The Ditchwalk Book Club is reading and discussing Rust Hills’ seminal work, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. Announcement here. Overview here. Tag here.
The full title of this section is Monologues, and the Pathological First Person. If you’re like me you’d be hard pressed to cite an example of a fictional monologue, let alone one you found compelling as literature or art. This section explains why.
Stories told in the monologue form would seem to be exceptions to our “rule” that the point-of-view character is the character moved by action or will become so. The monologist, after all, is presumed to be the same after he ends his harangue as he was before he began it.
For Hills the relevant literary question is not whether something can be done, but whether it can be done well. His standard is, in the end, qualitative, not dogmatic. If breaking a rule increases the power of your fiction then by all means break it. As Hills notes, however, the inherent problem with monologues is that they decrease power by promoting uncertainty:
Who is it exactly that is talking? And then, is the reader being addressed directly? Or is a captive “visitor” there, in the barber chair or whatever, just somehow listening?
Hills piles on, but you get the point. It’s the point I made in an earlier post in this series, when I said, “Point of view is inherent in storytelling.” If you don’t provide a point of view, or you keep the point of view a secret, your readers, consciously or subconsciously, are going to provide an answer themselves. [ Read more ]