f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 4 of Imaginary Metrics - Inside or Out

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Day 4 of Imaginary Metrics - Inside or Out

I should have you know that I'm being roundly mocked here in the office for this week's batch of posts. There is general mirth over the fact that I'm creating acronyms for metrics and statistics which don't exist. AWPS. ODP. LEKG. It was suggested that I start a glossary. And you know what, I just may.

But now I must sully forth, unheeding of such detractors.

Today's post is brought to you by the letters P, C, and I. Yes, it's PCI, the Protagonist Consciousness Indicator. It's basically a measure of how much time you spend inside your main character's head.

Two extremes:

Jamie Langston Turner. Her novels live in the roiling, digressionary thoughts of her protagonists.

Hemingway. His story, "Snows of Kilimanjaro," never enters a character's head even for a moment, instead merely recording what's happening as though a camera. For you fans of dialogue, the ODP for this story is probably 90%.

Again, let me be clear that I'm not advocating a single, golden number for this statistic. Instead, this is merely another chance to look at your book from a macro level to see if it's constructed the way you want it to be...and to see if it's constructed in a manner that suits it, compared to other similar books.

How do you figure this one out? This is gets broken down word by word and you'll need two differently colored highlighters.

The first should be used for things outside the mind of your character.
All dialogue is external. All physical activity is external. Any time we're looking at your character rather than looking through your character is external.

The second should be for things that go through the consciousness of your character.
Thoughts, feelings, dreams, etc...they're all internal. Most descriptions of things, if they are seen by your character are internal. You get the idea.

I have no idea if there's a golden ratio for these things. Given what we know about genre books and dialogue, it's my guess that literary books stay internal more so than genre. That's no exactly a radical guess.

And listen, my point is NEVER to put a number you need to hit for me to like your book. I love genre books. I love literary fiction. My point is always to remind you of what your writing so you do so with intention.

Plus, I think looking at your book in these ways helps you during edits. PCI, for instance, is a fantastic way to check your POV and voice. If you're third-person-limited, then all the narrative needs to be filtered through that POV. It should all be "internal." In third-person omniscient that narrative often becomes "objective"--in the voice of the narrator and there for external. Mastering this is the first step to fully controlling the voice and tone of your story...which is where excellence begins.
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Continue to Day 5 of Imaginary Metrics