Tag Archives: writing

#FridayFragment: 21.09.2018

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

Words. Words, words, words.

Hamlet and everything.

They just wouldn’t come today, those words. Not the right ones, anyway.

Oh, there were words alright – lots of words. Jumbling together in her head; crashing together like bumper cars at the fair; bubbling up like a screen saver and then floating around, changing colour, gently tapping against each other, jiggling around, vanishing with a swipe of the mouse.

But not the right ones, not the words she needed.

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#FridayFragment, 17.08.2018

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

“Never,” she said. She drummed her long, lacquered fingernails on the counter. “Never.”

He leaned his hands on the table and gave her a look.

“You’re being unreasonable.”

“Reason has nothing to do with it.”

“Reason has everything to do with it.” He picked up the bottle and thrust it at her.

She stubbornly shook her head.

“No,” she repeated emphatically. “I will not use artificial vanilla extract.”

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#FridayFragment: 03.08.2019

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

Slowly, unnoticed at first, the kettle came to a boil. A soft simmering sound, then bubbling, a gentle blowing; then faster and faster, sharp and shrill, the whistle screamed its message into the air. “I’m seething, roiling, boiling! Get me off the heat! Do it nowwwwwww!”

I knew exactly how it felt.

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Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! (or: “Platform 9 3/4”)

I got another runner-up win in a WritersDomain writing contest!! It was a Harry Potter FanFiction contest, in honour of Harry’s birthday, which is today, July 31. I’d never written fanfiction before (turned up my nose at it, if I’ve got to be honest), but this one I couldn’t resist. I mean, Harry Potter

And seeing as I was just there a year ago, at King’s Cross and the Platform 9 3/4 Store, that’s what I wrote about.

You can read it here: “Platform 9 3/4” – scroll down, mine is the third entry. On second thought, don’t scroll down, read the other two first. They’re really good. I might have to revise my opinion on fanfiction.

Life, the Universe, and Platform 9 3/4. Alohomora!

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#FridayFragment: 15.06.2018

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

It spun silently in a circle, glittering with reflected sunlight, gently swaying in the wind. The tree branches rustled softly above it.

Samara stretched out her hand carefully.

“It’s so beautiful!” she whispered. Her finger reached; moved closer and closer to the sparkling crystal dropping from the main orb; made contact.

A glassy tinkling sound, sweet and sharp, filled the air, and the orb flashed up with a myriad pinpricks of rainbow hues.

Samara snatched back her finger.

“I’d be careful with that if I were you,” her brother said drily.

“Yes, well, you aren’t me, are you!” Samara snapped. Her disappointment sat like a bruise in her chest.

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The Editor Pontificates: Point of View

Very recently (as in, yesterday evening) I got bitten by the screenwriting bug – I want to learn how to do this. So this morning, in the course of a couple of hours of trawling the Internet, which included placing half a dozen holds on library books under the subject heading of “Motion Picture Authorship” (go figure – Library of Congress couldn’t assign it a sensible heading like “Script Writing”), I ran across a useful web page, “A Glossary of Screenwriting Terms and Film Making Definitions“.

Scrolling through the headings, which include such interesting terms as “lap dissolve” (which, without the definition, would bring up a rather gruesome image), what jumped out at me was “POV”. Every writer, screen or print, knows what that means, don’t they?

Well, apparently not. In editing, that’s one issue that comes up quite frequently; POV – Point of View – doesn’t seem to be as easy as you’d think. So what exactly are we talking about when we go on about POV in writing? That’s where this web page’s definition is extremely useful:

POV: Point of View. The camera replaces the eyes (sometimes the ears) of a character, monster, machine, surveillance camera, etc. As a result, we get to see the world through the sensory devices of some creature.”

The camera replaces the sensory experience of one character.

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie demonstrates this extremely well in the scene where Elizabeth is asleep while riding in the carriage. The camera – what we see on the screen – fades from darkness to blurry pink flashes of soft light, like sunlight flickering over one’s closed eyelids. The camera is literally replacing Elizabeth’s eyes, putting the viewer into her head.

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Steve’s POV: “I looked at the big orange cat. He refused to meet my eyes; I suspect him of nefarious intent.”

Now, in film making, “the camera” is restricted to the audiovisual medium. All it can do is see or hear, no more. However, in prose writing, our “camera” can do much more. It can shrink down to a tiny atom and burrow right into the brain of our narrator – it can feel everything she feels, know everything she knows.

And that is where the danger in handling POV comes in. Because a narrator has the power to pontificate – uh, I mean to tell – what they know, it’s very tempting for the writer to narrate something that the POV character could not know.

One of the first decisions a writer has to make when they set out on a new story is which perspective to write the story from. To quickly recap your boring Grade 6 Language Arts class, the basic perspectives fiction tends to be written in are either first person (“I ran down the street, feeling the cobbles under my feet”) or third person (“She tripped over the cobblestones”); third person is further subdivided into “tight third person”, which is roughly the same as first person except with different pronouns (“She ran down the street, feeling the cobbles under her feet”), and “distant observer” (“She ran down the street, but she did not know that around the next corner one of the cobblestones was sticking up above the pavement”).

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Louis’ POV: “This person is sticking a camera behind my head, and there is a small fluffy thing sitting across from me. I wonder if it tastes good.”

There are multiple versions of this style of narration, which we won’t go into at the moment, but let me quickly mention the most noteworthy one, which is the “omniscient perspective”: the narrator is God, they know everything about every character. In that POV the camera is, in fact, split into hundreds of tiny cameras implanted into each character’s brain, knowing and feeling everything – and the screen, i.e. the story, is a mosaic of all the different cameras.

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Omniscient observer’s POV: “The cat and the bear sat across from each other on the bed. The cat felt mildly curious, but the bear, as usual, was indifferent to the proceedings.”

And that’s the perspective that it’s very easy to fall into accidentally. The writer knows everything about everyone – he can see the cobblestone sticking up above the pavement – but the character does not – she runs along headlong and stubs her toe. Ouch. A filmmaker is physically restricted to what their camera lens can see – they put the camera on a character’s shoulder and leave it running, and that’s what will be on the film – but a writer has to make a constant effort to keep that mental camera lens where they have chosen to put it.

So if you choose to write your story in first person or tight third, your character cannot know what other characters’ feelings, thoughts and motivations are. “I looked at him, and he felt angry” is not a sentence that should ever appear in any story. I can only know what I am feeling; what I know of other people is only what my senses experience. I can see that he’s frowning, I can hear that he’s yelling at me, I can feel his fist hitting my jaw – but I can only deduce that these pieces of evidence mean he is angry. For all I know, he’s perfectly calm, and these are in fact an expression of love and care on his part (which would make him a psychopath, and my whole novel has just gone off the rails – but that’s a different topic altogether).

What goes hand-in-hand with this is that you need to know your characters. If, for example, your POV character is a five-year-old, he will not look at a canoodling couple and think “They must be so much in love,” but instead he’ll think something like “Eeew, why is Joe licking Suzie-next-door’s face?” He also has to stand on a barrel to be able to see over the fence in order to watch the canoodling – the camera in his eye is about three-and-a-half feet off the ground, and the fence is five feet high.

There are various reasons to choose one POV over another – they all have their advantages and drawbacks, which we won’t go into because this post is getting too long already. But my main point here is: when you pick your POV, stick with it. Never, not even for one sentence, remove that camera lens from the eye of the character it is strapped to at that moment. You can take it off and strap it to a different character, or to an unnamed observant narrator who knows everything about everybody, but be aware that that is what you are doing – and again, if you pick it, stick with it.

So, POV: it’s the camera in your character’s eye, or brain, as it were. And once you pick it, stick with it. Not that hard, is it? No, I didn’t think so.

Life, the Universe, and POV. It’s all in the perspective.

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Red Stone, Black Crow

RedStoneBlackCrow-OFFENWANGER-ArtABergloff (2)

“Red stone, blood stone,

Round and smooth and cold stone,

Make it stop, make it stand,

Take me over to the strand.”

That’s the rhyme the purple weasel tells the little girl to use when she gets to the raging river, on her way to the other side of the woods to give to bring the sorcerer his medicine…

That’s right – another story of mine got published on Enchanted Conversations! This is in the April edition of the magazine, which is all about Animal Tales. Mine has a purple weasel and a blue rabbit and, most of all, a black crow. And, of course, a little girl, whose name is Margie.

Unlike the previous stories I had published on EC, which were re-tellings of traditional tales, this one is an original. I was trying to go for the classic formula and tone – but of course, I’m no Wilhelm Grimm (or Dortchen Wild, as it were), so it’s not quite as classic as it, perhaps, might be…

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

 

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