Winston Smith, George Orwell’s main character in 1984, a futuristic novel published in 1949, defies “Big Brother” who sees every move Winston makes in Oceania. The telescreen monitors his heartbeats, emotions, and thoughts. One evening he finds a small corner in his flat where he escapes and writes his musings in one of the last blank, bound journals that escaped destruction when the world went paperless. He shapes his destiny when he uses ink, not pencil, to record his thoughts on quality cream-colored, pages.
Last October I blogged about editing (“Grammar Police” post October 17, 2013). English grammar, both in speech and written form, are replete with multiple rules that require writers to employ a team of editors before submitting manuscripts to an agent or publisher. Since George Orwell’s fantasy more than 65-years ago exposed the limited thought process, it would seem that writers are finally free to fly. Ah, but not so. Although the “Thought Police” Orwell painted exists only in his novel, a new guardian force rules today’s writers.
Instructors and mentors, whether academic or associated with for-profit publishers, have formed a new stratum of Thought Police. Every paragraph, perhaps every sentence, is monitored for point of view (POV). Authorities justify this “Big Brother” scrutiny with a single question: Whose story is this? Thoughts are limited to that character.
In Next of Kin, I have two main characters, Captain Luis Rojas (male), and Detective Taylor Madrid (female). Rojas has more than twenty years of experience in law enforcement; Madrid less than half that. It’s impossible for them to see the world of crime through the same eyes, so I chose a dual POV. Supervisors and associates clamber for their individual POV rather than be seen through the eyes of the duo. That can’t happen. Why? because modern Thought Police have blown the whistle on verbs like thought, believed, recognized, realized, reflected, ruminated, understood, considered, wondered, imagined, concluded, presumed, mused, surmised, commiserated, envisioned, pictured, conjectured, guessed, anticipated, expected, speculated, pondered, brooded, despaired, sympathized, and dozens more.
I can only hope (Oops! That’s the narrator’s POV) that neither of my main characters fall prey to the misfortune of Orwell’s Winston Smith. When tortured by the Thought Police, he was brainwashed to believe that two plus two equals five. If that happens, future agents and publishers might require a math class as a prerequisite to writing. I hope I publish my novel before then.