Free indirect style, and the CCWC

I’ve struggled to understand free indirect style, let alone how to use it in fiction. But in James Wood’s brilliant How Fiction Works

all is made wondrously clear through his lucid prose. As he writes, on page 11:

Thanks to free indirect style, we see things through the character’s eyes and language but also through the author’s eyes and language, too. We inhabit omniscience and partiality at once. A gap opens between author and character, and the bridge – which is free indirect style itself – between them simultaneously closes that gap and draws attention to its distance.

This is merely another definition of dramatic irony: to see through a character’s eyes while being encouraged to see more than the character can see (an unreliability identical to the unreliable first-person narrator’s).

It’s a way of writing in the third person but, from time to time, from a first-person perspective without saying she thought, she wondered, she imagined, she hallucinated … or any other descriptive. It’s a short cut into the mind of the character and, subtly, into what the writer feels about that character. Wood gives this lovely example (on page 18 of How Fiction Works) from Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice:

Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the King, during his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business and to his residence in a small market town; and quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance … .

Austen has, in Wood’s words, ‘Handed the language over to Sir William; but she is still tartly in control’. Glorious.

And if anyone’s wondering about, or trying to find, a good, indeed an absolutely wonderful, creative writing course I heartily recommend (and wish I’d dreamed up myself) Maggie Hamand‘s Complete Creative Writing Course and her book. It was she who sent me down the free indirect style road in the first place. Thank you, Maggie.

About Angela

I write fiction about the difficulty we have when we try to say what's in our hearts.
This entry was posted in Writers, Writing, Writing Courses and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.