marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

intriguing the muse

The muse is very interested in what I read.  In fact, sometimes she's so interested in what I read that I have to coax her into letting me file off the serial number.

But I've been reading Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain books* lately.  (A Warhammer 40000 book, but you can read it without knowing about that game setting.)

It's the adventures of a self-professed arrant coward who keeps on -- completely by accident, he assures us -- getting himself cast into adventures and playing the role of hero.  He always has an explanation for his acts that appear heroic, but the intriguing part is that maybe one time out of ten, he is explaining to the other characters how he has to do this (which is the safest thing, he thinks), but nine times of ten, he is explaining to the reader that the apparent heroism was self-interest -- and when that fails -- well, once he and other soldiers were under attack in an underground complex.  They blast a hole through the wall, he and another escape, and the walls collapse, trapping the others.  Cain says he must have been in shock before admitting that he threw himself at the collapse trying to dig through to the others.

The thing that inspires my pondering however, is that it is a retrospective account by Cain.  Or rather extracts from it by another character who features in some of the tales.  She writes that she has let the main account stand, but puts in explanatory -- or justifying -- footnotes on occasion, and interpolates excerpts from other works when she thinks Cain's doesn't explain everything.

I like this kind of writing.  I like these books, I like C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, I like Sorcery and Cecelia, I like The Moonstone.  But I'm not even sure that I can say I can't write them because I've never tried.  My muse, who finds so much intriguing, doesn't find this technique intriguing.

* Hero of the Imperium (which is an omnibus), Death or Glory, and Duty Calls.
Tags: characterization, inspiration, narrative voice, point of view, reading, series, writing technique

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