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…

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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.

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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.

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August Writing Goals and Recap

That sound you just heard was July whooshing by and now it is August. I confess I did nothing towards my writing goals (with the exception of posting here regularly) until the last week of July. I co-procrastinated (if that’s not a word, it should be) those alongside a work writing project that had a hard submission deadline at the end of July. But! I got everything in on time (well, more or less).

Recap of July Goals (linked here for accountability purposes):

1. Keep posting here on Mondays and on my other blog, Illustrated Poetry, on Tuesdays.

Did this! At least one post per week on each blog. Didn’t adhere to the precise day of the week so much on my other blog, but eh.

2. Rewrite the first chapter of Enjoinjure.

This I put off until the absolute last minute. I do mean opening the file on July 30 and working on it on July 31. I’m fudging a little because I didn’t really attempt to smooth out and combine the new bits with the old bits until this weekend, which is technically August.

3. Put together an outline for my current untitled story.

I did do this!

I kept the bar low on these writing goals, I know. But overall it worked – I finally addressed that first chapter, which I had been actively avoiding.

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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.
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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.
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Exercise 4, Part 1: Again and Again and Again

Back to doing the exercises in Ursula Le Guin’s excellent Steering the Craft book! Chapter 4 is about repetition and its power in storytelling. Thinking back to my English classes of yore, I remember being taught the opposite – to avoid repetition at all costs. One of my high school English teachers had this list of catchy “writing rules” and one of them was “NO PIZZA PIZZA” (after the overly prevalent Caesar’s Pizza commercial on TV) to remind us not to repeat ourselves. So it was refreshing to see Le Guin demonstrate how beautiful and useful repetition can be.
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Exercise 3 Part 2: Short and Long

Keeping up my goal of a post every Monday by the skin of my teeth and thank you for those 3 extra hours I get by being on the west coast! This is the second part of Le Guin’s exercise for Chapter 3 – the chapter on sentence length and complex syntax.

And this one is the first one that has flummoxed me. The instructions are simple:

Part Two: Write a half page to a page of narrative, up to 350 words, that is all one sentence.” Steering the Craft, Page 32.

I tried a couple of times with two different topics – but I didn’t get close to half a page to a page or 350 words. More than that, I think my long sentences are pale imitations of real long sentences – just lots of sentences joined together by semi-colons or em dashes (tried both and wasn’t happy with either).  And despite trying to channel my best A Tale of Two Cities opening sentence “It was the best of times…” I would say this was the most difficult exercise so far for me. Maybe it’s the fear of run-on sentences that my English teachers so carefully cultivated…

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Exercise 3 Part 1: Short and Long

I’ve been keeping up with the writing exercises in Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin and so I am onto the next one. I’ve realized that I had mis-numbered them for the posts – exercise 2 should have been “1 Part 2” since Le Guin numbers them with the chapters, so I went back and fixed my past posts.

This exercise also has two parts and is from Chapter 3 “Sentence Length and Complex Syntax.”

Part One: Write a paragraph of narrative, 100-150 words, in sentences of seven or fewer words. No sentence fragments! Each must have a subject and a verb.” Page 32 of Steering the Craft

Here it goes:
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