Narratives styles

The following is extracted from Prologue (HU).

Two of the three styles, or forms of speech, identified by James Wood as central to modern fiction have direct counterparts in modern historiography. The first, direct speech, is analogous to quoted documentary evidence. The following example is my riff on an illustration Wood used in a radio interview (Wachtel 2009):

Cinderella looked at the clock, saw that it was nearly midnight, and said to herself, “It’s time to go.”

The fictional character’s internal thought is directly expressed within the quotation marks. The narrator’s mediating presence lies in reporting what Cinderella did and saw prior to her reaction. Wood argues that in fiction, direct (quoted) speech by characters, whether expressed audibly or kept internal, limits the author’s omniscience. It’s an illusion, of course. The author wrote the characters’ speech. But when done well, it’s among the grandest of illusions.

Historians have a different task than writers of fiction, but disciplinary distinctions should not obscure the stylistic forms they do have in common. . . .

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