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I look into the mirror, usually by accident, and see the face of someone who hasn't slept well in many years.

Very, very cold Outside (20F, feels like 8F), but warm enough in the House.

Still and all and yet, I wrote 2,014 words on The Drowning Girl yesterday. I passed manuscript page 100. And to the title page I added a subtitle, so that it's now The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. I did this for a reason (which is usually, but not always, why I do things). The reason goes back to the problem of the interauthor, which I discussed at length in the entries of August 7th, August 8th, and August 9th. A quote from the August 7th entry, wherein I introduce the (pretty obvious) concept of the interauthor:

Conventions in first-person narratives. Such as, how so few readers pause to consider the existence and motivations of the "interauthor." When you're reading a first-person narration, you're reading a story that's being told by a fictional author, and that fictional author— or interauthor —is, essentially, the central character. Their motivations are extremely important to the story. The simple fact that they are telling the story, in some fictional universe, raises questions that I believe have to be addressed by first-person narratives. Why is the interauthor writing all this down? How long is it taking her or him? Do they intend it to be read by others? Is it a confessional? Reflection? A warning? Also (and this is a BIG one), what happens to the interauthor while the story is being written, especially if it's a novel-length work of fiction?

A first-person narrative occurs in a minimum of two time frames: the present (when the story is being written down) and the past (when the story occurred).

And it baffles me that so few readers or writers pause to consider these facts, and that so few authors address these problems in the text. A first-person narrative is, by definition, an
artifact, and should be treated as such. Rarely do I use the word "should" when discussing fiction writing.

If the subject interests you, I recommend going back and reading the three posts I linked to above, and especially the many comments to them. But getting back to yesterday, and how The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is shaping up, the book it's becoming....

What is most important here is that the reader absolutely must accept that this story is most emphatically not being written for anyone except the interauthor, in this case India Morgan Phelps (a.k.a. Imp). If the reader is unable to accept this conceit, or unaware of it, the book cannot hope to succeed on the level that I mean it to succeed (let's call me the extra-author, existing as I do beyond the narrative). Literally, you'll not be reading the book I am writing, if you fail to grasp this point. Imp is not sane, and Imp has no concern for the needs of readers she isn't writing for. Her thoughts are sometimes a jumble, as her thoughts would be. None of it's being filtered to make it any easier for others to read. Not you, or you, or you. Not my editor and not my agent and not reviewers.

To quote Mark Z. Danielewski's opening warning from House of Leaves, "This is not for you." It truly isn't. But happenstance (by the agent of me, the extra-author) will allow you the opportunity to read the manuscript, even though it was not written for you, or for anyone else but Imp. And yeah, by now I know enough to know how this is going to piss off a lot of readers. But that's not my problem, even if it actually is my problem. If the reader wants to read this particular story, hesheit must meet me more than halfway. This is not for you.

Another thing that I've realized is that Imp is an even less reliable narrator than Sarah Crowe. In The Red Tree there was at least a voice of authority— Sarah's editor, Sharon D. Halperin —even if we might doubt whether or not the editor is being entirely truthful. In The Drowning Girl: A Memoir there is nowhere a voice of authority. There is only Imp's voice. Hence, the factualness of the manuscript cannot be determined (though it's truthfulness is another matter).

By the way, I have made at least one concession to expectation and convention, in that I don't think we will ever know how the manuscript Imp is writing has reached you, the reader. Recall that in some of my works that employ first-person narratives, such as The Dry Salvages and The Red Tree, I made a point of working that bit out. Anyway, it can't help but worry me, how the book will be received by my audience. But I also have to write it the way it should be written, which means the authenticity of the artifact, the product of the interauthor, is more important than the likes and dislikes of the novel's potential readership.

And if you're the sort who's bought into all that "reader-response" hogwash, well...what can I say? If you think the act of reading shapes the true meaning of a book and that the author's intentions are irrelevant, all I can say is this is not for you. In fact, none of my fiction is, if you're that sort of reader. Or if you're simply the sort who expects to be pandered to, the lazy sort who only wants bedtime and fireside tales.

And now, time to make the doughnuts.

Comments

( 16 comments — Have your say! )
myownpetard
Dec. 15th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
you rock
i'm excited to read it :)
kurtmulgrew
Dec. 15th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
I've always enjoyed reading things that weren't meant for me.
sovay
Dec. 15th, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
This is not for you.

Good.
haceldama
Dec. 15th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
Beautifully stated (big surprise, coming from you). There is a story in DARK DELICACIES III: HAUNTINGS, that manages to encapsulate nearly *every* problem you piint out about the "interauthor" (a phrase I worship now); it's entitled "Tyler's Third Act" by Mick Garris, which is a wonderfully grim and entertaining story until you reach the final few pages and the ending -- all of which completely negates the story's being able to exist in the first place. A lot of readers are going goo-goo-ga-ga over this story and it drives me to despair because, as if to make the antithesis of your point -- none of them have bothered to stop and ask the most simple questions concerning the interauthor's abilities and motivations.

I didn't mean to go off like that, but you hit at something very close to my heart as both a writer and reader -- which is to say it's a *sore* point. (I haven't slept well in years, either, so you've got nothing but my sympathy and understanding.)

I greatly admire you work, and you courage and wit as a human being.

Shutting up now ....
greygirlbeast
Dec. 15th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)

A lot of readers are going goo-goo-ga-ga over this story and it drives me to despair because, as if to make the antithesis of your point -- none of them have bothered to stop and ask the most simple questions concerning the interauthor's abilities and motivations.

This is such a great source of frustration for those of us who see it. Having seen it, you can never stop seeing it. And those who doggedly do not see it, likely never shall.
unknownbinaries
Dec. 15th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
I am thankful for you posting your points/rants(?) on this, as it's made me more thoughtful about my own writing endeavours, made me ask 'why' about what I'm doing more often and in, I hope, smarter ways.
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greygirlbeast
Dec. 15th, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)

I've always thought that books are like cats. You have to accept them on their terms or not at all.

A very fine analogy.
mystical_indi
Dec. 15th, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
This is a great point. I've written a lot of interesting first-person narratives and they are very challenging to read even from my point of view. You bring up a lot of points that really make sense and I think every writer should have to read this. Some things are just important facts that people need to think about when reading a story, you are correct.

Good way to put it, thank you.
hypanebliss
Dec. 15th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
I believe that books which are difficult to read are perhaps the most valuable. As in, I want something that is going to challenge me, break my expectations down and put my mind into overdrive. You made a reference at one point in your journal about enjoying movies that are uncomfortable to watch and that art *should* make us squirm. I don't remember the exact words you used.

I remember reading Burroughs for the first time and struggling to get through Naked Lunch. I loved that feeling. Of being pushed far away from my comfort zone while going through passages posited by a deranged drug user.

To put it bluntly, what you are doing is cool. Have faith that some of us don't merely want to read the latest claptrap tossed onto a shelf as a mass merchandising scheme. Rock!
greygirlbeast
Dec. 15th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
As in, I want something that is going to challenge me, break my expectations down and put my mind into overdrive.

Then you are an ideal reader.

I don't remember the exact words you used.

Nor do I, offhand.

Edited at 2010-12-15 10:52 pm (UTC)
whiskeychick
Dec. 15th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
I really need to get you that book I told you about "The Orange Eat Creeps."
greygirlbeast
Dec. 15th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)

I really need to get you that book I told you about "The Orange Eat Creeps."

Great title.
ceewayne
Dec. 16th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
As for me, I am really looking forward to this book. Your writing makes me think. It is not an easy read but worth it. You and Lovecraft are the only two authors who make me shiver on a hot sunny day.
michael_b_lee
Dec. 16th, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
By the way, I have made at least one concession to expectation and convention, in that I don't think we will ever know how the manuscript Imp is writing has reached you, the reader.

In this particular case, I think trying to explain how the artifact came to the attention of the reader would actually work at cross-purposes to what you're trying to achieve. Nothing should be explicated. The reader should at no times be certain of her footing.

I'm very much looking forward to this book.
greygirlbeast
Dec. 16th, 2010 06:23 am (UTC)

In this particular case, I think trying to explain how the artifact came to the attention of the reader would actually work at cross-purposes to what you're trying to achieve. Nothing should be explicated. The reader should at no times be certain of her footing.

Agreed, which is why I'm doing it as I am.
( 16 comments — Have your say! )