Alienation Effect

Posted: January 24, 2015 in graffiti living
Tags: , , , , , ,

A literary attempt to evoke the voice of someone far removed — a different voice and sensibility (eg. of an insane person, animal or child).

The alienation effect is sometimes a work of translation. Translation, at great distance from yourself, of this alien idiom, into your voice, because you can’t always keep up their idiom and vocabulary.

The alternative is to communicate what they know, in your words, to explore the data they acquire at their eye level. You have access to what they can understand, their thoughts, their head, but translated into the writer’s narrative voice. The implied author.

That’s one solution. Any solution is a literary artifice, but can have its own power and poetry. There’s always a meeting of minds (of the character and the writer) but it’s a question of where the emphasis lies, and interpreted by the reader.

Sometimes liminal characters, on the margins in one way or another, are beneath or beyond language. The truly alien, the truly broken. Those who can’t think or are beyond thought. You have to translate from another world — the damaged brain, the feral animal, the extraterrestrial.

This has implications in authorial access to character. Write something that only the character could know. Write it in their language. Then try it in a different narrative voice, someone other than the character.

Some things can only be known through the body. Tell a story that can only be told through the senses of an animal. Talk to the lunatic on the bus. Then write the conversation from their point of view.

This is the real work of fiction. The one thing novels and short stories can do better than film is put the reader inside the heads of others.


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