I just re-read these parts of books:
- The first few paragraphs from the opening chapter of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2014)
- The first few paragraphs from chapters 1, 3 and 10 of Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011).
I say re-read because I read both of those novels in full over the last couple of weeks while I was supposed to be working my way through the material in chapter four of the OU Masters in Creative Writing. My bad. Still, all experience is good experience, right?
The point of view (POV) is expertly handled at all time. Although it gives the impression of using different POVs in all the four sections (she, I, we and you respectively) it actually stays faithfully in the first-person (close (almost claustrophobic (at times))) at all times.
Sample one shows Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as being a marvellously accomplished writer because she is in a little boy’s head (first-person close) whilst introducing him, his Auntie and his Master to be, all in a few short paragraphs. Amazing stuff.
Samples 2, 3 & 4 show Jennifer Egan’s style remaining more or less constant (kind of loose and funky) but they show her versatility as a writer. They do this by virtue of using a kind of pseudo-POV. The first of her sections is conventional enough in that it is all about ‘I did this’, but the second is, like, ‘we did this’ (but only when the ‘I’ knows what the others in the group did), and the third uses the even more unconventional ‘you did this’ (but the ‘you’ referred to is actually the ‘I’ of the character; you follow?) This impression of other POVs is what makes the text interesting for me as a reader. It gives variety.
Of course, you may well have no idea what I’m prattling on about here so the best thing you can do is buy these two books and read them for yourselves. Just don’t do it while you’re meant to be doing something else instead, because that would be naughty.
I read the fifth chapter of Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. It was about ‘points of view’. Who’d have known that there were so many of them!
There’s me, we, them, him, her, you and (if you’re from Liverpool) youse. Of course, he goes into a little more detail than me, but that about summarises it.
- Does your own writing make use of any of the techniques and approaches Novakovich discusses? Yep.
- What implications do his observations have for your work in progress? He makes me more aware that when I write stories I am an author being a narrator and (perhaps) being a character, and sometimes all at the same time, which is a bit too much information for me to have in my head all at once, especially as I’m trying to write a story here. Hello!
Here’s the trick: choose a point of view right at the start and then stick to it. Then you don’t have to worry so much about all that complicated stuff.
Oh, I forgot – there’s also Omnipresence, which is, like, God watching your thoughts while you’re wondering whether God is watching you (and your thoughts) when you’re playing with yourself (as in, playing on your own, with your toy trucks or dollies or whatever).
The first thing I noticed when I woke up was the gun in my hand. No, that’s a lie. I didn’t wake up at all. I wasn’t asleep in the first place.
When I was a girl, Uncle used to come in and ‘check on me’. He’d sit on the edge of the bed; sweet rum on his breath barely covering the goat-stink of his body, and he’d touch my head with his fingers. Clumsy, but still I’d pretend I was asleep. Always with my eyes open a slit; just in case. We all did back then. Too much bad stuff happened too often for us to do much else. Not to me. Not back then. But to my cousin and her sister and three of my friends at school. We used to talk about it in the tightest of whispers so that wouldn’t be lying too much when we said that we never told. Anyway, we never said nothing to the grown-ups. That would have been even more bad.
Old stuff. Dead and gone. This is now. Hard and real and happening. Dark room, so I saw him in shadows more than light; shades of grey rather than colour. His back to me. Walking away. And I knew that this was the best chance I had. I knew that he knew that had seen too much for him to let me go. But still, I never questioned why he’d curled my hand around the gun and tucked my finger into the trigger space. Never wondered why he’d stroked my face once. Never stopped to think of his sigh and the sad expression on his face before he stood and walked away.
I moved quietly. Slowly. But he still must have heard because he turned. That’s when I saw his real face. The one from all the nightmares. The clown. The joker. The grinning scarecrow. I want to think that he was surprised, but he wasn’t. That he started back towards me; but he didn’t. He just stood there, resigned, steady, accepting because by then I’d lined up the gun and squinted down the length of it at his big, mean face. As I tightened my finger on the trigger, a tear sputtered down his cheek; but I pulled it anyway.
There’s something moving in the pipes at work. I saw the water swell and ripple in the toilet. It swayed and pulsed as if an earthquake was happening; but it wasn’t. It rose towards me and then changed its mind and subsided.
I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in the pipes. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!
Catch it early and nip it in the bud.
I have a perfect storm happening in my life right now. Work has become a place of pressure, I’m doing an MA in Creative Writing and Christmas is coming. On top of that I have a stinking cold complete with headaches and runny nose, aching limbs and eyes that don’t feel like opening.
Yesterday, I started to have the feeling that something bad was coming. It felt like doom. It felt like I was going to have to do something that I didn’t want to do. It felt bad.
Over and over I searched my mind for a cause. It couldn’t be the Masters because I’d just got my first assignment back and it was marked as a distinction. It couldn’t be my work because I had a plan and was rigorously sticking to it come hell or high-water. It couldn’t be Christmas because, well, that’s a time of goodwill and all of that. And it couldn’t have been the cold because I know that these things pass. So what was it?
Having scanned my mind, environment, relationships and body and found nothing threatening I told myself not to worry and I went to bed.
This evening, the feeling of impending doom returned, but this time I was ready. I told myself that it was nothing but a feeling and that everything was okay and, to my happiness, it agreed and it passed over and left me with a delicious sense of well-being. It came back a couple of times after that, and again I went through the same process and it receded.
And that, for me, is how to cure a panic attack: find that it has no basis in reality and tell it to pass. And it does.
And now – roll on wellness, productivity and success. I wish you all a beautiful day, season and life.
(a shark was taken to one side and slit tail to nose for all the little creatures to have their fill and their revenge)
(like a chicken-wish the legs are held and then ripped apart with a force stronger than any flesh can bear)
(all the pieces of an exploded aircraft will fall down through the sunlit air over a packed city celebration)
All harm aside
(no persons or animals or aircraft or celebrations were, are or will be harmed during the making of this post)