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”

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”

September Write Day: Marching Onward

Update: I somehow wrote and published this post without actually setting any goals for this month… so I fixed that. See my goals at the end.

August was tough for reasons other than anything writing- or family-related. I took last week off from writing a real post because I just did not have the mental energy. I’m not yet convinced September is going to go much better, but I’m excited to share some news in this post. Continue reading “September Write Day: Marching Onward”

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”

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”

#BookReview: FORGET NOTHING, great intro to GALAXY’S EDGE universe

Another Audible Original that I’m glad I listened to. “Forget Nothing” is a military sci-fi short in the Galaxy’s Edge universe of stories, which is apparently huge.

I’d never read any of the Galaxy’s Edge stories, so this was a good introduction, and has me interested in picking up more. Continue reading “#BookReview: FORGET NOTHING, great intro to GALAXY’S EDGE universe”

June Write Day: #Gains

I can’t really tell if May flew by or dragged its feet. On one hand, I can’t believe it’s already June, with summer weather in full swing in MD. On the other, it feels like a lot has happened in the last month, both personally and otherwise.

My short take on current protests around the US:

Black Live Matter.

Now then, onto events primarily taking place at the simple new desk pictured above. Continue reading “June Write Day: #Gains”

Exercise 1 part 1 – Being Gorgeous

I’ve been working through Ursula K. Le Guin’s excellent Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. I’m on chapter 3 now and I highly recommend it. I’ll be posting my responses to the short exercises she proposes here. Always glad for feedback or comments! (And if you feel inspired to join in – even better!!)

“Chapter 1: The Sound of Your Writing
Part 1: Being Gorgeous – Write a paragraph to a page of narrative that’s meant to be read aloud. Use onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects, made-up words or names, dialect – any kind of sound effect you like – but NOT rhyme or meter.”  – Steering the Craft, Page 8.

Right after high school I volunteered at our municipal zoo – I used to conduct evening tours for groups spending the night. We’d leave the group at the “sleepover safari pavilion” and then had to walk to our cars through the empty zoo…

Nighttime at the Zoo

Nighttime is the absolute best time in a zoo. And I’m not talking about one of those nights the zoo simply stays open late. No! The magic only conjures forth when the zoo is closed. One has the space and time to enjoy the sights and sounds of an assemblage of animals found nowhere else on Earth. The silhouettes of dozens of different animals against the darkening sky or illuminated by the warm red glow of their heat lamps. The monkeys lean against the chain link fences of their enclosures, tufts of tawny tails sticking through at odd angles: they pause in grooming the silky black hair of their babies and take a good long look at the sunset smear of pink and orange. The smell of exotic manure – not plain old horse manure – but manure aroma with the hint of something extra. What exactly depends on the ungulate: extra moisture, extra miles down special serpentine guts, extra regurgitations, who knows? The elephants fart with abandon, the decibels of their farts echoing across the empty visitor plazas. Nothing stops you in your tracks like a sustained reverberating bluuuuuurph from an elephant bum.

The bats hid all day, wrapped in their thin leather bathrobes, caring not a fie for the surges of disinterested visitors or the sinister suspirations of strollers squeaking towards the orangutan exhibits. They are now active, lurching wing claw over feet on the ceiling of their cage, tipping their heads back to assess the selection of fruit on offer. Ever see a southern wombat do anything but sleep, Buddha belly rising and falling, stubby toes pointed firmly at the sky? Come to the zoo at night and the wombat will be upright, nose in its food bowl.

The wildlife isn’t all contained either. The peacocks scream eiiiiiiiiiiii triumphantly from their roosts high in the eucalyptus trees. Skunks waddle down the deserted paths with purpose, like assistant zookeepers. “Business to attend to, whot whot!” they seem to say. It is not recommended that you attempt to interrupt them; a blast from a skunk butt will make you not want to be with yourself. No one else will want to be with you either, the sulfurous compound lighting lesson-teaching fire to every mucus membrane it meets. Best to let the wild skunks get to their meetings unhindered; even the great cats, the lions and jaguars and tigers, leave them be, knowing the skunks are the perfect bureaucrats of the nighttime zoo.

When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising

Although I haven’t officially updated you all on my writing progress for April (that’s next week), I can tell you that I have moved on to the second draft of “The Herb Witch”.

Since I wrote the first draft by hand in a journal, I’m now transcribing it to the old electronic typewriter (PC) and making edits along the way. Here’s why this type of rewrite is more efficient than revising a single draft.

Continue reading “When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising”