Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writer's Update/Writing Craft: Focalisation

A quick little writer's update before I get stuck into the second half of what we learned in our lecture last week; I was happy with the mark I received for my second Writing Craft assignment, in which students had to use a memory as a basis for a 1,500 word piece. I got a High Distinction and good feedback. Yesterday, I started writing my piece for the third and final assignment of the semester, in which we have to pick a place (real or imaginary) as the setting for an encounter, again, to make a 1,500 word piece. I've decided to challenge myself and write in second-person point of view and present tense, while my default is usually third-person and past tense. So far, I am really happy with it. It's my turn to workshop again next week, I believe, so I'm looking forward to some criticism and feedback from my writing group.

As of last week, I have also become a sort of unofficial active representative of the Deakin Writer's club. I have volunteered to spread the word about the Deakin Writer's Club to people in my Writing Craft tutorial, including to my tutor. While I haven't had anything published in it myself (mostly because I haven't really submitted anything), I am looking forward to introducing more writers to the circle.

The Gardiner's Creek track between res and the campus.
You honestly wouldn't know that I live near the city...
I love going for walks along the creek. Very relaxing.
Who? Focalisation

First of all, on Australianisms: our lecturer and tutors etc. are trying to encourage us to not use American spelling, because, well, we're not American. That means they are actually taking marks off us if they find 'colour' spelled 'color' or 'realise' spelled 'realize' in our work. Because that's just the Australian way, so there. I actually didn't realise that the 'z' instead of an 's' was a thing until they started pointing it out. Doesn't that just go to show how infected by American culture Australia is becoming? So I spell it 'focalisation' with an 's' and those of you who aren't in Australia can spell it 'focalization' with a 'z'.

When we think of focalisation, my lecturer says we should think of who is seeing (similar to point of view), but also, that we should think of who knows. Our lecturer told us about this guy called Genette who described focalisation as "a selection or restriction of narrative information in relation to experience and knowledge of the narrator, character or other, more hypothetical entities in the story world." Genette distinguishes between three different degrees of focalisation:
- Zero focalisation: a narrative with an omniscient narrator, who knows more than the characters do. This is also described by some narratologists as 'vision from behind'. It's really only relevant if you're writing in third person.
- Internal focalisation: when the main character(s) and the narrator know the same amount. This is also called 'vision within', 'narrative with point of view', or with 'restricted field' because we are restricted to what the character knows. This can be relevant for both third person and first person, because in first person, the main character is the narrator.
- External focalisation: when the narrator knows less than the character, also known as 'vision from without'. This style is more objective and behaviourist. It works well if you want an unreliable narrator, who cannot clue the reader in on what a character's silent motivations are, etc. Relevant for first and third person.

But is this really an definite definition of what focalisation is? Nope! Congratulations, my dear readers; you have fallen into the same trap as me, thinking that education will answer questions, when it really has an awful tendency of creating more. According to our lecturer, the definition and explanation of focalisation is one that is often debated and lots of modifications, counter-theories and extensions have been made to what Genette originally proposed as a framing. It's a confusing area of writing and now a whole lecture theatre full of students have joined in the chaos, and so have you!

Personally, I am happy to stick with Genette's framing of it.

What would you consider focalisation to be? 

- Bonnee.


  1. AnonymousMay 22, 2013

    "Doesn't that just go to show how infected by American culture Australia is becoming?"

    Infected by American culture?
    INFECTED by American culture?

    American culture is not a disease to shun and to be made immune to. Wording it as such is a foolish mistake at best, and a derisive and xenophobic faux pas at worst. Regardless of whether or not American culture is heavily entrenched in Western youth, such a tactless statement is worthy of such a large face-palm that if blue whales had hands, not even that would suffice.

    Aside from your desperate need to find your own voice and stop writing by the textbook, I'd advise that you learn how to be more eloquent and in your contentions.

    Overall, such a vapid and pretentious piece.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, anonymous keyboard warrior. Your input is much appreciated. Have a nice day :) xx

  2. I can honestly say, I've never consciously thought of focalization (infectious Americanism, FTW!), or at least never attached a name to it. I am curious about what makes Genette the authority on focalization.

    Good luck with your next assignment. It's always good to try new styles and approaches.

    1. I didn't know it was a thing until my lecture either :) I think Genette is just the authority on the subject because he's the bloke who tried to define it coherently. Though I don't know WHAT to believe any more haha.

      Thanks as always, JeffO.

  3. That picture is beautiful -- what a vibrant and lush area. Do you ever grab a writing journal and go there to work? It looks like such an inspiring place to write!

    1. I have been more than tempted, but first I wish to invest in a picnic blanket so that I can sit down on that green lushness without soaking my backside. I always find myself thinking creatively there :)

  4. Congrats, Bonnee, for getting a high mark. It's interesting that you write in second-person point of view. I don't recall ever reading a book written like this. It's usually first-person or third-person point of view. Most of the YA fiction I read now are first-person in present tense. The Gardiner's Creek track is so beautiful. Focalisation? That is an impressive word. Well, we also in Canada write like Australians, not like Americans ..:) I skip the explanation of Focalisation, a bit complex to comprehend.I wonder if in your Deakin Writers' Club you read pages that you wrote and the members give comments ... and then someone else read pages and you and the rest give comments. Best wishes in all the assignments.

    1. I've never read or written anything in second-person before, so this is a really interesting experience for me :)

      I didn't realise you use the same spelling in Canada, that's great :) I feel slightly less alienated now. I'm still not entirely sure why America uses different spelling; we all started in Britain after all.

      The Deakin Writer's Club does just that, but on a smaller scale to my Writing Craft tutorial group. That's probably because people feel a little more comfortable being told they HAVE to workshop their pieces if they want a good mark, whereas the club isn't grading us.

      Thanks for stopping by, Giora :)


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