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15 Dec 2011

An Enigmatic Character?

One of the things they always tell you as a means of improving your fiction-writing skills is to read writers you admire and observe how they create their effects.

I have just been reading John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga. He uses an omniscient third-person narrator, but he also puts the reader inside the head of quite a lot of his characters. You know all about what Soames is feeling and what Young Jolyon is feeling, what Fleur is feeling, what Jon is feeling. You even know a certain amount about more minor characters. But he never goes inside Irene’s head.

I’m assuming you have seen this on TV, even if you haven’t read it, but just in case: Irene is the beautiful, enigmatic, rather intangible woman that both Soames and Jolyon fall in love with. As a reader, you know all about her appearance, her figure, her clothes, the way she keeps her youth and beauty – but not first hand about her feelings. I’m sure this is a deliberate effect, keeping her at one remove from us and from everybody else.

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