Tag Archives: writing

#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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Filed under Friday Fragment, writing

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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Filed under editing, Wordless Wednesday, writing

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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Cat, a Bowl and Lots of Red-Heads, or: What’s This Septimus Thing, Anyway?

I was just re-arranging this website a little bit – posting the links to the recently published stories in one place, consolidating the books in the sidebar into one link – and it occurred to me that some of you folks who’ve come to reading my blog lately might not be all that familiar with this whole turquoise-coloured “Septimus Series” thing. For example, if you were to come from all those fairy tale stories I’ve posted recently to reading “Lavender’s Blue”, my Septimus short story, you might find yourself a little puzzled – it’s not a fairy tale; but what exactly is it?

So, for those of you new to the Septimus world, here’s a little intro. The nickel tour to Catriona’s life, as it were. For those of you who’ve followed Cat’s adventures all along, you might enjoy this little refresher.

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It all started a number of years ago, when Catriona McMurphy, an ordinary 21st-century librarian, was in a museum in her hometown of Greenward Falls. She looked into a turquoise-coloured pottery bowl, and all of a sudden everything went swirly and blue around her. Next thing she knew, she found herself in a forest, in a whole other world.

This is a world that has no electricity, flush toilets, internet or cell phones – but it does have magic. Subtle, gentle magic; nothing that involves waving wands or throwing around sparkly curses, but that permeates the very existence of the people of this place.

Cat soon found out that she herself has some of that magic – in her case, an ability that is called “The Knowing”, a strong intuition bordering on clairvoyance particularly about the people she loves. One of those people turned out to be a tall, red-headed potter by the name of Guy, who is a member of the Septimus family, the most prominent group of people with special gifts in the town of Ruph, descended from the seventh son of a seventh son.

When Cat first met Guy, literally lying at her feet, he had a small red-headed daughter named Bibby, possessed of a double dose of “The Knowing” and a charm that wormed itself irresistibly into Cat’s heart. A few years down the line, Catriona’s life is, let’s just say, not short on red-heads of various sizes and descriptions, and she has her hands and her heart full keeping them all in order, and getting in some time to read the odd book at the town library of Ruph, too.

And of course there is always something that throws a wrench in the works – ordinary life in Cat’s world is never all that ordinary. A speechless young boy and a plague of mice – a girl bullied by her sister, and a new kind of clay that seems to have special properties – a teenager that has dropped in from Cat’s old world and desperately wants to get home… There is usually some knotty problem that Cat needs to solve in between stoking the hearth fire and keeping Ruph’s library books in order.

If you’re wondering just what Cat’s new world is like, there are descriptions in the books, of course, but roughly speaking, in technology and climate it’s very similar to pre-industrial Europe. Of course with there being some magic, they have options that your 17th-century Englishman didn’t have – for example, closed stoves with attached water heaters, so Cat can still have a nice hot bath without having to lug a cauldron to the fireplace first. They also don’t have antibiotics, but there are wise women who know their way around a herb patch and the odd person with healing power in their hands, which is just as good.

If you want to get a taste for Cat’s world, give “Lavender’s Blue” a read (it’s FREE!). And if you enjoyed that, dip your toe a little deeper (because you taste with your toes, don’t you?) and get a copy of Seventh Son (also FREE!).

If, of course, you’re already a die-hard fan of Cat & All the Red-Heads, there’s only one thing left to tell you: STAR BRIGHT IS COMING SOON! Honestly, Book 4 in the series is written, and is being edited as we speak. No exact release date yet, but it’s coming! As soon as I know when, you’ll get to see the snazzy new cover so you can start drooling in anticipation.

Life, the Universe, Cat and the Red-Heads. Welcome, or Welcome Back, to the Septimus World.

 

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Filed under books, Cat and Mouse, Checkmate, Seventh Son, Star Bright, The Septimus Series, writing

Pennies Dropping – A Retelling

PenniesDropping-OFFENWANGER-ArttAmandaBergloff

A Fairy Tale Flash Fiction piece of mine is now up on Enchanted Conversations: “Pennies Dropping, a retelling of the Grimms’ “The Star Talers”.

“Pennies Dropping” is double-featured with another Fairy Tale Flash, “Midnight” by Fanni Sütö. Two for the price of one – check it out!

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Enchanted Conversations Introducing… Yours Truly!

Meet Angelika (2)

Just look at this: “Meet Angelika – The EC Team”!

That’s right – I’m being interviewed over on Enchanted Conversations by way of an introduction as their new “Contributing Editor”. What that means is that a couple of times a month, I get to write a post for their blog (sneak preview: some of it will be fairy tale flash fiction, which are short pieces between 100 and 500 words long), and I even get paid for it!

So head on over to Enchanted Conversations and find out what’s my favourite fairy tale (okay, one of them – they made me restrict myself to a single one, cruel people), whether I work from an outline when I write, and other fascinating and earth-shattering information about Yours Truly that I know you’ve been lying awake at night wondering about.

Life, the Universe, and a New Endeavour! It’s all very exciting.

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And We’re Live!

MagicInTheNight-OFFENWANGER-ArtAmandaBergloff

“Magic in the Night”, my first ever officially published story, is now live at Enchanted Conversations! Go over here to read it (and if you feel inclined, tell me what you think).

When you’re done, go here to the table of contents to read the other submissions in the “Elves and the Shomaker” issue:

What happens when the solution to writer’s block may be worse for the writer? Can a worthless girl discover a talent she never expected? Why does an online store make sure all their hats are specially wrapped in a secret? And what is the price to be paid when elves have things stolen from them?…Plus three more tales where elves and shoemakers are not always what they seem. Enjoy!

It looks like a fantastic lineup of stories and poetry; there are some real gems there.

Life, the Universe, and My First Published Story – out there for all of you to read!

PS: Hmm, so I just realised that they didn’t publish the last few lines of the story as I had it submitted. I’ll let you know if or when it changes. EDIT: It’s fixed now – all good!

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