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On Alienation - Diary of a Necromancer
Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense, you're just not keeping up
On Alienation
Question for the writers, and for that matter the readers, out there: when is the perspective of the outsider-looking-in an asset for providing a fresh look on a subject, and when is it a liability as far as having gone too far outside a common frame of reference to connect with? I'm thinking primarily in terms of fiction; what will have you going "...Huh, I never thought about it that way", and what slips over the line into "...I just don't see how you're arriving at that"?

...This may or may not be related to my ongoing struggles to relate to the world through the prism of my own weird-ass experiences of it.

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5 responses | moved to respond?
robertlyon From: robertlyon Date: November 16th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
I have one person that I would call a critique partner in real life, who happens to be my fiance's brother. My sister in law has offered to read and give her opinion, but I have yet to take her up on it as I've felt she may lose interest if I don't have more of a complete first draft at least. My finance will begrudgingly help, but with her I have to have fresh material.  Her patience is always short and she will not look over the same material more than at most a couple times.  I consider all three of these people assets in their own unique ways.  I can trust them, I love them all.  They are family.  They certainly aren't outsiders, but since I know them, I have a sense of what I can expect from each of them, and I can believe everything that they say.  I also know their backgrounds.  I know their likes and dislikes.  I know for example that Josh really isn't too keen on love stories even though that might end up what I write.  He critiques me anyway though, and while he didn't find any appeal to reading The Time Traveler's Wife, I did.  My point to this blabbing is that I'm around these people, I know them and therefore I know their individual strengths and weaknesses when it comes to helping me.

I think if by outsider, you mean stranger, like people on LJ who don't really know each other (me and you would fit this profile), I think they may or may not be an asset.   Since you don't know much about the stranger, you have no reference on them. How intelligent are they?  What are their likes and dislikes?  Can you trust their opinion to be honest?  Is their opinion even worth anything (do they like to read for example, or even if they like to read do they like the genre of your fiction?).  Really, you have to take each person on a case by case basis.  A lot of people on LJ for example just regurgitate what others say before them in their comments.  I it really worth anything when 10 people say the exact same thing?  Maybe, maybe not.  That's part of the problem with outsiders: you don't know them so you can't always tell.

Anyway, I have to go.  I liked that entry and I could keep going but I have to go to work.
saganth From: saganth Date: November 16th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Not sure I understand the concept you're describing. Could you please give me an example of this so I can form an opinion to share?
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: November 16th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
ashnistrike From: ashnistrike Date: November 16th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
If I understand your question, I find it useful when the outsider respects and is willing to work at understanding the subject. And when they have a defined perspective other than "I'm not a part of this silly group." So a business association writer looking at Worldcon from the perspective of conference logistics is interesting. Dave Barry looking at Elvis fans from a perspective of "these guys geek the way you geek, just about something else" is interesting. The bored junior reporter doing a filler look-at-all-these-weird-people-dressing-like-Klingons piece is not interesting.

So likewise in fiction, the outsider narrator needs to have their own comprehensible perspective that I care about, and that interacts in meaningful ways with the subject.
brewsternorth From: brewsternorth Date: November 16th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
*agrees with all of this*

Also, language helps. If the outsider understands the subject, they will be able to couch their analysis in terms that are reasonably familiar to both the 'outside' and the 'inside'. Someone who doesn't may well use their *own* 'insider' jargon and metaphor which will be just *too* alien to the 'insider' being described, or else compare poorly to the insider's experiences because the 'outsider' is trying to wedge their experiences of the 'inside' to their own biases.
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