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ELee
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Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Narrative Structure



KxBurns wrote:
 
What did you think of O'Nan's choice to start the book with a Kim chapter and end with a Lindsay chapter? What do you think he's trying to say by making the sisters structural "bookends," if you will?

Bluntly?...that life goes on.  In the beginning, Kim is hoping to "become someone else, a private, independent person, someone not from Kingsville at all." 
 
During the course of the ordeal, stuggling with her renown as Kim's sister, Lindsay vows to herself that she will maintain a "perfect score" at school until Kim is found. 
 
In the end, having earned her anonymity, it is Lindsay that fulfills Kim's hope.  Upon returning to school after Kim's remains have been found and buried, "She came out of the jetway and turned left with everyone else, joined the horde streaming for the concourse and disappeared into the crowd."
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BookSavage
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Re: Narrative Structure



ELee wrote:


KxBurns wrote:
 
What did you think of O'Nan's choice to start the book with a Kim chapter and end with a Lindsay chapter? What do you think he's trying to say by making the sisters structural "bookends," if you will?

Bluntly?...that life goes on.  In the beginning, Kim is hoping to "become someone else, a private, independent person, someone not from Kingsville at all." 
 
During the course of the ordeal, stuggling with her renown as Kim's sister, Lindsay vows to herself that she will maintain a "perfect score" at school until Kim is found. 
 
In the end, having earned her anonymity, it is Lindsay that fulfills Kim's hope.  Upon returning to school after Kim's remains have been found and buried, "She came out of the jetway and turned left with everyone else, joined the horde streaming for the concourse and disappeared into the crowd."


That is an interesting assessment and I am sure that most would agree and that even O'Nan would agree that was his point.  I personally felt like that ending was just O'Nan not knowing how to finish this work and thuis grabbing a cliche and sticking it on the last page.  Very, very old and worn out.
Go Cubs Go!
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onecunninggirl
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Re: Narrative Structure

How does the shifting point-of-view from one character to another serve the story O'Nan is trying to tell? I really liked being in the most of the character's heads, BUT I just didn't feel like everyone got the same attention.  I really wanted more from Lindsay, and maybe less from Fran.  Fran really started to frustrate me which made me less sympathetic toward her, and that is not how I WANTED to feel about her. Did you find this technique effective or unsettling or both? Partly I found them effective, because I feel O'Nan was really trying to show the effects on the family.  But as I've previously stated, I think he over did some characters while ignoring some important characters.  What about his portrayal of the passage of time -- what might be the intended effect of the leaps in time that occur throughout the story? Honestly the leaps through time caused me to get a little lost sometimes, as well as it didn't allow my emotions to catch up to what was going on.  I think it was intended to show you that no matter how much time passed this family couldn't completely leave it behind, but I just didn't feel that it accomplished this.
 
Karla
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umlaut
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Registered: ‎01-29-2008
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Re: Narrative Structure



Tarri wrote:
The changing character and point-of-view style of writing here was very effective. I never lost the flow, which can sometimes happen when the voice changes in a book.





I agree, i just wanted to add, i did feel the story telling little bit rushed. But i guess, readers want the story to flow quickly rather spend more time on character development or more detail descriptions of the environment. But don't get me wrong, this book is definitely very enjoyable and page turner. Characters were very well chosen and they worked very well in building the story and keep the suspense going.
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Portiabr
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Re: Narrative Structure

To me the shifting point-of-view is extremely effective in this book. Character development through the other characters works well.
As for the leaps of time, I think it shows how life goes on without Kim. I am glad that O'Nan chose to skip "dull" periods of time rather than dragging out the story. He obviously new how long the span until Kim's discovery would take. Also, the leaps would get longer as the "public" would slow down their interest in the story (similar to the way "real time" works in via the media in our own world.)
 
Portia
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jlcardwell
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Re: Narrative Structure

A bunch of people who also read this book told me that they found the shifting perspective to be disconcerting, but I thought it a very effective way for O'Nan to tell the story. I thought that the sections flowed together fairly well, and I appreciated the insight into the different characters. Not only that, the family (and their friends) became so disconnected from each other that I think it would have been difficult to tell the story from one perspective. Even 3rd person would not represent as well the way they all drew into themselves.
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pheath
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Registered: ‎02-01-2007
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Re: Narrative Structure



KxBurns wrote:


pheath wrote:


I thought that it worked OK. However I've read other novels where the time structure is not as linear where it is more effective. Say chapter 6 is told from Person A's point of view. Then chapter 7 is told from Person B's point of view with an overlap of timespan where they describe the same activity from a different point of view. Each chapter also has it's unique aspects as well, but I think this gives added depth to a story, and I think it could have really worked in the first half of Songs for the Missing.

That's a really interesting idea. Rashomon style :smileyhappy:
Were there specific incidents that you think would have benefitted from a retelling in someone else's point of view?





I think that the scenes related to the search would have especially worked well in this format. The other one that jumps to mind is the halftime scene toward the end of the novel.
-Philip
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bookhunter
Posts: 322
Registered: ‎06-09-2007
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Re: Narrative Structure



ELee wrote:
 
In the Questions for the Editor thread, Josh Kendall wrote:

"Someone earlier spoke here about the shifting points of view, and what that affords the reader. To me, it was amazing to see Stewart give this book the pacing of, for lack of a better term, real life, while allowing that pacing to play out "through" each of the characters' reactions and actions, day to day."

I am inclined to agree with his assessment.  I think that the shifting points of view define "real life" very effectively.  There has been a lot of discussion about lack of emotion and intensity in the characters.  For me, the little side-tracks and after-thoughts that these characters share with us are very realistic.  Who is "on" 24/7?  So it not only adds a real life quality, but slows the pacing as well.  One device that I noticed that is very ingenious is O'Nan's references to the distant future, another shift - in time.  The first one is on the first page.

"She [Kim] did not hate the town, as, years later, her sister would tell one lover."

This tells you right away that there is a distant future, her sister is in it, and will have more than one lover-another story altogether.  We are given a peek of an extended time and place, only to be brought back to the present like the release of a stretched rubber band.  This realization serves to anchor us in the characters' "present" and creates that real life quality. 



ELee, I agree with you.  The pacing of the book was a reflection of how just such an incident might play out in real life.  Life has sudden rushes of activity followed by frustratingly slow times where every minute detail of your activities is all you have to focus on. 
 
The shift in narrators maybe took away from our sense of those characters being fully developed, but it ADDED to the development of Kim as a character.  Kim wasn't just Fran's daughter--she was Ed's daughter, Lindsey's sister, a close friend, a team mate, a classmate, or even just a friend-of-a-friend in the small town.
 
Like many of you I was a bit unsatisfied with the resolution, but again, I think that is the intent.  It was very much a random event, caused by random actions, and could only end with a random solution.  Very real life!  The bookending of Lindsey off at college, getting on with her life, was great.  She was carrying out the near-future picture of Kim that we get in the first pages of the book.
 
The tone of the writing is very unemotional--almost like the way a journalist would write about the story.  I think that allows the actions and words of the characters to reveal more to us than a narrator who tells us.  For example, I just loved the chapter when Fran makes Ed take her fishing.  For me, that was the emotional climax of the novel.  I knew from the beginning that I was not going to be satisfied with Kim's storyline, so I was rooting for the family to not completely fall apart! 
 
Ann, bookhunter
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KxBurns
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Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Narrative Structure



bookhunter wrote:
...The shift in narrators maybe took away from our sense of those characters being fully developed, but it ADDED to the development of Kim as a character.  Kim wasn't just Fran's daughter--she was Ed's daughter, Lindsey's sister, a close friend, a team mate, a classmate, or even just a friend-of-a-friend in the small town.
 
Like many of you I was a bit unsatisfied with the resolution, but again, I think that is the intent.  It was very much a random event, caused by random actions, and could only end with a random solution.  Very real life!  The bookending of Lindsey off at college, getting on with her life, was great.  She was carrying out the near-future picture of Kim that we get in the first pages of the book.
 
Ann, bookhunter


These are both great points! In regards to the development of Kim as a character, would you say the intent is for Kim to be the main character, or is the focus still primarily those she left  behind, with bringing Kim "to life" being a secondary but still necessary goal? 
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cheer4lvw
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Narrative Structure

I'm not quite sure what I think of the narrative structure.  It definitely sets the book apart from the traditional structure.  At first it was very unsettling because I didn't know what I was reading.  I don't have the time to read big chunks at a time so when I could only read 1 or 2 chapters at a time, the shifting narrative was disruptive.  But as I am almost through with the book I find the shifting narrative as fun and really adds to the feel of the book.  Losing someone can be very unsettling and having a book have that feel just adds to that mystery. 
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pjmanley41
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Registered: ‎04-11-2008
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Re: Narrative Structure

I enjoyed the different voices, it helped me know each character. The time shifts worked well.
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lavender
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Registered: ‎02-27-2008
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Re: Narrative Structure

I love how the narrative structure changed from one character's perspective to another's. I'm often not a huge fan of this style of writing. But I think in a book like this, where there are so many emotions involved and so many thoughts going through everyone's minds, the book may have come off as very cold if the author had written it another way. This book is less about the crime itself than it is about the effect it has on everyone around it, so the narrative structure is almost essential to that, IMO.
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JaneM
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Registered: ‎02-01-2008
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Re: Narrative Structure

 
I agree with cheer4lvw that the narrative structure started as confusing but became clearer as the story progressed until I became anxious to see which character would be heard from next as we closed in on the resolution.  I think the only thing that might have helped me would have been a small clue at the beginning of the chapter as to which character was the focus.  I would spend a few pages trying to get the context and determine who the "she" or "he" was that was the subject.
Jane M.
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EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
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Re: Narrative Structure



KxBurns wrote:
How does the shifting point-of-view from one character to another serve the story O'Nan is trying to tell? Did you find this technique effective or unsettling or both? What about his portrayal of the passage of time -- what might be the intended effect of the leaps in time that occur throughout the story?
 
What other narrative devices caught your eye?


I had a problem with the shifting.  At first I couldn't tell who it was.  I thought it was a bit unsettling.  As far as the portrayal of the passage of time, it helped to move the story along and give some insight into the way the characters dealt with Kim's disappearance, changed and got on with their life.
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bookhunter
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Registered: ‎06-09-2007
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Re: Narrative Structure



KxBurns wrote:

...In regards to the development of Kim as a character, would you say the intent is for Kim to be the main character, or is the focus still primarily those she left  behind, with bringing Kim "to life" being a secondary but still necessary goal? 


 

I know we discuss Kim in a thread coming up, so I'll save personality comments for that discussion.  The narrative structure of leaving this "hole" in the cast of characters to be filled in by others is kind of like Rebecca.  I'm sure there are other novels that demonstrate the technique, but that is the first thing I thought of.  We learn about Kim only through the eyes of others.  And what we learn is really not much. 
 
Can we say that Kim is not the main character, but the ABSENCE of Kim is?:smileywink:
 
Ann, bookhunter
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MSaff
Posts: 272
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Narrative Structure

I liked reading what different characters were thinking and doing from their point of view. The characters were more alive to me and their stories seemed more real. I got to know what their reaction was to the different activities were and that made the book more interesting.
 
Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
http://travelswithcarsandbooks.blogspot.com/
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KxBurns
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Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Narrative Structure

[ Edited ]


bookhunter wrote:
I know we discuss Kim in a thread coming up, so I'll save personality comments for that discussion.  The narrative structure of leaving this "hole" in the cast of characters to be filled in by others is kind of like Rebecca.  I'm sure there are other novels that demonstrate the technique, but that is the first thing I thought of.  We learn about Kim only through the eyes of others.  And what we learn is really not much. 
 
Can we say that Kim is not the main character, but the ABSENCE of Kim is?:smileywink:
 
Ann, bookhunter


Yes -- absolutely!!! :smileyhappy:
And like in a painting, the "negative space" is just as important as positive space.


Message Edited by KxBurns on 06-15-2008 06:33 PM
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bookowlie
Posts: 177
Registered: ‎04-15-2008
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Re: Narrative Structure

I also found myself skipping ahead to read more from the same character's point of view, and then going back to read the other character's sections.  I did like the way the writer portrayed the reactions of the different family members.  Still, I personally would have liked it if the book had been narrated in the first person from one of the family members.
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wbarker
Posts: 26
Registered: ‎04-25-2008
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Re: Narrative Structure

How does the shifting point-of-view from one character to another serve the story O'Nan is trying to tell? Did you find this technique effective or unsettling or both? What about his portrayal of the passage of time -- what might be the intended effect of the leaps in time that occur throughout the story?
 
What other narrative devices caught your eye?
 
I really like the different perspectives.  I think it is an important part in getting some insight as to what happens when someone is missing. 
 
I think the technique is very effective.  It helps to paint a bigger picture of the whole story.  I think it would be harder to believe and understand if we only had one character's perspective.  This way, we get to experience the story from different angels.
 
I like the glimpse of the upcoming  chapter by the title.
 
The only time I have struggled in the book was the opening chapter.  I was a bit lost, and felt the sentence structure was disjointed.  The following chapters have been great!
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m3girl
Posts: 194
Registered: ‎03-02-2007
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Re: Narrative Structure

I liked the shifting of POV - it helped me understand the characters better.  There were two chapters that were more from an omniscient POV - Chapter Nine seems to head hop between just about everyone's POV.  I am not sure I much liked that hopping and would like to know the justification for that style.  Chapter 11 is also more omniscient - but more in a reporting format than the head hopping of chapter nine.
 
One thing about POV - you have to decide how much you can trust the truth of the narrator.  That is why I liked the rotating POV - because not all of the characters shared 100% of what they knew and how they felt.  Hearing things from all POV's helped me put it all together and weed through all of their stories. Each one has a different experience due to Kim's disappearance - they react differently and they feel differently.
 
I would have liked to hear more from Nina - does she know more?  And I would have liked to have at least met Wooze - I had lots of questions for him...
 
The passage of time was done well - creating scenes for the most important events and summary for the others.  These people spend many days and months with this situation and it is difficult - until they can get some closure - and then there are other things to deal with.
 
I read someone's comment about the wrap up at the end of the story - and I would have to agree - it seems to have been rushed - and out of the blue.  Time to wrap it up - so bring in this new character without much development, if any....and have her be the one that finds the body.  If she would have been introduced earlier as a volunteer or something it might not have felt so abrupt.  I did like Ed's reaction - that this stranger kept looking for his daughter even after he seemed to have given up...Ed's going to be a mess for a long time!!
 
Susan
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