Elements of Style and other musings

Novel writing class is complete.  I have two months before my next writing adventure begins. So how will I continue to sharpen my skills?  Keep the passion rolling?

First, continue on the 52 in 52 path.  I have a trip upcoming next week where I should get some good reading in (foreign country, only has BBC World in the room, so not much TV to distract when in the room…, not to mention the 11 hours it will take to get there).  I am half way through with books, but over half way through the year so I need to make up some ground, whilst reading a variety of books.   I just found a used book written by the professor of my upcoming UW writing course (Pamela Binder),  it was written in 2000, called The Quest, and has a Scottish highlander on the cover.   Definitely something I want to read before class starts.

Next, continue writing.  I just ordered the 4th edition of Strunk’s Elements of Style.  I have owned this book before, but looking through the shelves, I must have recycled it at some point.   I also want to practice writing several chapters from 1 point of view (POV).  I was looking back at my writings in the past Nano book and found that I always have written from several POVs.  In the first two books, I kept it pretty clean, writing different chapters from different  POVs, but in my latest (and the novelette I pulled samples from for novel writing class) I was a lazy and switched between POVs within the same chapters, writing from an omniscient 3rd person POV.  My teacher and I spoke about that in class last night – he said it’s fine for an early draft, but typically it’s better to stick to one POV at least in a chapter.

In a few of the books and webpages I’ve read recently – POV can be handled in 3 ways – pulling this from ‘Understanding Point of View in Literature’  for dummies’  (ha!)

Point of view comes in three varieties, which the English scholars have handily numbered for your convenience:

    • First-person point of view is in use when a character narrates the story with I-me-my-mine in his or her speech. The advantage of this point of view is that you get to hear the thoughts of the narrator and see the world depicted in the story through his or her eyes. However, remember that no narrator, like no human being, has complete self-knowledge or, for that matter, complete knowledge of anything. Therefore, the reader’s role is to go beyond what the narrator says.
      • For example, Harper Lee’s

To Kill a Mockingbird

        is told from the point of view of Scout, a young child. She doesn’t grasp the complex racial and socioeconomic relations of her town — but the reader does, because Scout gives information that the reader can interpret. Also, Scout’s innocence reminds the reader of a simple, “it’s-not-fair” attitude that contrasts with the rationalizations of other characters.

      • Second-person point of view, in which the author uses you and your, is rare; authors seldom speak directly to the reader. When you encounter this point of view, pay attention. Why? The author has made a daring choice, probably with a specific purpose in mind. Most times, second-person point of view draws the reader into the story, almost making the reader a participant in the action.
        • Here’s an example: Jay McInerney’s best-selling

    Bright Lights, Big City

          was written in second person to make the experiences and tribulations of the unnamed main character more personal and intimate for the reader.
      • Third-person point of view is that of an outsider looking at the action. The writer may choose third-person omniscient, in which the thoughts of every character are open to the reader, or third-person limited, in which the reader enters only one character’s mind, either throughout the entire work or in a specific section. Third-person limited differs from first-person because the author’s voice, not the character’s voice, is what you hear in the descriptive passages.
        • In Virginia Woolf’s wonderful novel

    Mrs. Dalloway,

        you’re in one character’s mind at a time. You know the title character’s thoughts about Peter, the great love of her youth, for example, and then a few pages later, you hear Peter’s thoughts about Mrs. Dalloway. Fascinating! When you’re reading a third-person selection, either limited or omniscient, you’re watching the story unfold as an outsider. Remember that most writers choose this point of view.

    Anywhoo – I want to come up with a couple of writing exercises that focus me on writing from a specific POV, maybe even trying a few from first person. A gentleman in our class (Chuck) read his piece, which was in first person POV. It was pretty powerful. He’s writing a book about a detective in Mexico, mixed up in drug cartel, murder, and general mayhem. He mentioned to the class that he wanted to switch to 3rd person POV, because 1st person was pretty difficult. The class all tried to discourage him. Detective stories are often written from first person POV so the reader can solve the crime along with the detective and really feel close to the action. Interesting.

    I also need to get into a writing pattern. For NaNo I wrote in the evening, while P would make dinner, sitting in front of a blaring tv. While that sort of works for random musings and the rambling prose that I wrote fro the NaNo exercises – not sure how awesome it is for concentrating and writing well. My published colleague at work gets up everyday at 4am and writes for a couple of hours before having to get ready for work and hanging out with his family. 4am!! That probably isn’t going to happen. 5:30am to the gym is early enough. Will try a couple of times though and figure out what works well for consistent writing.

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