Category Archives: point of view

Can You Write A Selfie?

I’m getting better at taking selfies–really I am–though I doubt they’d help me sell any books if I stuck my image on the back. Aging, graying, not quite sure which direction to look in–would you buy a book photographed by me? More importantly–from my point of view anyway–would you buy a book written by me? And can you write a selfie?

Photographic selfies come–or at least they came–in many forms. Here’s my first one, taken through a mirror.

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Hmmm, a little blurred isn’t it, like one of those out-of-focus stories that never quite gets to the point, or has so many points the reader can’t find them? Next came the camera-on-the-computer selfie, with me so proud, holding the first (of many) proofs.

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Are you looking at the books or the writer here? If you read my stories, will you see my characters or me? Then I ponder: Even if my opinions don’t totally obscure the scene, they can still distract (and detract from the best-told tale). But At last I got a phone with a backward-facing lens–my chance to take a real, modern-day selfie. What do you think?

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Look up, look down, look straight, left, right, or somewhere: Choose an angle, I guess, but surely don’t choose this one, in writing or photography, from which I conclude, points of view are really quite important.

I tried again. Does this one work…

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…or should I have chosen a background that made sense? Set a scene that’s understandable for the reader or the viewer–that’s one to remember.

And then there was this. What do you think?

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(No glasses – the wonders of cataract surgery earlier this year!)

Someone suggested that everyone we write about lives in our heads (unless we’re writing biographies I suppose). So all those characters entering and leaving rooms, victims and perpetrators of crimes, male, female, adult, child… are they all me? Is every character study in my novel a selfie from some hidden part of my mind?

I don’t know the answer, but the question did inspire a writing exercise:

Now Write

  1. Imagine yourself entering a room–to win a writing prize perhaps, or to stop your child from crying, or…
  2. Describe your entry from your own point of view–are you confident, scared, excited… how do you walk? Is your breathing slow or fast? Where are your eyes focused? What are you doing with your hands? And what are you wearing; how does the fabric move with you, or the wind blow your hair?
  3. Describe your entry from the point of view of someone who’s glad to see you–parent, child, spouse, best friend, eager recipient of your benevolence… Who or what do they see, hear, or smell, and what thoughts fill their minds?
  4. Now describe your entry from the point of view of someone who’s not pleased to see you–the person who hoped to win the prize, the cat who hoped to stay with the child, the monster returned to its closet…
  5. And finally, turn one of those descriptions into a story.

Publishing is Murder!

If I’ve fallen off the face of the internet recently, I have a good excuse. Our local writers’ group, The Writers’ Mill, committed to self-publishing our fourth anthology in time for Christmas 2015, and time sped by. Suddenly I was fifteen books behind with reading and reviewing, three behind with writing, and deeply entrenched in editing, formatting and publishing one solitary volume. But now, at last, I can raise my head above the metaphorical quick-sand. Our next writers’ contest has the theme of murder, and I’m thinking it won’t be half as murderous as this.

In case you’re interested, our anthology, The Writers’ Mill Journal Volume 4, is now available from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Mill-Journal-2015-Journals/dp/1517594472/) and all good bookstores (and from Kindle http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Mill-Journal-Journals-Book-ebook/dp/B016C98RI4/):

The Writers' Mill Journal Volume 4
The Writers’ Mill Journal Volume 4

Meanwhile, how about those murders… Here’s a writing exercise for our next Writers’ Mill meeting, and for you:

First Think

  1. What do you think of when somebody says “Murder”?
    1. Clue – Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick?
    2. TV cop show – CSI Miami?
    3. Recent events and shootings – gun control?
    4. Old movies – Arsenic and Old Lace?
    5. Self-publishing
    6. What else?
  2. A murder story doesn’t have to be a mystery. What else can it be?
    1. Horror
    2. Psychological thriller
    3. Humor
    4. What else?
  3. The type of story might determine the point of view
    1. Whose head do you need to be inside for horror to scare you?
    2. Whose head do you need to be inside to get involved in solving a mystery?
    3. Whose head will you be in to understand the murderer’s mind?
    4. Whose head to not take it seriously?

Then Try

  1. You’re going to write three one-paragraph mini-murder stories, but first we’ll do the Clue thing:
    1. Where might a murder take place?
    2. Who might commit a murder?
    3. Who might get killed? (or what, I suppose)
    4. Who might try to solve the crime?
  2. Pick a location, a murderer, a victim and an optional investigator or bystander.
    1. Write one paragraph describing the murder scene after the event. This might be through the eyes of an investigator or passer-by, or just describe from an omniscient point of view.
    2. Describe the same scene in one paragraph through the eyes of the killer. This can be before, after or even during the event – depends how gruesome you want to be.
    3. Describe the same scene in one paragraph through the eyes of the victim. This can be before or during the event… or if you want to deal in ghosts or inanimate objects, describe the scene after the event.
  3. Read your three paragraphs
    1. How did the scene change as you looked through different eyes?
    2. Which version was harder to write?
    3. Which point of view will you choose to write the longer story?

Now Write

Overwhelming those Devils in the Details

I finished reading a novel recently. It was a really detailed novel; the sort of tale that tells exactly what a woman was wearing and why they chose each garment for what intended effect before she left the house this morning, which she did with a longing gaze around each of the rooms she passed through, remembering the appearance and provenance of each item of beloved furniture. Then someone shot her and she died.

The novel qualified as a pretty slow read; probably a frustrating one too. After all, as a reader I invested enough thought to follow those various pages, only to find the character didn’t matter. The scenes were vividly real. Her thoughts rang convincingly true. But I felt side-tracked from a story that continued by following someone else. Perhaps it’s just me.

Still, it reminded me of a writing exercise we did a while ago in our group, so I’ll offer our question of details here, for your reading and writing enjoyment:

table and chair

Brainstorm:

Imagine you’re standing in the doorway to an office. Inside the room is a desk. Behind the desk is a chair. Behind the chair is a window. There might be some shelves or filing cabinets against the wall. What can you see? Make a (clear and detailed) list.

Looking deeper:

Now imagine a character standing there instead of you. Who is he, she or it?

  • frightened girl
  • angry man
  • clever spy
  • controlling daughter
  • add to the list and take your pick.

There’s no one else in this office right now, but give your character a reason to be there:

  • She got a message demanding her presence
  • He’s determined to get his revenge
  • Something’s hidden; she’s going to find it
  • She needs a way to make her dad agree
  • what else?

Rapid Write:

Now write a paragraph in which your character enters the room. Which things do they notice and what do they ignore? Which details matter from your original list? If your character’s too scared or too busy to look out the window, do you really need to describe how tiny the people seem down below, or the color of the curtains?

Have fun.