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We're Working On It by Richard Norway

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I looked high and low for a previous thread on this story and couldn't find one. So now that it's a Dude's Pick it seems high time.

It's an engaging story even as it treads some well-worn paths. I'm especially impressed as it was apparently a first effort, if I understand an earlier post correctly.

My main complaint is the very one that was the subject of this 2008 series of posts: forums.awesomedude.com/index.php?showtopic=3254. Personally I found the ever-shifting POV to be very distracting. Thank heavens, at least, that we didn't also have the internal thoughts of Kevin (which would have essentially removed the story from the story. We actually have kind of a blend between multiple third-person POVs and an additional omniscient POV where the author makes observations and pronouncements about the thoughts and insights of the POV characters.

I realize that this is partially a matter of taste and partially a matter of cultural conditioning. In the 19th century it was common for authors such as Dickens to inject their omniscient personal observations throughout a novel. In contemporary times, this is done much more sparingly, if at all. Similarly, at least in any given scene, the contemporary view is to stick faithfully to one POV, and to let the reader discern (or not) what may be going on in the heads of the other characters on the same footing as the POV character.

I know there have been many discussions here about the pluses and minuses of multiple POVs, whether they are announced by naming the character at the beginning of a section (something I deplore) or simply by having one character think and say something followed immediately by a description of what the other character(s) think about that statement. I'm more used to looking for clues about the other character(s)'s reaction rather than simply having it announced to me.

But I agree with the observation that having written something that people are reading is a major achievement. Cory is a very likeable and engaging character, and the reader is rooting for him all the way. That is a good thing.


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I guess one of the multitude of things we have to consider when setting out to write a story is, how do I best present this? There are usually good reasons why a writer chooses to write in first or third person, and if he chooses third, whether to be in universal or limited POV. I'd guess Richard gave it some thought and decided the way he wanted the story to unfold, using multiple first person POVs would work best for him.

I've sometimes started a story in third person and then, partway through, realized it would work better, have more tension and bring more excitement, if I switched it to first person. Believe me, that alteration isn't as easy as it might seem. It's much more involved than changing 'he' to 'I'.

I think I've only written one story with two voices doing the narration: Dust. And, in that one, I only used one voice at a time in different parts of the story. I think it was easier to follow that way and the reader didn't have to have his brain working like a ping pong ball.

Does anyone have a preference in reading? Do you prefer reading a story written in first, or third, or are you indifferent?


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I'll start, since I brought up the subject.

My strong preferences are for either well-crafted first-person, or third-person with a single point of view predominating and always that of the POV character when that character is present.

By well-crafted first person, I mean that the narrative plausibly reflects what and how the POV character (the narrator) experiences the events and participates in them. I am also happy to hear that character's internal take on these things ("she came in wearing a dress that must have been ordered from a Sears catalog") or internal dialogue about situations ("I couldn't just walk up to him and say that . . . could I? Surely he'd beat me to a pulp. Maybe I could . . ."). Part of well-crafted also includes deft handling of exposition concerning matters that the POV character did not directly experience -- such as using newspaper articles, police reports, diary entries made by a deceased relative, etc. And in situations where it is unavoidable, interludes of third-person narrative to present events that take place outside the presence of the POV character. I would cite Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels as good examples of this craft. Also, Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody novels do this well.

As for third person, I prefer that the author stick with one POV character throughout. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books do this. At times when she describes events happening outside of Harry's presence -- such as a meeting with Lord Voldemort and his minions -- the events are presented quite objectively, without an obvious POV character. Whenever Harry is involved with a scene, his reactions and concern are the ones shared with the readers.

What I especially don't like is stories where the POV ball keeps bouncing back and forth, especially when it's between two characters who are not vastly different (i.e., two different teenagers). I find it more distracting than helpful. I find that often the "inner thoughts" revealed are obvious ones. And I find that it spoils a lot of the tension and interest of the story for both sides of it to be preented at once.

In the end, I think it comes down to the question whether the author actually trusts the readers to connect the dots that he's laying out. If the author keeps jumping in and announcing what the correct interpretation of a scene is, it kind of takes the reader's involvement down to a lower level. I think that is not the best strategy.


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I looked high and low for a previous thread on this story and couldn't find one. So now that it's a Dude's Pick it seems high time.

There was a very long thread on Codey's World where the story was originally posted. The forum posts were lost when the CW forum was ended and some CW topics were added to the AD forum — but none of the topics or posts were able to be migrated. We're Working On It is also published in paperback and kindle formats on Amazon.com.

Colin :icon_geek:

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