Change Your Point Of View

Today were looking at point of you again, but in a slightly different way

The prompt

Pick a point of view you don’t usually use and write a story in it

Tips

*Look back at the stories you’ve written this month or in the past. Do you have a favorite point of view? Do you always default to first person or third person? Write a story today in a different POV.

  • If you flip back and forth between different perspectives frequently, just decide which to use today based on what you’ve written so far this month. What have you done most of? Choose that.

  • Each point of view brings with it restrictions and possibilities. If you frequently right in the same point of view you may be limiting yourself

  • To demonstrate the power of POV, you may want to repeat the exercise we tried earlier in the month of taking a story that you’ve previously written and writing it from another point of view. This time however I want you to keep the same character as the protagonist. Simply change the “I said “to “he/she/it/they said”.

  • Try to focus on the opportunities that this new perspective offers. If you’re shifting from third person omniscient to a limited/first person perspective, **really dig into the facts really dig into the characters thoughts and emotions. In these more limited perspective there’s no excuse for “Telling Not Showing”. Everything can be written as if we’re riding along on their shoulder, experiencing everything with them.

  • If you’re moving from a limited perspective to a third person omniscient, celebrate the fight that you cannot see things from different peoples’ perspectives. The most effective, least confusing way to do this is to have seen breaks between each head hop in the short story. (You probably don’t want to do it more than a couple of times but it can be quite fun to have most of the story told one person’s perspective then have a line break and give another character’s perspective as the conclusion of the story revealing a lot about the truth of the situation that, perhaps, the first character didn’t know.)

  • If you hate moving away from your favorite point of view that’s fine. You don’t ever have to do it again. Sometimes creative failures are essential to teach you what to avoid in future.

Leave a comment telling us what you discovered in your writing today. Perhaps you are very versatile with point of view or perhaps this was ridiculously hard. What did you learn? And remember, if you’re enjoying these prompts,share them.

Rewrite A Story From Week One

Good news! You don’t have to get a whole new idea today…

This is the first of your Rescue Week prompts!

Prompts

Rewrite your First Person story from Week One

  • Try writing a story from a different in a different point of view. You could use third person limited, in which you can still only understand ‘hear’ the thoughts of the main character but which gives you greater flexibility. Or you could use use third person omniscient, which lets you head hop (just remember to limit that to places where you jump between scenes).
  • If you’re having trouble remembering what Third Person, Limited sounds like, try reading a little Harry Potter.
  • Trouble with the Third Person, Omniscient? Read some Dickens.
  • Another option is to rewrite the story from the perspective of a different character. You could stay in First Person, but now you’re telling the story from the antagonist’s point of view; or the point of view of a secondary character.
  • One of the benefits of doing this, is that you don’t have to get a whole new idea today. This can be a wonderful way to get a story finished when you’re running on fumes.
  • An added benefit: you might discover your story works better from a different perspective or in another character’s voice.

Day 15

This is the first of your Rescue Week prompts!

Prompts

Rewrite your First Person story from Week One

  • Try writing a story from a different in a different point of view. You could use third person limited, in which you can still only understand ‘hear’ the thoughts of the main character but which gives you greater flexibility. Or you could use use third person omniscient, which lets you head hop (just remember to limit that to places where you jump between scenes).

  • If you’re having trouble remembering what Third Person, Limited sounds like, try reading a little Harry Potter.

  • Trouble with the Third Person, Omniscient? Read some Dickens.

  • Another option is to rewrite the story from the perspective of a different character. You could stay in First Person, but now you’re telling the story from the antagonist’s point of view; or the point of view of a secondary character.

  • One of the benefits of doing this, is that you don’t have to get a whole new idea today. This can be a wonderful way to get a story finished when you’re running on fumes.

  • An added benefit: you might discover your story works better from a different perspective or in another character’s voice.

Leave a comment telling us how you got on. What choices did you make as you rewrote your story? How did it go?

Write A Story In Dialogue

We’re changing tack today: writing in dialogue!

The Prompt

Write a story containing only dialogue

  • You can write this in play format if you like, using each speaker’s name at the beginning of the line, but I would discourage you from using stage directions.
  • Try to convey everything from emotion to movement the setting in the characters’ words alone.
  • If you’re not using play formatting, limit the story to a dialogue between two characters, to keep things straightforward.
  • You could use the two characters you’ve been working on for the past two days since you already have their voices and a sense of who they are. Put them in a room together and see what happens!
  • As well as conveying setting, emotion and movement through words, concentrate on making each speaker sound different. If one is witty and speaks in one-liners, let the other be long-winded and speak in complex phrases with sub-clauses.
  • You can vary these rhythms throughout the story for each character. On character could start relaxed — using relaxed language rhythms — and become gradually more upset — using short choppy language, while the other one goes the other way. Or you could let one character go through a bell curve of these rhythms: starting upset, getting more relaxed, getting upset again; or vice versa.
  • A good way into a story like this is to have two characters discussing something, having an argument, or needing to reach a decision about something. Each should have a slightly opposing view. It can be more powerful emotionally if the two characters actually like each other and want there to be no conflicts between them.
  • You can resolve the story, or one character can storm off leaving everyone shouting “Where you going?” It’s entirely up to you.

Leave a comment to let us know how this went. Was it easy? Did it feel almost-impossible? Did your dialogue sound realistic?

Writing Prompt: First Person Story

Some people love first person some people hate it. Either way you’re using it today.

[Listen to me talk about this prompt on Anchor.fm]

The Prompt

Write a story in the first person

Tips

May 19 – Limits – Two Voices 

The Prompt

Write a story told only in dialogue

The Prompt

Write a story told only in dialogue

Tips

  • This can be a dramatic scene, designed to be read by two actors or it can be a story with ‘he said’ ‘she said’  dialogue tags.
  • With only two voices it should be possible to avoid using any dialogue tags at all, but you’ll need to work to keep the characters’ voices distinct.
  • Try to reflect, in their language, how they are feeling instead of relying on ‘stage directions’ (she said, nodding encouragingly).
  • Show agitation or excitement by making the language choppier. Like this. Really. I can’t believe … how could you?!
  • Allow characters to ramble when they are prevaricating, but try to avoid excessive use of “um” and “er”. Instead, let them go off on tangents, avoid the point.
  • Allow your characters to speechify (speak in a formal, unnatural style) if you want, but be conscious about it and consistent. Hey, it worked for Shakespeare and Aaron Sorkin!
  • Alternately, try to keep the voice of each character as realistic as possible. Remember that people talk at cross purposes, they interrupt each other, they don’t answer each other’s questions directly, worst of all, they often fail to listen to the other person at all because they’re planning their next riposte.
  • Try to pick two characters who reflect different outlooks or ages or stations in life (imagine the Dowager Countess talking to the cook. It’s more than just accent that sets them apart, it’s word-choice, rhythm, relative confidence, expectation, assumptions about life…)

GO!

Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.

May 18 – Limits: Third Person, Omniscient

The Prompt

Write A Story With An Omniscient Third Person Narrator.

Omniscient voice has fallen out of favor recently, which I think is a shame. Then again, I’m a fan of satire and enjoy a bit of Dickens now and then.

Omniscient voice can distance the reader from the characters a bit, and that’s not what the publishing industry thinks today’s readers want. However, it can be a fun challenge, and we’re taking it on today.

The Prompt

Write  A Story With An Omniscient Third Person Narrator. 

Tips

  • In this voice you are never entirely in one person’s head, but you can jump from head to head. It’s best to keep this consistent thought. Stay with one characters thoughts for a while, shift to another and stay there until the next piece of action ends. Otherwise, you’ll give your readers whiplash.
  • If you are not inside a character’s head, the narrator point out what a character is thinking by noting their actions and expressions.
  • Omniscient voice is great for satire, because the authorial voice can comment on the actions of characters, though you  probably want to use this sparingly.
  • If you’re having trouble finding the omniscient voice, imagine the voice-over at the start of the Winnie The Pooh cartoons, or read some Dickens.
  • See if you can pull off Omniscient without sounding like you wrote this in the nineteenth century. (I’m not sure it’s possible. Let’s find out!)

GO!

Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.

May 17 – Limits: Third Person – Limited

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Third Person, Limited

 

We’re writing in a much more conventional fashion today, good old third person, limited.

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Third Person, Limited 

Tips

  • Let the reader hear the thoughts of one person, and one person only. The narrator and the protagonist can infer information about other people’s thoughts, but the reader can never see inside those other characters’ minds. If this was a movie, the camera would swing around the protagonist, occasionally looking over her shoulder and through her eyes, never getting too far away from her.
  • This is the voice often used in detective stories, and mainstream fiction.
  • You don’t have to say ‘he thought’, to let us know what the character is thinking. In this POV if you make a declarative statement, it’s going to be clear that the ‘thought’ belongs to your POV character. For example: “The wind was picking up. Her hair whipped around her face, defying the extra-hold hairspray she’d used. Bob was going to wonder if she’d forgotten where she kept her hairbrush.” It’s clear the last sentence is the protagonist’s direct thought, right?
  • The advantage of this POV is that it keeps the reader close to the protagonist, emotionally. It also helps you set up suspense, since the reader can only know what the protagonist knows.
  • The disadvantage of this POV is that readers can’t see what’s happening ‘off-stage’ unless you use another device to reveal that information (like the way Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak allows us to eavesdrop on important scenes even when Harry’s not supposed to be there; or the way Isaac Asimov’s excerpts from The Encyclopedia Galactica fill us in on the politics, decisions and passage of time in the Foundation series).
  • Keep readers interested in your protagonist by giving them a desire, and an obstacle to overcome. A flaw and a special talent can help too. (Indiana Jones is a great example here: He always wants to save the priceless artifact for posterity, and he’s usually opposed by someone else who wants the same thing, but who has and Evil Purpose in mind. He’s a talented archaeologist, but he has a soft heart and a problem walking away from bullies, both of which get him into all kinds of trouble.)

GO!

Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.

May 16 – Limits: Second Person

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Second Person

Today we’re taking on the rare point of view: second person. It’s tough to pull this off without sounding like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but we’re going to try.

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Second Person

Tips

  • This is a rare point of view for a reason: it’s hard to make it sound good. However, there have been some examples that work well: Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City is one.
  • How To Get Filth Rich In Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamed, is a more recent example and, interestingly, reads like a self-help book. Consider writing a story in a self-help-y kind of style.
  • Halting State by Charles Stross uses Second Person  in a novel that features a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game). Role-playing games tend to feature a lot of Second Person in the scenario set-ups, so this is an interesting choice.
  • You could, of course, write an ironic Choose Your Own adventure story.
  • This story could be a mock-advertising piece — another form that often uses this voice.
  • This will probably feel odd, and read strangely, but if you create compelling characters and and an interesting problem for them to solve, readers will stick with you. You’ll probably end up with a fresh feel, even if your plot is not-altogether-original, simply because of the choice of voice.

GO!

Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.

May 15 Limits: First Person

The Prompt

Write A Story In the First Person

We’re on the cusp of the half-way point through the year. After you’ve written your story today, could you come back to the blog and post about one thing that you have learned/that has surprised you/that you’ve remembered, while attempting the challenge, please? Do this whether you’re still writing, whether you think you’ve quit (but really you know you’re going to come back and write at least one more story this month, don’t you?), or whether you’ve missed a few day, but written a few stories too.

What are you learning about your writing, your routine, your voice, the importance of turning up? Or is there something else you’ve discovered?

This week we’re starting a week of limits: point of view, mostly. Trying out all these different forms will give you an idea of what stories call for which perspective, and which you’re most comfortable with.

Today, first person. This is probably the easiest voice to find, since this is how we tell most of our stories in every day life(“I went to that new restaurant in town and you’ll never guess who I saw there…”)

The Prompt

Write A Story In the First Person

Tips

  • Remember that only the thoughts and observations of your “I” character can be presented as fact. No ‘head-hopping’ allowed!
  • The protagonist can make assumptions and judgements about the things around them. They can comment on how they think another character is feeling, but they cannot say it definitively.
  • This mono-focus is one of the great features of the First Person story: it is highly subjective and immediate. It has a built in “show, don’t tell” factor.
  • If you don’t often write in the first person, pick up almost any middle grade novel (that is, something for kids younger than the Hunger Games crowd, but older than the chapter-book-with-illustrations crowd) and you’ll see how it’s done. The protagonist is talking to the reader. It’s the running commentary inside their head. It’s also a favorite of “chick lit” and noir.
  • I don’t know about you, but in my head I’m much less kind, understanding and tolerant than I try to be when I open my mouth. Allow your character to lose the civilized filter that we apply between brain and mouth. Allow them to be less (or more) than their image would suggest.
  • Don’t forget to give the reader a reason to care. Give your protagonist a flaw and an endearing quality. For example, Amelia Peabody  is no-nonsense feminist archaeologist at the turn of the 20th Century, in the (mostly) first-person mystery series by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia is astoundingly arrogant about her own intellectual prowess and impatient with anyone who considers her femininity before her intelligence. She is, however, saved from being unlikeable by her hopeless, romantic devotion to her brilliant — and very manly — husband, Emerson.  She never admits this as a weakness, but the contrast between her professed opinions and her actions/reactions provides a rich vein of humor in the series. It also illustrates her character much more clearly than her own words ever could.
  • Try writing this story for one person in particular, to help you find the voice. Imagine you’re writing it for your sister, your son, or your best friend.

GO!

Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.

[Write On Wednesday] – Write A Letter

dear joe
Photo by Meredith Harris CC Some Rights Reserved

Today’s prompt was suggested by the story I read yesterday, Incognito by Susan M. Lemere.

The Prompt

Write a story in letter form

Tips

  • Use two or more voices, or let us see only one side of the conversation.
  • The ‘letters’ can be email exchanges, text messages, Facebook updates, or imaginary hand-written correspondence from sweethearts separated by war, an ocean, feuding parents…whatever makes sense to you.
  • Try to introduce some mystery, some misunderstanding, or some desire on the part of one of the participants. Frustrate us, tease us, keep us guessing about how it’s going to turn out.

Go!

[Writing Prompt] Non-Linear Tales

We’ve looked at the parts of the story. We’ve looked at point of view. We’ve learned the rules. Now I’m inviting you to throw it all out of the window.

The Prompt

Write A Non-Linear Story

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Non-Linear Tales”

[Writing Prompt] Multiple Perspectives

I’ve been going on (and on) about the importance of not ‘head-hopping’ between characters in a different scene, to take things easy on the reader. Today I say: mix it up! Make the reader work for their entertainment!

The Prompt

Write A Story From Multiple Perspectives

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Multiple Perspectives”

[Writing Prompt] Third Person, Limited Perspective

Today, it’s back to the tried and true, a format you’re probably much more familiar with than yesterday’s Second Person. Yes, today we write in Third Person, Limited Omniscience, perspective.

All of which means, you get inside a character’s head and stay there.

The Prompt

Write A Story in The Third Person, Limited Perspective

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Third Person, Limited Perspective”

[Writing Prompt] Putting ‘I’ First

This week we’re going to be playing with point of view. It’s easy to get stuck writing from the same perspective in every story. To break you of that habit, we’re going to be trying the all this week! Feel free to write the same story over and over again, this week, playing with perspective.

The Prompt

Write A Story Told In The First Person

Tips

  • First person is relatively easy because it’s how we tell all our stories in every day life (“Oh, you’ll never believe what happened on the way in this morning! I was standing in the line for coffee, and …”)
  • Because your story is all from the perspective of one person, we can never know what any other character is thinking. We can know what the “I” character thinks another person is thinking, but remember that this is always colored by the protagonist’s feelings about the issue and the other person.
  • Grab a book off your shelf to see how this is done: check-lit and Young Adult are often written in First Person. If you have a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Gulliver’s Travels or The Great Gatsby, pull them off the shelf and see how First Person was handled by the masters.

GO!