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Other Language Topics


1. Powers of Language




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2. Person & Tense




First person narration is when an ‘I’ tells the story. There’s a whole range of options between the ‘I’ who seems to be setting down the story like a writer and the ‘I’ who seems to be recounting the story orally, in a live situation

The writer-type narrator is someone who has experienced the events of the story but now organises them with distance and control. Dialogue is ‘recreated’ in full, description is developed, action is clearly visualised.

The oral-type narrator conveys an impression of speaking face-to-face with a listener or small audience. Typically, this kind of presentation is much more personal and quirky. The narrator has a distinctive way of speaking, individual mannerisms and attitudes that colour everything s/he says.

The subjectivity of an oral-type narrator is always liable to override the ‘objective’ standards of storytelling. This ‘I’ will admit to events not seen, and pass over them. Instead of unfolding the story chronologically, s/he may jump back and forth across time; instead of holding back facts for suspense and mystery, s/he may blurt them out in advance.

Of course, the ‘I’ narrator’s accidents are still deliberate on the part of the real author behind the scenes. The real author knows the exact effect of those ‘blurts’, which may be actually working as teasers—or red herrings.

With this kind of presentation, the listener is also part of the equation. As in a real face-to-face recounting, the ‘I’ is aware of the person or people s/he’s addressing, and tries to cajole them, contradict them, redirect them, draw them in.

So you think that’d make him one of the angels? No, he was a …

I’ve met plenty of nutters in my job, but believe me, you’ve never seen anything like this kid …

megaphone narratorAddressing the listener (who is actually the reader) creates a whole further level of play.

This doubling of level is another special possibility of language. On the one hand, the past events recounted; on the other, the present situation of the recounter and the listener. Sometimes, the present situation may become a second story in its own right, and even a second story that wraps around and interacts with the first. For example, the murderer who has revealed himself in his story ends up threatening his audience with a similar fate. Or, the listeners are judges who finally pass sentence on the basis of what they/you have heard.










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