Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lesson 4 - assignment

Caveat: I realize this may be boring for some of you because I’m using the same people and scene repeatedly, but this course is about the fundamentals of writing. Right now I’m just trying to learn techniques to make me a better writer so the plot and story is secondary.

Assignment for Session Four:
Write a 500-word first-person scene that presents a conversation (and related action) between two or three characters. In this scene, the first-person narrator will be your POV character. Then, rewrite the same scene in limited third-person POV, using a different viewpoint character (indicate to your instructor which character is the viewpoint character). Make changes that would be appropriate to the new POV character's perspective, but keep the essential details the same.

First Person - Anne as viewpoint character:

A floorboard creaked over my head. I walked to the bottom of the stairs and called, “Who’s there? Is someone up there?” There was no response but the big front door opened and I was relieved to see Helen and Jean.

“All right. Which one of you is responsible for the sign?”

Helen blushed and Jean looked innocently up at the ceiling. “Well whoever did it needs to change it before the rest of the group arrives.”

“You don’t like it?” Helen said.

“I love it, but something tells me a few of our members won’t appreciate your sense of humor.”

The floorboard creaked overhead again and all three of us looked at the ceiling.

“Is someone here with you?” said Jean.

“No. I heard the same noise just before you came in, but no one answered when I called. Maybe we should go upstairs and check it out.”

“Not on your life,” said Jean. “The men will be here soon. They can go up there.”

“Don’t be such a sissy,” said Helen. “Let’s go see what’s going on. It’s probably just the old building making noises anyway.”

“Well, you two can go, but I’m staying here,” said Jean.

Helen and I started towards the wide old stairs covered with the worn burgundy runners. As we started up, Helen sat down on the third step and said, “Maybe we should wait.”

“Wait for what? There’s nothing up there. It’s an old building and the creaking is normal. Are you afraid?”

“Yes and you should be too. How can you be so calm and complacent? What if there’s an ax murderer up there?”

“What if there’s nothing up there and we wait like babies until the men come and rescue us? They’ll never let us live it down. Come on!”

“OK, but you first. I’ll be right behind you.”

I could feel her holding back watching me climb the stairs, but since I made such a point of being brave my pride wouldn’t let me stop. At the top of the stairs, I hesitated in the darkened foyer. An involuntary shudder swept over me as I approached the door to the musty lodge room and my heart was beating wildly. I took a deep breath, opened the door and quickly flipped on the lights. “See, there’s no one here,” I said turning around. “Helen, where the hell are you? You’re supposed to be right behind me.”

Helen came running up the stairs laughing. “One of us had to stay behind to call the police.”

“Right. And now one of us is going to have to set up the chapter room all by herself.”

“Not on your life. I’m not going back into that dark old storage locker by myself.”

I sighed and laughed. “Come on chicken.”



Third Person Limited - Helen as viewpoint character:

Jean ran up the steps out of breath from rushing. “We’re late again. Anne’s going to be pissed.”

“I know,” said Helen, “but I’m too old to run and we’re not that late.”

“God, Helen. You’re only 62. That’s not old. Quit trying to make yourself ancient before your time.”

Opening the door they could see Anne standing in the hallway, arms folded across her chest, peering over her reading glasses. “All right,” she said. “Which one of you is responsible for the sign?”

Helen blushed and Jean looked innocently up at the ceiling. “Well whoever did it needs to change it before the rest of the group arrives.”

“You don’t like it?” Helen said.

“I love it, but something tells me a few of our members won’t appreciate your sense of humor.”

The floorboard creaked overhead again and they looked at the ceiling.

“Is someone here with you?” said Jean.

“No. I heard the same noise just before you came in, but no one answered when I called. Maybe we should go upstairs and check it out.”

“Not on your life,” said Jean. “The men will be here soon. They can go up there.”

“Don’t be such a sissy,” said Helen. “Let’s go see what’s going on. It’s probably just the old building making noises anyway.”

“Well, you two can go, but I’m staying here,” said Jean.

Helen and Anne started towards the wide old stairs covered with the worn burgundy runners. Anne started up, but Helen sat down on the third step and said, “Maybe we should wait.”

“Wait for what? There’s nothing up there. It’s an old building and the creaking is normal. Are you afraid?”

“Yes and you should be too. How can you be so calm and complacent? What if there’s an ax murderer up there?”

“What if there’s nothing up there and we wait like babies until the men come and rescue us? They’ll never let us live it down. Come on!”

“OK, but you first. I’ll be right behind you.”

Helen watched Anne go upstairs and followed one slow step at a time. She heard her in the foyer upstairs and felt a slight tinge of guilt for not being braver and more supportive. She was relieved to see the light go on and hear Anne call, “See, there’s no one here. Helen, where the hell are you? You’re supposed to be right behind me.”

Helen ran up the stairs laughing. “One of us had to stay behind to call the police.”

“Right. And now one of us is going to have to set up the chapter room all by herself.”

“Not on your life. I’m not going back into that dark old storage locker by myself.”

Anne sighed and laughed. “Come on chicken.”

“Bwaaaaaaaak, bak, bak, bak, bak, bak bak, bak!”


Any comments or critiques are welcome and appreciated.

5 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

I find this all very helpful; it has helped me go over my own writing.

am a hopeless over-writer who constantly has to go back and prune things out, so I'm not sure whether my advice here will be helpful or worthless, but I want to see more of an internal dialogue from the POV character. I want Helen's feet to pain her; I want her to wish that she'd picked more sensible shoes -- to be embarrassed by the heels she's worn; to be torn between comfort and vanity at the age of 62...and that's just for starters.

Can you imagine what I have to cope with every time I go back to rewrite? How tormented I am by word counts? I just can't help myself...

I'll be interested to see what more experienced writers have to say about this.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

The thing I found missing were some tags and internal narrative. (I realize that's not the point of the exercize, but internal narrative fleshes out a story and can add wonderful tension, especially when the narrator is holding back or thinking something else than what she's saying.

Overall, well done.

The Anti-Wife said...

Mary,
I'm just the opposite - very frugal with my words. I'd rather have your problem and have lots to edit down.

Betsy,
One thing we were directed to focus on was using tags judiciously - only when necessary. Perhaps I was too sparing in their use.

You're both right about the internal narrative, but this exercise was supposed to be about dialogue between people so that's what I focused on.

Thanks for the feedback.

Ello said...

I think that there is actually too uch dialogue going on here. And I think having the internal dialogue will help cut down on the too much dialogue part, but otherwise, I like that I am getting a sense of these women from what you are exposing. Good job.

blog49 said...
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