A writer I have a lot of respect for once said that a novel is a marriage while a short story is an affair. He also said that the aim of any good writing is to use language as the means to create an intimate contact between the writer and the reader. He went on to say that he uses language in his writing in the same manner that he would approach a friend--the more personal the language the greater the feeling of intimacy with the reader.
I have no idea if most novels and short stories are written from a first person or third person or some other perspective, but I do know that the novels and short stories I admire the most are those where the writer is speaking to me in a language that feels real, that isn't manufactured for the sake of the story. Language doesn't have to be my language in that it doesn't have to share my inflections or Philadelphia accent (I tend to say "wader" instead of "water"), but it has to fit naturally within the context of the story in order for the reader to buy into the story as a whole.
I once began reading a book that takes place in the South by a British author. He tried to use the language of the south in terms of inflection, accent and the words one would expect to come from a southerner, but I stopped reading the book because he made too many mistakes. He worked and tried too hard to make the characters feel real by having the narrator adopt what he believed to be a southern dialect. However, I have enough relatives from the south, in particular the area he was writing about, to know that he wasn't getting it right. Because of this he lost the intimate contact with me that was required to make the story seem real and properly rendered.
This idea of intimacy is I think a very difficult thing for writers to really get because while you can teach someone that it is an important aspect of a good story, you can't impute that skill into an MFA student if they simply don't understand the nature of intimacy and the language to be used to create intimacy within specific contexts. The British author is a fine writer and understood that he needed his characters to reflect southern-ness, but he lacked an understanding of how to render it with the accuracy that was required. You can only learn this by getting out of the classroom or house and living enough of what you want to write about to get it right.
This also leads to why I mentioned the bit about short stories. As anyone who has read my blog with any consistency knows, I love short stories, and one fo the reasons I love short stories is that when they are done well, with talent and thought and skill, the author is able to very quickly--in a sentence or two--create a very significant degree of intimacy with the reader and draw them into the situation and/or story being told. This is a really hard thing to do--and very noticeable when the writer fails--but when it succeeds it has a beauty and sensability that is rare to find in a novel...A good short story burns with the intensity of an affair.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.