1. Punctuate THIS!
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    Punctuate THIS! Member

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    Shades of the end

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Punctuate THIS!, Oct 28, 2009.

    Is it bad style to put questions into the narrative?

    If the moral of a story is an attempt to ask/answer a philosophical question, can I begin a chapter or a paragraph (fictional story) with a similar question to set up for that outcome?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    No.

    Yes, you can, but it might not be the best way of going about it. It might be better to introduce the philosophical concept through your characters rather than to introduce it in the narrative.

    Also, it's important to note that a lot of books have some sort of philosophical problem/question that the author wants to mention and perhaps even resolve. But most of the time, the author doesn't explicitly state the question but rather finds ways to hint at it through characters, setting, etc.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    There's nothing wrong with asking questions as such, but bear in mind that the aim of your narrative should'nt be to ask questions but to answer them (or at least pose potential answers so that readers can formulate their own answers). I imagine it would be difficult to structure a narrative so that it only asked a question, but using questions as a literary device is certainly acceptable. Whether it is the best advisable course of action is, of course, something no one but you can answer.
     
  4. Punctuate THIS!
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    Punctuate THIS! Member

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    I ask because, in the context of everything that is happening, I feel that an explicit question will anchor the reader around the true objective of the story. With so much hanging on the characters to provide answers, I can see how the questions would become obscure, if never asked.

    Also, the situation might not be such a mystery for the characters, but for the readers. Who knows what it very important in my story.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    generally, yes... but it depends on the narrative and the question... can't say one way or t'other, without you showing us the passage...

    again, it all depends... giving a valid answer to your work specifically, is not possible, without seeing what you're referring to...
     
  6. Punctuate THIS!
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    Punctuate THIS! Member

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    "What is the value of a good deed in hell? When Jonny helped that woman cross the street, he did it because all the sins in the world couldn't keep him daring to be better. For all the mistakes that he had made, the promise of a better tommorow was always around the corner."
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It's fine.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see why it has to be a question there... and the passage is not that well written, imo, plus has one glaring goof that needs to be corrected... see if you can tell where 'from' is needed, but was left out...
     
  9. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree fully with Thirdwind.

    Actions speak louder than words.

    You can make philosophical statements directly, but that rarely has any impact. You could read famous quotes all day long and not change one bit from it.
    It's the same with philosophical questions.

    "What's the meaning of life?" is really quite a weak question. Dramatize it, and you can shake someone's foundation.

    We need examples to understand things. Not theoretical examples, but real-world, practical examples. Consider this: Know exactly what you want to say, but never say it directly. If your philosophical viewpoint is that every little bit of good helps, even in an evil world, then show examples of it and let the reader conclude what you had in mind all along. They will feel like they have made that conclusion by themselves, from what you have shown, instead of just having been presented with a theoretic line, like they were sitting in a classroom. Besides, you also run the risk of being morally preaching, if you come out too direct. Symbolism is so infinitely more powerful.
     
  10. Punctuate THIS!
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    Punctuate THIS! Member

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    I agree. But the point of my story is to review a life where such questions were never asked. The questions are meant to be as chapters in this persons life. In a way, I see each one as a title for the diffrent stages in Jonny's journey to better himself.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all you can do is to do what you want and then see if it worked... don't waste time trying to get a consensus of opinion on it, 'cause you won't...
     
  12. Robert Lipscombe
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    Robert Lipscombe Member

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    hi, it's generally easier and probably better to put a live question into the mind of a character in the story..Bennie found himself wondering whether/why/if......... then you wouldn't need a question mark as the question would be indirect but you would set the tone for the whole piece.
    best wishes
    rl
     
  13. Rawne
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    Rawne Member

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    Yeah I think that's your best bet. Even creating a random encounter, or an overheard conversation using a bit-part to ask your question would work better - Unless the narrator is a character in the book, not necessarily the lead.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    In that case, it depends entirely on the narrator. If the narrator is only implicit, with no strong characterisation or presence in the text, then having the question expressed in an encounter may be the best route. However, if the narrator has a stronger, more critical presence in the text--as in, the narrator communicates directly and knowingly with the reader and comments on the events as well as narrating them--then there is no reason that the narrator could not pose a question itself. For a good example of the latter, read Lust by Elfiede Jelinek.
     
  15. Rawne
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    Rawne Member

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    Agreed.
     

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