01 November 2021
Posted by Antosh Wojcik
Our process this week centres lens-grinding, namely the ‘focalisation’, as termed by Gerard Genette & expanded upon by Hazel Smith, of our narrators. How does detail arrive to your narrator and, subsequently, your reader / audience? Is your narrator of the world they tell – or are they an omnipotent force that controls the passing of time?
Focalisation concerns these questions, and the process refines how detail, sense, thought, feeling arrives at the narrator, characters and readers. It’s worth overthinking here; we delve into overly restrictive focalisation to saturating, unbound detail, all so we may gauge what sort of journey we can affect. This frustrates some of the collective – they seem to have firm grasps on how they like the detail to move in their pieces! But frustration is useful too; it allows us to distinguish patterns or shorthand we’ve made for ourselves in the creative act. And although we’re aiming for all process to become muscular, we could argue that part of that muscle should involve knowing what path we won’t / don’t take with our narrators. That way, we maintain agency in our creative decisions.
‘There’s nowhere to create but on top of the old’ - Urban Plan #3
On editing -
We edit with a ‘linearity’ principle in mind – Smith proposes there is ‘an arrow of time’ that moves through all writing, and we can circumvent the natural progress of a piece by reorganising what this arrow moves towards first. This alternates the narrator once again; they are at the mercy of time’s arrow, the reader then at the mercy of the narrator moving towards detail in time. Time’s arrow locked to the rhythm of sentence and syllable, word choice and punctuation break.
Editing tasks in generative sessions are always an interesting one. You, as the facilitator, spend the session cultivating the right atmosphere for generation; encourage curiosity, surprise with task & stimulus, hold the writers of the group in the brothy stage of making - we’re formless, drifting, getting a sense of what inner combinations will produce results in text. Then you ask the writers to pivot into editorial mode – bowl for the broth, testing essence, flavours.
Ultimately, this kind of edit is a confrontation of the subconscious choices you made on the spot in a task you were not prepared for. Bridging to this state is a fragile process; usually you want to walk away from the broth to cool, the submerged chunks of ideas coagulating and forming themselves, ready to be dug into and defined. Asking a group to commit an edit post-generation requires a tenderness.
A simple reordering of the events of the incident. The hope is that there is an implicit craft lesson here; that organising time in the writing of incident / event must be deliberate and is worth testing. We test time’s arrow so that we may understand the variant ways both narrator and the reader can move through an incident. Then we might know how they react, how emotion evolves - if I show the result of the punch before the thrust of the fist, how does that position the narrator / reader?
We leave the session contemplating time’s arrow and how it might move the collective thoughts through our Unreal City. It’s beginning to buzz with event and story.