Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ficelle Anyone?


I came across this literary device recently. I thought a ficelle was some fancy French bread.

I was right! It is. But it is also this:

A term used by Henry James to denote a fictional character whose role as confidante is exploited as a means of providing the reader with information while avoiding direct address from the narrator.
(from the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms)

The word comes from the French word "string," as in, the strings that pull a marionette's limbs, to manipulate the story, so-to-speak.

Neat huh? I never thought as side-kick characters in this way, but it's certainly a useful thing.

Also, don't forget to check out Deb Salisbury's post on "How do you personify your Muse?" Check out answers from Sarah Fine, myself, and Laura this past month!

21 comments:

Deana said...

I'd never thought of it that way either. I will have to throw that word around, though, and make myself sound really smart:)

Sarah said...

A useful device, one I've definitely used, but sometimes the hand of the author is really obvious (or the strings of the puppet, I suppose), so you have to be careful with it. Very interesting that there's a term for it!

Carol Kilgore said...

I learned something new here! Again :)

notesfromnadir said...

Ah good ol' Henry James!

Now I'm craving bread. Thanks!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Had never heard of it. Sounds good, will try to see if I can add it to a future WIP.

Leslie Rose said...

The term is new to me - thanks Henry. I'm craving bread too!

M Pax said...

Useful, indeed. And you can eat the sidekick in an emergency. :D Just kidding.

Krispy said...

Useful and delicious! :) Thanks for sharing this little discovery with us. Bread certainly is versatile.

Jennifer Hillier said...

Hey, they use this device on soap operas all the time! Not that I, uh, watch any.

There's always a minor character who shows up to ask the main character what's going on, so that the main character can update us viewers in case we missed the last few episodes.

Not that I watch soaps. This is just what I've heard, you realize. Cough cough.

And congrats on winning the ARC! I'll mail it out this week!

Tracey Neithercott said...

That's the first I've heard of the device. Good to know! But I have to say, the other ficelle is a bit more tempting.

Jemi Fraser said...

Thtat's a good one! Both the bread and the device...

Tanya Reimer said...

I've never heard the term used this way, but I am familiar with the French word ficelle. It is a neat way to see your sidekick though.

catherinemjohnson said...

That is interesting, I love Deana's comment lol. I probably won't remember ficelle so I'll just think of string :) Don't tell my french teacher.

Susan Fields said...

A very useful device, indeed! Though I agree with an earlier comment, it must be used with care because sometimes it is obvious what's going on. I had a CP point out in my last ms that I had a "As you know, Bob..." moment. Definitely had to fix that up!

Olga said...

It's fascinating to read your scoop from the world of writing. Neat indeed!

julie fedderson said...

So instead of sidekicks being the cream cheese to the bagel of main character goodness, they really ARE the literal bread. Hmm.

Connie said...

Oh, cool! I love new words. Thanks.

Connie said...

Oh, cool! I love new words. Thanks.

Jonene Ficklin said...

Yikes and wow - another term we'll probably be hearing all over the place soon. Thanks for the heads-up!

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