Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 24 - 2K of Background, plus Burn Notice Narration

I am still in a sleep deficit from last week, and this was a VERY busy day, as students reached the panic point, and we have a major snow storm bearing down on us. While I am fine with snow, the low pressure has caused my bones to ache horribly.

So, inspired by the post about character secrets by Elizabeth over at Mystery Writing is Murder, I wrote out about two thousand words of backstory and secrets of the villains and red herrings. And it all held together nicely!

Now I'm going to bed, but first I'll add another little post about point of view:

The other day I mentioned that first person narration was especially appropriate for hard-boiled mysteries, because the heroes tend to be professionals who know how to report. I also mentioned that the character in my book who is a professional was not good for first person because he isn't the sort to make an accurate report even when he's supposed to.

And that made me think of one of my favorite TV Shows, Burn Notice. It's about a blacklisted spy who lives in a world where nobody tells all they know. Exactly the sort of character you would not have as a narrator....

Except that show is famous for its voice over narration by the hero. And as I thought about it, I realized something. The show begins with "My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy." And that is the first and last actual reference he makes to himself or his own situation. Everything he says from that point on is instructional.

"When you're burned, you're blacklisted." He's not telling us what happened to him, he's explaining what it means. Which is all he'll ever do for us. When Micheal's cover is blown, the voice over narration instructs us on the proper considerations and procedures for dealing with that situation - and we watch him act on those considerations, but he never actually tells us what he was feeling, or admits that this narrative is in reference to the scene we're watching.

It would be hard to use this sort of dissociative narration in fiction, but I still think it's useful to watch, just to see what narration can do in terms of characterization. I recommend everybody watch it. Recent episodes are available free on line (Burn Notice on Hulu), although if you want to know what's going on with the ongoing mystery of how he got burned, you should get to the video store and rent or buy the first season or two first.

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