justine larbalestier

perspective on perspective, or pov

I just today ran across a really good post from back in 2006 on Justine Larbalestier‘s weblog. It’s about (so-called) head-hopping (rapid shifting of point of view) and the general belief that such techniques are bad bad bad. She says:

Let me repeat: no writing technique is bad per se. Sure, it can be done badly, but that’s an entirely different issue. Writing that obeys all the writing workshop rules and deploys not a single adjective or adverb can also completely suck.

I have friends who are on this no-pov-shifting bandwagon, and who are quite vocal about it. For example, Jenny Crusie has been very clear about her dislike of rapid POV shifting. Now, I love her to death, but on this, I’m sorry to say, I think she’s got the wrong end of the proverbial stick.

Justine’s post is worth reading because she backs up her position with a lot of interesting observations This is one of those anti rules-of-thumb: If you are good enough, you can break any rule and not only get away with it, but pull off something wondrous.

In the spirit of full disclosure: I do sometimes use rapid POV shifting as a technique in certain kinds of scenes. A few people have emailed over the years to ask me why I would commit such a crime. I think now now that question has been answered, more by Justine than by me.

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who you know

Justine Larbalestier has a post up called Why do all the writers know each other? — a question put to her by a workshop student.

I read Justine’s weblog now and then, but I don’t know her, in case you were wondering. We do have the same fabulous agent, but otherwise our worlds don’t much intersect. She writes sci-fi, which I read but don’t write.

Part of her answer to the question:

So how do all us writers know each other? From hanging out in places other writers are likely to be: conventions, conferences, book festivals, university English departments, writers’ workshops.

Now see, I would say that most writers don’t know each other. And if one author does know a lot of other authors, it’s almost always restricted to the genre in which he or she writes.

I’m defining “know” this way: somebody I can contact who will remember me, usually somebody I have met in person. My list isn’t particularly long, maybe fifteen names of other published novelists. The list gets longer if I count other authors I know exclusively through email and weblogs. These are people I might email with a work-related question, and know I’ll get a response. It’s my sense that we’d get along if we met.

As I write in two genres, I have two sets of connections. If I really had to, I could follow the romance connections or the litcrit connections and find my way to almost anybody within those groups. I can’t imagine under what circumstances I’d try to set that train in motion, but I think it would be possible. On the other hand, I have no idea how I’d get in touch with the authors who have established themselves in mystery, horror, or sci-fi. Unless they happen to be represented by the same agent, which is how I came to meet Garth Nix.

In general I don’t miss having a lot of connections. Maybe I’d feel differently about it if I were twenty-one and living in Manhattan, but right now? I’m one of the more reclusive types.

And I have to get back to that blank page, all by my lonesome.