Inside, outside?

I’ve read some very nice stuff from Alice Gray lately. No, that’s not quite right; it’s not stuff that came into existence lately, rather I only discovered her recently and have been reading some of her writing.

Reading her writing makes me aware of the fact that I tend to write from the inside, meaning that a character will be thinking or feeling something as they do something, as opposed to describing the situation and the action from a 3rd party perspective or from the outside. I might write “Dorian wondered what he should say in response as he fumbled for his cigarettes,” whereas another author might write “The man shoved his right hand into his jacket pocket rather than respond and retrieved a packet of cigarettes.” Or something like that. Both the emphasis and the larger portion of the words are focused from the inside out rather than watching like a movie and determining what the characters are thinking from their actions and words.

Part of this is because I’m a people-writer. I don’t get much out of long descriptions as a reader, and while I don’t mind Tolstoy running on about the movement of the tides of humanity I enjoy Jane Austen’s characters “politely” snipping at each other with little description of the woods that they are walking in, or D.H. Lawrence’s long sections of description of the thought process that has been going on in Birkin’s head.

And I write by defining characters, their relation to each other and then design a rudimentary path that they will travel, or in the reverse order; a target event, then define the characters. To write I simply throw them together and just let them interact, in my head, and write about it as if I’m the audience. It’s kind of like watching a movie except that I get to direct it, and, I can go inside the characters’ heads when I chose to do so.

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That all being said, of course, implies that I should do some writing the other way, from the outside. It’s not that I haven’t done so, but rather that I should force or challenge myself to do some writing with a strong focus on writing from the outside perspective.

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