Saturday, January 16, 2010
I am nearly finished with the 1200 pages of World Without End and it has been so engrossing that I haven't read much else to report on. I thought at one point that Follett had described one minor character as "ambitious" on one page and "not ambitious" on another page. Having come across this during some late night reading, I folded the pages to mark them and composed in my mind a blog about the responsibility of the omniscient narrator to remain consistent with his trusting readers. The blog reached draft form before I checked some details of my memory and by the clear light of day, it was very apparent that Follett was describing two different minor characters, one "ambitious" and the other "not ambitious". I erased my draft blog, grateful that I hadn't made a fool of myself. So much for the trusting reader. I still think that it is remarkable how willing we are to follow an omniscient narrator. After all, he/she knows everything that is happening and that will happen and we very generously allow the narrator to spin out details in a sequence that creates a story, complete with uncertainty and tension. What would happen if we readers demanded that omniscient narrators tell us everything they know right up front? Efficient and time-saving but it sure wouldn't be storytelling.