Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Class Night

I mentioned last week in my post about my Using Margaret Atwood class that I am a lazy writer. In preparing my assignment for tonight's class I discovered just how lazy I am. The assignment was to choose between doing a sort of character sketch or to take a paragraph from something I have written and rewrite it using a different point of view and tense. I decided to do the paragraph. I went searching through my computer folders looking for a story. I found four, one of which I had completely forgotten about. As I was looking them over for just the right paragraph I discovered that I never finished writing any of them. One of them even stopped mid-scene. I never finished them because I'd write until I got stuck and then stop. Then when I'd have time to work on the story again instead of working on it I'd have a great idea for a new one and start working on that one. Maybe I could put together a whole book of unfinished stories and when readers complain tell them it's avant garde and they need to get over their desire for closure. Aside from the fact that I can't seem to finish anything, I did learn something valuable from the exercise. The paragraph I chose to rewrite was written in the first person, past tense. I rewrote it in third person limited, present tense. I liked the tense change, it made the paragraph livelier. But I noticed that first person and third person limited are essentially the same except in one there is "I" and in the other it changes to "he" (or she). The third person limited creates a small distance between reader and character, but the reader still gets the full benefit of the character's thoughts in both. I never really thought about that much. Now I will be sure to keep the lesson in mind whenever I am choosing point of view. It seems like such a small matter, but it can make a huge difference. I'm off to class tonight where we will be discussing such matters as well as Margaret Atwood's two stories, "True Trash" and "Hairball."