LNH: Onion Lad #9

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 16 07:17:13 PDT 2006

martinphipps2 at yahoo.com wrote:

> Well, actually, I think Jesse has a point: if you are going to write in
> the first person then a lot of exposition doesn't make sense.  Listen

That's a valid point, and one thing that always bugged me about the
otherwise handy use of first-person in comic books is clumsy
exposition.  For example, for a long time, any given issue of THE FLASH
would start with, "I'm Wally West-- and I am the Flash!"

And that's great, that tells us who he is and for new readers, yes,
that's important-- but WHO is he talking to?  Because if it's just his
inner voice, just his thoughts, it'd be a little silly.  Imagine if I
walked around thinking, "I'm Tom Russell, and I work at the library!"
or "I'm Tom Russell.  That's my wife, Mary." before I greet my wife.  I
mean, I *know* all this stuff already.

That's why, in my opinion, first person requires some context: say, for
example, that it's a journal entry, or a letter, or you're telling
someone a story.  It doesn't make any sense for Wally West to tell
someone that he's the Flash (this is before he revealed his secret
identity to the world, of course)-- and so, ultimately, as nifty and
helpful as that sentence is, it really isn't believable.

Now, if this is the case-- if it's just Tery's train of thought-- then
both you and Jesse have a valid point.  That's exactly how she would do
it, and I'm not denying it.  Jesse's use of first-person is well
thought out.  Jesse's use of first-person is well thought out.  Jesse's
use of first-person is well thought out.  I just want to stress this,
that I'm _not_ knocking HOW he utilized first person.

All I'm saying is that there are advantages to third that might have
worked in Jesse's favour.

> Now, Jesse would argue that confusion is a strong emotion and that if I
> am extremely confused then, gosh, it means his writing is very, very
> good.  Right.  Okay.  Let's get back to those papers on string theory.
> Now a lot of papers on, say, sociology, are deliberately written to
> confuse people so that readers can't argue with what the author is
> trying to say.  But a good scientific paper should be clear to as many
> people as possible and if it is NOT clear than it is because people
> don't know their stuff.  Jesse takes the latter view with his readers:
> that they should have read everything that he's written before and that
> they should know everything he knows about the characters, including
> perhaps things he hasn't even written yet.
> I would argue that a good story, like a good scientific paper, should
> be clear to as many people as possible, including people who have never
> read a Jesse Willey story before.  Or an LNH story for that matter.
> But that's just me..

And me. :-)

> That being said, I actually thought this was one of Jesse's better
> issues, once I had finally read it.  (The bitchy, introspective TC
> turned me off too.)  It benefitted from the fact that it was a single
> narrative and not a patchwork of seemingly unrelated scenes.

This is very true, and it's one of the reasons I'm enjoying ADVENTURES
BEYOND COMPREHENSION: the first person in that case is use as a
unifying feature, and scenes move nicely from one to the other.  (The
only reason why I'm not reviewing them is because I'm Jesse's
copy-editor on that series, and I had a very small part in shaping the
text of # 4-- something Jesse graciously gave me a by-line for.)

> > But by using first person with what is, essentially, a chase/action
> > sequence-- an external piece of writing-- it works AGAINST the
> > strengths of first person, and also AGAINST Willey's aims.  For a
> > character like Teri to really come across, we need a little distance.
> > We need to observe her true self when she thinks no one's looking.  We
> > need to hear her say one thing and see her do another.
> >
> > And this distance-- this external POV-- plays _exactly_ to Willey's
> > strengths, if only he'd slow down his plot train long enough to include
> > those moments. :-)
> .
> I don't know.  I think, Tom, your internal monologues work in
> introspective stories but they would slow down the action too much in a
> fight scene.  We all have different strengths, I think.

(Which is why I'm arguing _against_ its use in an action story.) :-)

These days I'm more aware of that, and my fight scenes tend, I think,
to be more visceral (though I still don't write action very well).  But
it's a very valid criticism, and I welcome it.


More information about the racc mailing list