Times Two


I’m attempting something different with my latest work in progress, two writing methods I’ve not tried before.  My first two books were written in first person narrative.   The first book from the perspective of an eleven year old girl, and the second, from the perspective of a thirty year old man.  It’s funny how they worked out like that, and it makes me feel think I’m fairly adept at doing a story this way.

The two untried methods came up like this.  When the editor, Caroline Upcher, sent her feedback, she suggested I try third person, and she also suggested I might try to write from different points of view.   After mucking around with it for quite some time, (read many, many false starts) I’ve landed on doing a dual narrative, and my head has been splitting ever since.

It’s disastrously, crazy, I’m going to rip my hair out complicated when writing from one person’s perspective, then the other.  You have to decide, each time, where’s the best place to pick up the story.   Do you take each incident and flip flop between the two and get their feelings down, or do you make a simple one sentence statement by the other person, after you end the chapter of the other person.  See what I mean?  Even that sentence doesn’t sound right, and I’m simply trying to explain it.

At least I’m not the only one who says it’s hard.  The “magician” said so (more than once.)  And every stinking thing I’ve read about it says so.   Like this article:  http://isabelcostelloliterarysofa.com/2013/06/10/guest-author-susan-elliot-wright-on-writing-a-dual-narrative/ which used words like daunting task and difficult to get right.

Blech.

The only dual narrative that I’ve been successful at lately has been me telling me, wow, this is hard.   The other thing that is hard, or maybe was hard, since I’ve hopefully moved past this sticky spot, was to integrate the story.  This has been my biggest oopsy moment in this first draft.  I was going along merrily, writing my protagonist chapter, then my antagonist, and after more than a hundred pages in, the magician gave it a read.  I could almost hear her from here.  (XOXO)  She spotted this problem immediately.   And while I was thinking I was building tension, all I was really doing was telling two different stories centered around the inciting incident.

Clunk.  (that’s me, having one of those V8 moments)

The one thing I can forecast about this project at the moment is that it will take me longer than the other two.  And in the end, if I am able to type THE END, I anticipate a few more gray hairs.

What’s the most challenging writing project you’ve taken on?

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11 Comments

BTW, boiled poultry for writers is out there.
Maybe I’ll write something like:
Mac and cheese and other comfort food for skewed writer’s.

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    Shark ears? Um, no, but if that’s a tiny hint at something percolating in the background, I’m rooting for you!

    As to the other….here’s an idea.. you have a chapter on all things writer’s contend with, ..and at the end of it, you offer a comfort food recipe. 🙂 I’d buy it.

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Years ago I queried a Sunday magazine about doing a piece about homeless families being fed a free Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant down-state. The owner, the staff, the vendors and families of all those involved volunteered goods and time to make a real meal of Thanksgiving for those who had little to be thankful for. My max word count 5000 and I had to have it in asap.
Via TV and newspapers word went out about the dinner, plus posters hung in shelters housing both families and individuals. Transportation was arranged.

I was a family member volunteering, observing, interviewing and writing about my experience as a volunteer. Problem was, we had more volunteers than guests. The volunteers ended up eating right along with the guests which was awesome because we were all like one HUGE family. It was great but I had little to write about besides the excitement of anticipation. I did not want to mention how disappointed we were that hundreds didn’t show up. (How stupid to be disappointed that there weren’t more homeless people to feed.)

Instead of writing about the homeless as the focus I wrote about the value of volunteering. I thought it was just okay until I learned after the holiday that parts of my article was read from church pulpits all over the state that year on Christmas morning. It was one of my most difficult pieces and one of my most triumphant.
When you think you can’t, and that you won’t, but you try anyway and do…ah how sweet the victory.

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Keep going. It’ll be fine.
Three years ago I began writing something I was incapable of finishing. A novel, all in first person, told by four different characters.
A nightmare.
Recently, I finished the first draft. It still needs a lot of work, but I love it.
Every choice of who should tell the next bit, or why, when, where, has been difficult, sometimes painful, and for a long time I didn’t think I could get the job done.
Yet here it sits, 82,000 words, a story I needed to write.
As for how I managed, I don’t know.
All I can tell you is that you CAN do it, and when you do, you’ll know you really earned it, and that feels amazing.

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    Aw, thanks for that!

    But, Harryi, wow, you FTF!!!! I can hear the whoop, whoop, whoop from the entire crowd in Betsy’s and Averil’s corners of the world!! And the idea of writing in first person narrative from varying points of view…sounds complex, but INTRIGUING.

    I like that you say I can do it…b/c you also said my protagonist would eventually reveal herself, and guess what? She did.

    XO

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Nice – my students and I were discussing this very topic with The Great Gatsby today. We have been studying characteristics of a character and how it affects story, narration, trust, etc. One of the assignments was to look at the story from another character’s point of view. And what if they shared narration. Cool convo, difficult to do.

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    It is very challenging…mainly b/c you want to 1) leave the previous chapter with a question, 2) not forget to answer it at some point, and 3) not confuse the reader. And actually a whole lot of other stuff, but…I know you get it.

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