Exercise 8, part 2: Thin Ice

This is the last POV exercise in Steering the Craft – this time, I swear! In the previous two chapters, Ursula Le Guin cautions repeatedly against changing POV – either doing so too often, or without warning, or without a solid plan. The Chapter 8 exercises seem to be a case of her teaching you to recognize such ill-advised POV changes by making you do them on purpose. In part 1 of this exercise, she instructed us to change POV several times in a short piece, but to indicate somehow you were doing it. I chose to use line breaks and I think it worked out okay. In part 2, she has you change POV frequently and without warning.

Continue reading “Exercise 8, part 2: Thin Ice”

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”

On Being an Expert in Your Own Writing Style

Expertise is a weird concept. It can’t really be quantified, but it’s used to qualify pretty every facet of life, at least in terms of a person’s performance in a particular role, or with a particular skill.

When I was unemployed, I gave a lot of thought to my own expertise, mostly related to my professional career, but also my writing career. It might be difficult to identify your own expertise in anything. That kind of label is likely bestowed upon you by others. Anyone can call themselves an expert in something, but when someone else calls you an expert — that’s a good sign you’re headed in the right direction.

Expert storytellers, expert editors, expert linguists or “wordsmiths”. These are the types of qualifiers used to describe respected authors. It may seem strange to refer to yourself as such — I definitely do not feel like I’ve earned any of these — but you should at least be an expert in your own writing.

Know Your Writing Style

Once you’ve written more than one story, with different characters, different settings, maybe in a different world, you start to notice your own writing quirks.

If you’re writing your first story, it may be hard to identify your writing style. You’re just trying to get words onto paper and figure out how to build a narrative. And that’s okay.

But I think here are still some ways you can reflect on your writing and pick out your style — and enhance it. Think about the following patterns in your writing style.

  1. How do you describe characters?
  2. How do you describe settings?
  3. Is your dialogue short and direct, or long and flowery?
  4. Do your characters use a lot of mannerisms or facial expressions when they talk?
  5. Are your scenes broken up by chunks of more expository or narrative writing?
  6. Are your chapters or sections a consistent length, or does each one vary by more than a few pages?

Become the Expert in Your Style

There are no right or wrong answers to any of the above questions, but thinking about as you write can help you pick out your tendencies.

For instance, I tend to start character descriptions at the eyes, at least when the characters are standing near each other. I like reading people’s eyes when I talk to them, trying to understand their mood or their mindset, and I’ve projected that interest into a lot of my characters.

I also tend to use two ways of describing setting: I either use the POV character’s senses to “see” their immediate surroundings, or I take a broader view, almost looking down on the character from above to provide more of an atmospheric description.

Once you understand your tendencies, you can start to vary them so your writing doesn’t become stale or predictable. This can also just make your writing more interesting to you. After all, there are only so many ways to describe a forest.

I like to describe my characters’ facial expressions and mannerisms as they speak to liven up the dialogue. However, I’ve found that short, direct dialogue with little description can be used to pick up the pace of the story.

Understanding that initial tendency and trying to change it up depending on the situation has helped me create urgency in scenes that require it, or slow down and lean on more detailed conversations that really enliven the characters.

During your revision or editing sessions, try to pay a bit of attention to these types of questions and understand your own habits as a writer. You may decide to alternate your style depending on the scene, the character, or the story. If you’re happy with what you find and want to reinforce a certain pattern, then that’s great, too.

As long as you’re becoming an expertise in your writing style, it will feel natural to your readers.

Steve D

Switching Characters to Spice Up the Storytelling

I’ve had an exceedingly tiresome week, capped off by an exceedingly long commute home today — like, an hour and a half or more. And because I’m writing this on Thursday evening, the week isn’t quite over yet. So let’s listen to some soothing Appalachian-inspired folk.

Writing has also been slow for me, which has been due in part to laziness, but also because I keep spending more time thinking about my short story idea than actually writing WoEL.

Continue reading “Switching Characters to Spice Up the Storytelling”

Following that Narrative Thought

My writing pace has slowed down a bit in recent days, and for once, I don’t mean in pure word count.

Maybe a week ago I completed a longer chapter centered on one’s character’s POV. I knew how I wanted the chapter to go, it just took a lot of writing time and words to get there.

I’ve since moved on to the next chapter with my favorite character–Arden–and I think my writing style has shifted a bit. Continue reading “Following that Narrative Thought”

April Write Day: Progress at Last

March felt like a long month, likely because I spent much of it at home. I am still unemployed, but I was able to use my wide-open schedule to make some legitimate progress on The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy.

But how did my other goals for the month fare???? Find out, next! Continue reading “April Write Day: Progress at Last”

Don’t Sweat the First Draft

Writing the first draft of your manuscript is tough. I think it’s easily the hardest part of the entire publishing process. Not only are you trying to create a plot with authentic characters in a believable setting, but you want it to sound good. There’s a constant pressure to write something worthwhile, for you and for your future readers.

However, there is one thing I constantly have to remind myself of before I get bogged down in perfecting my first draft: don’t sweat it so much.

Continue reading “Don’t Sweat the First Draft”

Using Side Characters to Provide Perspective

Perspective can be one of the most important aspects of writing an in-depth, detailed narrative, especially when world building is a big part of your writing.

World building is the reason I started writing.

So, that means sometimes I want to write about the story underneath the plot–the cultural or historical context, even if it just pertains to one character’s arc. Continue reading “Using Side Characters to Provide Perspective”