to, it doesn't matter that it looks like we are in their head because it's just something they wanted to say and just didn't say it for some reason and sometimes the reason they don't is even mentioned in passing
One sentence! Now that is a triumph! Throw some verbs to the ends of clauses and it'd be enough to make me think you're German. Or hyped up on stimulants.

And six "ands" in a single sentence. That ties my personal best.:)
 
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