We had some interesting readings this week. The writing assignment and exercises, however, were more interesting.
In class we had to do a couple of writing prompts. We also had a writing assignment due on Friday that helped me a lot with my writing. We had to write a story that built tension slowly and also showed character development. While it makes perfect sense to do it that way after someone tells you to, it was not obvious to me when I started writing on how to do that. It’s really opened up things for me and the way I look at writing scenes.
We only had one class in week three because of holiday. We learned about the different types of narrators–limited, limited omniscient, and omniscient.
Stan talked about how the narration changes in a story. For example, Catcher in the Rye starts with the young Holden Caulfield speaking directly to the reader. Then it changes. The author steps back and narrates a story. Then it changes again and Holden speaks directly to the reader. It was very interesting. I hadn’t noticed that before or if I did, I didn’t know it was a “narrational contrstruct.”
One thing that struck me was the idea that the narrator and the narrational character are not the same people. The narrator is separate from the character by time.
I updated my first draft of the Katie story over the weekend. I changed the title. The story remains much the same except that I changed it from third to first person, which fits with what I’m doing with my other stories I stripped out some cheesy lines and hopefully, didn’t add any new ones. I’ll know when I read it again a week or a month from now.
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By Greg Halpin
She showed up at the café shortly before closing time. It had been a while since I saw her.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” I said.
“I have to talk to you, Hank.” I hated when conversations started like that. It usually meant trouble. This one probably wasn’t going to be any different.
“I’m pregnant,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »
Here was the assignment:
Shifty Voice. Write a short sequence using a narrative voice that is “unreliable.” After you complete the selection, explain what techniques you used to “undermine” the voice you used.
She was a little scared to be alone but she would be okay, the woman told her sister, the last of her visitors. She closed the door her and locked it tight. The house was empty and quiet, except for the crackling of the fire.
She went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of Riesling. Thank god her sister and friends put away all the food. The funeral exhausted her and she didn’t have the energy to do it herself. She would have let it sit out and toss it in the garbage the next day. Normally, she’d never think to waste a scrap of food. She could forgive herself. After all, she buried her husband that day.
The woman brought her glass upstairs and set it down on her bedside table. She removed her earrings, pearl necklace, and let her hair down. She removed her dress and put on her husband’s robe. She loved the way it smelled. She went to the bathroom to remove her makeup.
She got into bed and pulled her journal from the top drawer. She opened it and closed it immediately. Who could write at a time like this. She set it down and picked up the glass of wine. As she did, she accidently knocked over the photo of her deceased husband. It startled her.
She picked up the photo and looked at it for a moment. The photo was taken ten years before. The two of them had been dating six months. She was madly in love with him. Her eyes welled up with tears. She set the photo down and grabbed a tissue to dry her eyes.
She took a sip of wine. She picked up the phone from the table. She paused before dialing.
Someone answered at the other end of the line.
“I’m free,” the woman side. “We can finally be together.”
I tried to write a story where the character is very sympathetic. She suffered a loss, which we can all understand. In the end, I undermined her point of view by making her less sympathetic, suggesting she was happy that her husband died if not involved in his death.
Wednesday’s class was really good. It began last week at The Creative Oasis on Beaver Avenue. It’s an art studio with a gallery in the front. They sell a lot of great items–decorative bowls, mugs, vases, and such. Stan instructed us to pick an item from the gallery and write about it. First we had to write a literal description of the object. Next, we had to write metaphorical description. Then finally, we wrote a combination of the two. It was a good way to get us to write creatively, which I’m not in the habit of doing. Most of my writing is literal.
We moved on to Panera for our critique session. Each of us read an excerpt from our stories. The assignment we had was to write one scene that contains conflict and a resolution. The stories everyone read impressed me. They had real plots and characters. I appreciated the feedback I received back from everyone regarding my story. I’ll use it to improved what I have. Below is an excerpt from a work in progress, tentatively titled “Katie.” Read the rest of this entry »
We had four readings for the last class, three of which I enjoyed.
We read an essay that outlines the different types of conflict characters and\or stories must have: internal, external, as well as man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. man. I suppose I knew this before on some level but never saw it outlined before.
The second reading was an essay on plot and story from the Kung Fu Monkey Blog. Though it examines TV and movie scripts, it’s also applicable to fiction. It gives a nice breakdown of the plot of the movie The Incredibles. While most books and movies have three acts, the author writes that this film has seven.
I was looking forward to reading Poe. I lived in Baltimore for a while and visited his grave site and one of the houses he lived in. Unfortunately, I had a tough time reading “The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe.” What can I say? I find mid-nineteenth century language cumbersome. I did find it interesting when the professor told us in class that the story launched the mystery genre.
I first read “To Build A Fire” by Jack London in high school. It was good to read it again. It’s about a man in Alaska a hundred years ago or so. He is hiking to meet up with friends, presumably to find work at a logging camp. He is accompanied by a dog. The walk will take the entire day. The man was warned not to go out into the wilderness alone. He dismissed the advice. The man runs into trouble when his feet get wet after breaking through the ice. The man needs to build a fire to dry so he doesn’t freeze to death. It was getting close to class time when I began reading the story so I read it fast. That heightened the sense of danger the man was in, at least for me. In the end, the man dies of course.
The professor asked the class if we liked the man. I hadn’t thought of that before. I looked at it more as a difficult situation a person was in and his life was at risk. Most people apparently don’t like the man in the story because he doesn’t head the advice not to hike alone and because he treats the dogs poorly and tries to kill the dog in an attempt to use the dog’s body and fur to stay warm. Stan asked if the dog is the protagonist of the story. What if the conflict is between the dog and the man in addition to or instead of the man vs. nature. It hadn’t occurred to me but it made sense. The dog does survive. The man certainly could be the antagonist from the dog’s point of view.
We had a could exercise in class–to put together a scene where two character come into conflict. We ended up with a former professor who lost his job because of drinking problems. To support himself, he finds a job driving a cab. One night he picks up the man who fired him, the department head, who is inebriated. This is his opportunity to take revenge. Does he?
I read two short stories for the fiction writing class today–“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “The Library of Babel” by Jorge Luis Borges.
The Hemingway story was good though I have to admit I had trouble with the imagery and found the dialogue odd. Did people really converse that way eighty or so years ago? They didn’t say what was really on their minds, at least according to the analysis and an article I read about the story on Wikipedia. The analysis is much longer than the original story. Some people spent a lot of time deciphering the imagery. I thank them for that.
I found “Library of Babel” a struggle to read. From what I gathered, the author is explaining some futuristic library which may or may not be the universe. In any event, it wasn’t about people so I found it uninteresting.
The third reading was “You and Your Characters” by James Patrick Kelly. It was a good article explaining the different types of characters in fiction. I particularly liked the section where he says we can tell and not have to show to explain characters, particularly minor characters.