My friend who is a fan of Dorothy L Sayers queried my previous post about Sayers' writing lacking intense emotion and it made me think more deeply about it.
I think it comes down to technique and how technique in fiction writing has changed over time. I am now deep into Gaudy Night (dug out of the library vaults!) and am
loving it, however, I think it has a couple of examples of what I mean.
On page 9, the protagonist Harriet Vane finds a tie belonging to Philip Boyes (the ex-lover who she was accused of murdering in Strong Poison) and the comment in the
text is: ‘how horrible that that should still be hanging about!’ On page 34,
Harriet is talking about finding the dead body with the cut throat (described in Have
His Carcass), she says, ‘It was beastlier than anything you can imagine.’
there’s intense emotion behind these phrases, however, I think in more modern
fiction they would be accentuated by (a) some kind of internal monologue and/or
(b) a bodily feeling within the character. It doesn’t happen here at least
partly because of the way third person is being used. We get much closer to
characters (including inside their heads) in modern fiction even in third person,
whereas in Sayers' day there was more of a sharp distinction between first and
third person. With the former the reader was inside the character, with latter they were
most definitely outside. I believe that distinction has collapsed to a certain extent in
more modern writing. And I enjoy that both as a writer as well as a reader.