Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Six Sentences, Creepy Things, and Viewpoint

So far, this is turning out to be a great week for my writing.

On Monday, Admiration was posted on the Six Sentences website. Admiration was inspired by my recent trip to meet William Shatner. I say 'meet' loosely, as in truth it was more a hello, signature, and goodbye. Whilst I was queuing up to meet one of the earliest crushes I remember having (aged ten, I believe), I got to thinking about the other people in the queue. Why where they here? What were their motives? Was it like me, to meet an actor that, through his great roles, had brought a lot of enjoyment into my life? Or, what if they'd never got over their childhood crush? What if they believed they had some kind of a relationship with this actor, but one that existed only in their mind? Admiration is my take on this latter, more sinister, fan.

Also on Monday, I received an email from the editor of Creepy Things confirming my short story, Feeding Walter, had been accepted for the anthology. I was particularly pleased about this acceptance, because I struggled with viewpoint whilst writing it. I had the basic plot in my head - without giving too much away, the story involves a married couple and the husband's pet Tarantula, and there are three separate scenes - but I knew that for it to work, I'd have to write the story in third person viewpoint. The problem is that I prefer to write in first person.

I'm much better at writing in first person. Looking back over my acceptances to date, the majority of them are written this way. I think the reason for this is that one of my weaknesses as a writer is description. By writing in first person I can describe everything in detail, as if I were looking through the characters eyes. For some reason, I find this much easier to do than if the narrator is outside of the characters.

The first scene was not a problem, as it involved the husband and wife, and I was able to use dialogue to carry the story forward. However, the next two scenes featured only one of the characters in each scene. When I read through my first draft, it was full of "he did this" and "she did that" type sentences. Boring. Lazy writing. My solution was to put the story aside for a week and return to it with a fresh pair of eyes. I rewrote the story, and redrafted as many of the offending sentences as possible. I couldn't remove them all, but I felt happy enough to submit it. Thankfully, the editor liked it.

I’m interested to know if other writers struggle with these viewpoint dilemmas. Which viewpoints to you prefer to write in or are you happy to write in any viewpoint? Have you had more success with a particular viewpoint? If so, why do you think that is the case?

10 comments:

  1. I hate viewpoints, or as I say it, POV. Most of my flashes are in 1st person, with the occasional one in 3rd. But my novels are in 3rd, which does make it hard for thoughts and feelings.

    I can happily write both, and I'm not sure which is my most successful point of view as I've never really had a rejection (YET!) Some are in 3rd, the majority in 1st. I just write in however the story comes to me.

    Congrats on the 6S too, I saw that yesterday and it left me thinking, and got the approving 'Hmmp' at the end!

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  2. Pixie - I just had one of those Homer Simpson "Doh!" moments. Why didn't I use 'POV' in my post, rather than writing first person viewpoint this and third person viewpoint that?

    Your comments regarding acceptances and rejections got me thinking. Out of all my anthology submissions only one was rejected (then picked up by another editor), and that was written in 3rd person. I've submitted two stories to women's magazines, the 3rd person was rejected and the 1st person accepted. So, maybe I'm not seeing the true picture yet. But, as I prefer 3rd person, it might take a while!

    Thank you for your kind comments about Admiration.

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  3. Good question. I can't say that I have a "favorite". One of my big problems is that I switch-without realizing it, suddenly I've written 3 pages in third person of a first person novel. Ops.

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  4. Congrats on the acceptances! I saw the Six Sentences story and just had to smile after reading your post about meeting William Shatner. :)

    I used to write in first person, but for some reason I've shifted to third person. In fact, I have been thinking about trying to go back to first person again, just to challenge myself.

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  5. First of all: congrats!

    I write most naturally in first person, but for my last novel I wrote in third person. It was fun playing with differnet POVs from different MCs!

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  6. Awww Brilliant news all round!! Congratulations!! And it's really is always best to sometimes step away from the story - let it rest and then return with, as you say, fresh eyes!!

    Well done you!
    p.s. I loved your William Shatner moment!! Brilliant!

    Take care
    x

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  7. Haha, no worries Ellie. We all have those moments.

    I forgot to say congrats about the Creepy Things acceptance too!

    Pixie x

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  8. Hi Ellie - Writing in first person comes naturally, but I won't say I excel at it. I tend to "tell" rather than "show" when writing in fist person. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

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  9. A huge thank you to everyone for your opinions on viewpoint.

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  10. Hi Ellie! Congrats on all your successes! I feel quite inadequate as a writer at the moment...reading that you've never had a rejection! Wow! That is really wonderful! Almost everything I've written has been in first person, and that's because almost everything I write is non-fiction, personal essay type stories. It's a stretch for me to even write fictional short stories, but I do enjoy the challenge! Loved your William Shatner piece! :)

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