I want to thank Raven for taking the time to do this interview; she is an excellent student of the craft of fiction and a wonderful writer. Read what Raven has to say as she answers the questions I posed, as she talks about a story she is in the mist of writing.
I've been asked by my Sweetheart's colleague, JB, about my view on Robert O. Butler's sensory memory. Recently, I posted my feature story on the Sweetheart's board over at the Writer's Village University. Within the story is a scene in which the main character comes across a dead foal. JB has asked me:
1)Did you draw back in your mind, as you experienced writing the scene visually?
I found that when approaching this scene, my inner eye focused on visual details more than anything else. Smell came into play, but only in a limited way. Most of what my character felt was suspended, in favor of the initial visual impact. In order to record the details, I found it necessary to draw back and view the scene as a camera. The position of the foal, the minute details became the focus of what I intended to be a snapshot of the foal. The moment of discovery, became an objective view in which my character, Evie, acted like a lens, not a filter. From that point, I unraveled the story, allowing Evie to slowly begin the process of filtering how she felt about the dead foal. The result feels intellectual, but the intent is emotional. The gradual unpeeling of Evie's feelings is low key, as opposed to dramatic. In this, I feel the process reflects a version of reality, though not the commonly depicted one. It is more common to see everything stuffed into one paragraph or to find metaphor and simile acting like the filter. Theses are adequate ways to filter scenes and reveal the yearning, but I feel as though these are also temptations that can lead to generalization and abstraction.
The scene, as I have written it, is supposed to rely on what comes shortly before and long after the moment, creating an overall feeling for Evie's situation. It remains to be seen whether it succeeds. The process demands many sessions in which the words, images and descriptions must be continuously stroked. The filter needs to be present in imagery in order to avoid stepping into the "she felt" or "she thought" mode.
Please understand that I am not dismissing the use of the pov filter nor am I saying it isn't a vital tool in writing, I am simply saying that the way in which we utilize the filter can vary according to the conditions created by the story. I think it is a good thing to experiment in order to learn the particulars of this technique.
With my story undergoing its third, serious revision, it remains to be seen whether this approach will satisfy the sensory specifications Mr. Butler calls for in his teachings.
2)What details do you think you could have added that would increase the reader's mind visually to what Grace saw and felt as she viewed the remains?
Visually, I think I've offered enough support. My concern is whether I ought to allow Evie's filter in. I'm reluctant to do so because, after several experiments in which I allowed her to speculate, or "translate" the scene, I felt the intensity of the scene was diluted by what essentially felt like an invasion of Evie's psyche. I believe this may be where the students in chapter eight foundered and lost direction. Sometimes, using the pov filter invites speculation; speculation opens the door to generalization and abstraction. Used carelessly, the filter can be detrimental to a work. On the other hand, I think mastering the combination of the filter and lens is something worth pursuing, so I am returning, yet again, to the scene of the crime to study it and hopefully come up with a combination that meets Mr. Butler's standard.
3) Butler says in Chapter 9 of "From Where You Dream" that sometimes the narrative voice is allowed abstraction and generalization. What do you think that means?
I think this refers to filtering in the reflective sense. To thoroughly know the character, is to understand her/his concept of any word. Characterization takes some of the weight of this form of abstraction/generalization as can dialogue and inner monologue. The words "it hurts." Can be abstract, until the reader knows the main character is sitting under a tree, thinking about her dead father. Then what is general has become specific, though it is voiced as a nonspecific concept. So, then, if proper placement or setting is provided, in addition to good characterization (which would include dialogue, description, etc and character action (which I define as the actual things said and done in the story) I think abstraction and generalization work well enough. I am willing to investigate this further. It is my goal to "soften" Evie in the story. I'm not satisfied that I've accomplished this at this point in the revision.