The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. -- Marcel Proust
Isn't that what storytelling is all about when you come right down to it. We've all heard the theory that there are no new stories. The fact that Freytag's Pyramid exists just proves that theory true, and while that might render pretty much every story out there predictable to some degree, it doesn't stop people wanting to read them. So if most plots are predictable, most characters archetypes or caricatures, and all stories more or less cliché then why do we bother writing them and why do readers bother reading them? To answer that question we need to look to Proust because it's all about the Point of View, or rather, having new eyes.
We read stories to experience a point of view different than our own, sometimes it's a point of view we can sympathize with and sometimes it's not. I like my POV to be challenged, so often I read stories with characters that I deliberately cannot sympathize with. Writers do the same thing. We feel passionate about something, and that passion generally becomes the underlying thesis or the moral of the story, if you will -- even if we don't know it at the time -- and so basically we create a parable, of a sort, based on our own point of view, and in doing so, we are able to not only present that point of view to others in a pleasing and safe fictional way, but we are also given the opportunity through the writing process to challenge our own POV and refocus our own eyes.
As writers, each time we refocus our eyes we discover new ways to see, or rather, interpret the world. Every setting, every character, every scenario is basically our subjective interpretation of it. The successful writer has the second sight, and we are always refocusing our eyes so that we don't miss anything in the periphery. That’s the power in the Point of View. It's not just about what the writer sees, it's about what the writer understands and how they choose to express it. It's our idiosyncratic vision the reader is after: our tainted point of view, which affects every single aspect of our writing. If we let it, that is.
We often hear talk of "the authorial voice" and how one finds one's voice? In my opinion, to find one's voice, one has to be quiet and find one's eyes. One has to see clearly, which basically means, you have to find your point of view and not be afraid to express it. I am not talking about character POV with respect to technically narrating the story, I am talking about the Author's OWN POV, which determines the thematic approach and defines the author's writing style. Most of the books I have reviewed highly all have that one thing in common. The author had found their point of view, and they allowed it to hit the page without regret.
Since it's novella month, the cover art today is The Story of The Eye by Georges Bataille a 20th century philosopher and a brilliant writer whose authorial voice was not appreciated in his time due to the transgressive nature of his point of view. Story of the Eye is a psycho-drama of pure genius and reveals considerable psychological and philosophical depth despite the original claim that it was pornography, and while Story of The Eye chronicles the deviant sexual escapades of two young lovers, this is not what I would consider a pornographic novel. Yes, the erotic scenes are quite intense -- intense enough to make the faint of heart put the book down. But the erotica nature of the story is not the point of the story. The deep emotional, psychological, and pathological attachment between the two main characters is what drives this story. Their disdain for the banal is apparent in everything they do. The narration is surreal, slipping in an out of conscious thought and action so fluidly that it's difficult to distance yourself from the story. A word of warning though, the metaphors are quite disturbing and the sexualized violence might be a bit much for some readers. However, if you are not bothered by such things, then this little book is definitely worth the read. Bataille himself might not have fully understood where the imagery came from as he was writing it, but he had a command of his point of view, and that is what makes this story such a compelling read.
Cheryl Anne Gardner