It reminded me, too, of a thing I posted on his website's forum a few months ago. I thought I was being clever in complimenting the guy, as well as acknowledging some well-earned literary inspiration, but I was nervous. I knew Dan Simmons himself read the forum and even responded sometimes. Would he read my post and find it as clever as I did? Or would he be offended by my obnoxiousness? I never went back to see what came of it.
Until today. And low and behold...I only had one response. From Dan Simmons.
Here's my post in its entirety:
Name: James Pearce
Date/Time: 3/6/2005 1:47 PM
Subject: Blatant Thievery
I feel it is my duty to report that I am conspiring to commit wholesale literary theft. (Alright, perhaps "wholesale" is a bit hyperbolic...)
I'm going to steal a bit of your technique.
Let me explain. For months (years?) I have been hacking away at a mystery/suspense novel, pounding each attempt to a pulp until it's barely readable. Unfortunately, the problem isn't with something easy to correct, like character or plot, but instead of something more intangible and vague, something you might refer to as "voice."
The problem is that for my story, the limitations of the first person voice prove to be too limiting, and yet the third person proves too dry, too opaque.
Today, however, I had a Eureka moment and have chosen to use both, ala Endymion, Ilium, etc. My protagonist will get his say, in his voice. (Ooh, the fun to be had with that! Unreliable narrators, knowns and unknowns, the internal dialogue! Oh my!) In turn, the other characters will get their chance to leave their mark on the narrative, albeit in a less internal, omniscient way.
So get the lawyers ready and let the larceny begin.
Fanboy since back in the day when I was a high school kid crashing the monthly readings at the Little Bookshop of Horrors. (Whatever happened to that place anyway?)
And this was Dan's response, coincidentally with a reference to Da Vinci:
Name: dan simmons
Date/Time: 3/29/2005 9:56 PM
Subject: Dan Simmons comments --
Dear James -
I also miss the Little Bookshop of Horrors and its readings and gatherings. That was a wonderful Secret Clubhouse while it lasted.
Re: multiple viewpoints -- go to it! But be careful that you don't end up with the idiocy of . . . oh, let's say THE DAVINCI CODE . . . where the reader skips around from viewpoint to viewpoint like a grasshopper in a hot skillet, for no discernible reason whatsoever, even ending up in the Master Villain's mind for a good part of a chapter but WHERE THE VILLAIN DOESN'T SEEM TO KNOW THAT HE'S THE VILLAIN. No villainous thoughts cross his mind while we're in it, even though he's thinking about all of his own evil machinations that the good guys have presented to him. That has to be one of the most monumental cheats in the history of bad-writing cheats.
On the other hand, a true master at handling voice and viewpoints in the mystery-tough-guy genre is Donald Westlake, especially in his Parker the Thief novels (written by "Richard Stark"), in which we're in always in Parker's p-o-v for specific parts of the book, then in the bad guy's p-o-v in the middle sections. It's a brilliant handling of shifting points of view for specific plot and structural reasons.
Good luck. -- DS
For more on the "voice" aspect, you should read Endymion. An excellent book on its own, but the 3rd in the Hyperion Cantos. The book starts out in the first person, a man telling his story. But there are whole chapters and scenes told from the third person, where the main character isn't there, doesn't know what's going on. Of course in Endymion, there's a SF device to explain it all, but the actual literary technique of making multiple viewpoints like that work is something Dan Simmons excels at. In fact, he is an expert. Ilium, Endymion, Rise of Endymion, Children of Night, etc.
No one does it better than Dan. But I'm going to try.