Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Objective

objective, being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject. Adjective.

(As opposed to the noun objective -- goal, target).

Two my favorite short story authors are Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver. Both used a sparse and minimalistic style. They shared only details that were relevant to the story. Neither painted a picture with his words; rather, they gave me, the reader, an outline and let me fill in the rest. I liked that they didn't tell me what to think about the characters and their situations. I had to construct my own meaning and understanding.

Early in college, when I started writing fiction, I tried to emulate their style. I pretended I was a fly on a wall capturing events as they unfolded. I could describe what people said, what motions people made, and what color the room was, but I couldn't describe what someone was thinking. I tried to be as objective as possible--besides, who was I to tell a reader what to think?

I hope that this tactic helped me develop as a writer--by limiting myself to what can be observed, objectively, I had to think about the actions that moved my characters and story along.

But it's so much more fun--both as a writer and as a reader--to go inside a character's head. As I've grown more confident, I've let the narrator carry more of the load. By using third-person point-of-view, I can stay somewhat detached; but by allowing that narrator to be limited omniscient, I can go into the main character's head. I want to understand what she is thinking about and how she is processing that information. I want to be right there with her as she faces and (hopefully) overcomes challenges. Subjectivity is much more colorful than objectivity.

* Click on "Ernest Hemingway" and "Raymond Carver" to read my favorite story by each author!


AllMyPosts said...


Everything is fine, as long as we show and not tell right??

with warm regards
CatchyTips for Writers

Karen Peterson said...

I've seen some great work from the limited POV, but I usually prefer the stories that get inside a character's head.

Tonja said...

Very thoughtful post. I feel more comfortable writing in omniscient mode. But I love reading stories where the narrator is initially detached and then unexpectedly gives you a peek inside the mind of the character or gets closer to the character just like you do as the story progresses. That might just be me.

August said...

Thanks for stopping by :)

@CatchyTips, I think you're generally right - show, don't tell. But sometimes it's nice to be told things, especially when that reveals something about the characters.

@Karen, I don't think I could stand a larger piece written in objective point of view. I like reading first-person, actually, but not writing it. Except when blogging...

@Tonja, me too - have you read Amy Bloom's "By-and-By"? It's a short story that uses first-person narration, but a very detached point of view. Really well done.