A Different Point-of-View

No one, in person or online, has asked about the progress of my writing in a long time, probably because I made a few public threats and mentioned that conversations were starting to go like this every time I run into some people I know:

It’s funny, I never realized how a question as simple as, “How many pages do you have?” could make me want to roundhouse kick someone across the face.

But anyway, since I haven’t updated you on this area of my life in some time, I thought I should let you know the thoughts that are going through my head.

  1. The book that I quit my job to write is not the one I’m currently working on. It hasn’t been for a while. The story just seemed to stop for me. I am not done with it, but I think it’s resting for a while.
  2. I went back to that time travel fantasy piece that has been brewing in my head for 5 years. Have you ever written about time travel? I know some people throw fantasy in this pile of “make up whatever you want and write it down” (I used to), but me-oh-my, is it ever more work than that! First, because the sort of time travel I am dealing with in my novel is not anything I have ever dealt with before, nor have I seen it executed in this manner, I feel like I’m walking across a frozen pond. Without giving too much away, the manner in which the people in my novel travel through time is unconventional (yes, this sounds weird) and I’m actually having to think this through and plot it out very carefully.
  3. My protagonist was a [middle-aged] (actual age removed so it doesn’t bring up too many questions 😉 ) man (still is?), but I think my point-of-view may be shifting — to that of his 15-year-old daughter. I did not see this coming, but it makes a lot of sense. Deciding who this is marketed to is a big part of choosing the direction the story will take, and I feel like there may be more universal appeal if it’s from the POV of a teenage girl than from an older man. (Maybe I’ll include both?) That, and because it was her voice and her story that was continuing to fight its way out. When I was plotting out the backstory, I kept coming back to her and what she would be experiencing and how that was most likely the more interesting story.
  4. I am toying with the idea of turning a person who is very good into someone very bad toward the end of the first novel…or somewhere in the middle of the second. Yes, I have this plotted out into a trilogy. But I keep coming back to how I felt [SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read ALL of The Hunger Gameswith all the things that happened to Peeta. I was very conflicted while reading that and I know how difficult and dangerous it is to take a character who is mostly good and do something very harsh to them. It can be hard to maintain your readers’ trust.

That’s where I’m at right now. I am still really interested in writing a verse novel, and though I know I’ll return to the one I was working on before, part of me wonders if this piece can go that way or if it would be better served with a more traditional style.

Have you ever completely shifted the point-of-view in something that you’re writing? How did it pan out for you?

P.S., Someone please send a white board, Sheldon Cooper, and some serious caffeine so we can figure out this time travel thing.

The Center of the Universe

my piece of sky

Song From A Secret Garden by Secret Garden

On the other side of that window was a desk and that is where some of my most important thoughts — which to me were enormous life events — happened. Now the house stands abandoned, paint chipping away, having exhaled all the life it once held many years ago.

I watched a documentary about abandoned places once. A builder walked through the halls of a college somewhere in the northeast. There was no longer any funding from the state to keep the school opened, so they closed it, sold off all that could be salvaged, and left it a shell. He walked through, trying to determine whether or not something could be done with the building or if it would have to be demolished.

He said something that has stayed with me, about how when human life leaves a place, when there are no more people in a house or a store or an institution, something happens. It doesn’t take long for the place to start to fall down. I don’t know whether it will be by nature or by man’s intervention, but I don’t think it will be long before the house I grew up in falls to the ground.

The first time I shared this photo was in March of 2008. I called it “My Piece of Sky” in reference to the song from Yentl. The view from the other side of that window is limited. In the summer, leafy trees block much of the view, but in the winter when all the leaves are gone, you can look past their dark skeletons and see a tiny group of hills that lie to the north.

That room was my favorite place to be. If I wasn’t outdoors with my brothers, I could be found there, reading. Almost always reading. Or listening to music or writing. Sometimes a combination.

The room changed over the years. Coats of paint, new curtains, a different configuration of furniture. But there was always that vanity table turned desk sitting right there in front of that north facing window.

First it was those marbled composition notebooks. Filled to the brim with poems and stories and words I would never share with another soul. How many novels did I start in those things? Somewhere there is a Kool-Aid stained manuscript that I was awfully proud of at the time. Then a computer and floppy disks. And finally…the Internet. It was the first week of May 2000 and I was getting over pneumonia.

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, there is this theme of returning to one place. Henry (the time traveler) circles around through time landing in the field near Clare’s house in different years. You get a sense of why he shows up in certain places over the years, but it’s almost the end before you understand why this one place is so important. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the ending of this for you, so I will leave you with my impression of the whole thing.

For some people, there is a center of the universe — the axis upon which their world turns — the place where some of the most important moments happened. I think mine is that room, that desk, that chair. I know not everyone has the luxury of knowing a place like this. This room only saw my Act I. I don’t know where the next place is.

Here is an exercise for you — think of the one place in the world where you could stand and get the best view of your life. Where is it? Why is this the place? What are the things you can witness from this vantage point?

Writing Exercise #2 – Distinct Voices

When I was in college I was challenged to do something I’d been taught all my life not to — eavesdrop. Okay, technically I wasn’t told to do that, but that’s what it all boils down to. My classmates and I were instructed to find 3 distinct voices out in the world. It could be anything. A professor giving a lecture, someone yelling from a street corner, a phone conversation, etc. I chose to observe 3 conversations in 3 different places. I copied them down word-for-word as I listened. For your reading pleasure:

Voice #1
Hey…hey Kev. Kev! Hey Kev! I drawed you a piture. You’na see? It’s out in the van. It’sa you playin’ basketball. You’re dribblin’!

Voice #2
Talk, talk, talk — that always how it goes. Well, I not interested. That it. That all you get. You know what I mean? That like how it is with all of them. All the same. You know?

Voice #3
Niiice. That’s my genius. You know that sort of thing would turn off most guys, but no, that’s how you get yours.

It was a strange, fun thing to do. Looking back at what I wrote down I can remember each situation. The people involved, the body language. It’s really funny the things you can manage to get by with when you’re sitting in a corner, appearing to mind your own business with a pen and a notebook.

So, I challenge you to go out and do some legal eavesdropping this week. For research purposes 😉 Listen to how people talk. The letters they drop, their cadence of speech, the pauses, the lack of punctuation. Write it down. See how it helps you with dialogue.