Exercise 8, Part 1: Changing Voices

Did I say last week “haven’t we had enough POV exercises?” – because I didn’t mean it. After going through Chapter 8, I’ve realized that Ursula Le Guin cares deeply about POV. Chapter 8 is basically an extension of Chapter 7 but deals exclusively with the idea of how to change POV characters safely and effectively within a story. My impression from Chapter 8 is that Le Guin is bearish on changing POV characters and takes a skeptical view on doing so. I felt slightly chastened reading this, since it is almost my favorite thing to do when writing fiction. Certainly in real life, you only get your own point of view, thus some of the fun of fiction is getting to experience the story from multiple narrators and POVs.

Le Guin says we can keep using the story from Exercise 7 – but I decided to come up with a new one – based on another true story. I was stuck in traffic one day when I realized the car in the lane next to me had a very unusual passenger sitting in the front seat…

Continue reading “Exercise 8, Part 1: Changing Voices”

Back to Basics: World-Building in an Established Universe

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

I’m late! I intended to finish this post on Tuesday night, but that obviously didn’t work out. I’ve gotten away with writing entire posts the night before for a while, but it finally caught up to me. Anyway…

As you all may know, I’ve been working on two short stories this year together called “The Herb Witch Tales”. While these take place in the same fantasy universe as my first novel, I’m working with completely new characters, in a different time, and in a different region. I’m in new world-building territory for the first time in years.

This has raised some intriguing questions as I try to develop a story with the same richness of setting as the first. Continue reading “Back to Basics: World-Building in an Established Universe”

Exercise 7, part 4: Involved Author POV

This is the last part of the exercise for Chapter 7 – the Point of View chapter in Steering the Craft. I’ll be honest, I was tempted to skip it, because hadn’t we had enough POV exercises already? But in the spirit of completion and to get outside my POV comfort zone, I stuck to it and did part 4. So here’s one last version of “The Mountain Lion Killing” – and this time we get the whole back story.

To review Le Guin’s directions for the exercise:
Exercise 7: Points of View

Continue reading “Exercise 7, part 4: Involved Author POV”

Exercise 7, part 2 and 3: The Mountain Lion Killing

Last week, I introduced Ursula Le Guin’s exercise for chapter 7, which is her chapter on point of view. This week, she has us using the same story from last week (if possible) to explore less common POVs. I found I was able to use my story from last week and keep it going – so we are back in the campground with a freshly dead Mountain Lion.

To review Le Guin’s exercise instructions:
Exercise 7: Points of View

Think up a situation for a narrative sketch of 200-350 words. It can be anything you like but should involve several people doing something. (Several means more than two. More than three will be useful.) It doesn’t have to be a big, important event, though it can be; but something should happen, even if only a cart tangle at the supermarket…

Please use little or no dialogue in these POV exercises. While the characters talk, their voices cover the POV, and so you’re not exploring that voice, which is the point of the exercise.

Part 1: Two Voices
POV was Third Person Limited, two versions, two different characters. (If you’d like to see what that looked like for my teeny tiny story, go here.)

Part 2: Detached Narrator
Tell the same story using the detached author or “fly on the wall” POV.

Part 3: Observer-Narrator
If there wasn’t a character in the original version who was there but was not a participant, only an onlooker, add such a character now. Tell the same story in that character’s voice, in first or third person.”
Steering the Craft, Pages 71-73

Continue reading “Exercise 7, part 2 and 3: The Mountain Lion Killing”

Exercise 7: POV – The Mountain Lion Killing

Ursula Le Guin talks about how points of view in fiction come and go in popularity, with first person and limited third person all the rage for the last 100 years or so. I had never thought of point of view as a “fad” (even if a relatively long lived fad), but I guess that all depends on your point of view!

Her goal with chapter and exercise 7 is to define and get you to experiment with different kinds of point of view, especially ones you are not comfortable with. The exercise starts out with the one of the POVs currently in style, limited third person, and then expands to other less common POVs.

For this one, I’m telling a tale that was told to me at a work happy hour. It was related as a true story, but you know how happy hour stories go…

Continue reading “Exercise 7: POV – The Mountain Lion Killing”

When the Plot Breadcrumbs Lead Nowhere

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

Leaving breadcrumbs as you write a story is fun.

That stranger in the tavern who eyes your character just a little too long. The oddly repetitive appearance of a particular animal that just has to be symbolic. Or the mysterious item that seems to catch anyone’s interest who lays eyes on it.

Experienced readers often notice these little details and wonder if they are clues into what might come later in the plot. Continue reading “When the Plot Breadcrumbs Lead Nowhere”

Exercise 6, Part 2: The Old Woman

This is the second part of Exercise 6 from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft book.  To recap: Chapter 6 was about verbs, specifically dealing with person and tense. This serves as a prelude to chapter 7, which is a long (and intimidating!) chapter on point of view.  My take on this exercise has an old woman wandering around the remains of her house after a fire and remembering a different disaster that struck when she was a child.

The prompt: “Exercise Six: The Old Woman

This should run to a page or so; keep it short and not too ambitious, because you are going to write the same story twice.

The subject is this: An old woman is busy doing something – washing the dishes, or gardening, or editing a PhD dissertation in mathematics, whatever you like – as she thinks about an event that happened in her youth.

You’re going to intercut between the two times. “Now ” is where she is and what’s she’s doing; “then” is her memory of something that happened when she was young. Your narration will move back and forth between “now” and “then.”

You will make at least two of these moves or time jumps.

Continue reading “Exercise 6, Part 2: The Old Woman”

Exercise 6, Part 1: The Old Woman

Back at it with Exercise 6 from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft book. Chapter 6 was about verbs, specifically dealing with person and tense. This serves as a prelude to chapter 7, which is a long chapter on point of view.  I have to admit I procrastinated on this exercise – and I did so for a reason that surprised me! First, though, the prompt:

“Exercise Six: The Old Woman

This should run to a page or so; keep it short and not too ambitious, because you are going to write the same story twice.

The subject is this: An old woman is busy doing something – washing the dishes, or gardening, or editing a PhD dissertation in mathematics, whatever you like – as she thinks about an event that happened in her youth.

You’re going to intercut between the two times. “Now ” is where she is and what’s she’s doing; “then” is her memory of something that happened when she was young. Your narration will move back and forth between “now” and “then.”

You will make at least two of these moves or time jumps.

Continue reading “Exercise 6, Part 1: The Old Woman”

Exercise 5: Chastity

The exercise Le Guin’s proposes at the end of chapter 5 takes far longer to complete than her short little chapter (just two and a half pages!) on adjectives and adverbs would lead you to believe. She admits that this one is hard and suggests you do it away from the pressure of a class or group. I did find myself staring at the blank page for quite a while…once I did start writing, I was surprised at the sinister turn my little paragraph took.

Exercise 5: Chastity

Write a paragraph (200-350 words) to a page of descriptive narrative prose without adjectives or adverbs. No dialogue.

The point is to give a vivid description of a scene or action using only verbs, nouns, pronouns, and articles…

Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft, page 45.
Continue reading “Exercise 5: Chastity”

Exercise 4, Part 2: Again and Again and Again

Of the two exercises in Chapter 4 of Steering the Craft, I thought this one was the harder. It was also the first time Le Guin gave us the option to write a complete short story.  The other exercises had pretty tame word counts – 150, 250, 350 words – but this time, she didn’t limit us. And if Ursula Le Guin suggests doing something, I figure it is worth a serious listen.

“Part Two: Structural Repetition

Write a short narrative (350-1000 words) in which something is said or done and then something is said or done that echoes or repeats it, perhaps in a different context, or by different people, or on a different scale. 

This can be a complete story, if you like or a fragment of a narrative.

(Page 41-42 of Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guin)

I did try to make it a complete story – came in a 1285 words – woo!

Personal Earthmovers

Even though the surrounding hills were lined with tract houses rising side by side up gently curving streets, it was still shocking to see the denuded foothills straight ahead on the freeway. The yellow and brown chaparral, which burst into green every spring as long as rain fell during winter, was now raw dirt. Earthmovers and bulldozers were leveling terraces for another development in another Los Angeles suburb. They pushed the heavy clay soil to and fro across the face of the mountain.
Continue reading “Exercise 4, Part 2: Again and Again and Again”