Sunday, June 24, 2007

Point of View

I've got a great p.o.v. exercise, Leslie. (The picture at left is a completely gratuitous picture that illustrates nothing except how you might not want to pay attention to my advice.)

I start by telling them that I need a name for a four year old. When they give me the name (let's say for example, they say 'Oswald') I tell them, 'Okay, Oswald is cold. I want you to write a paragraph about Oswald in which it is clear he is cold, but you never say he's cold. Show me by what he does and where he is that he's cold.'

1. (3rd person) They write that paragraph (I often do it as a timed writing exercise, they have three minutes and they have to keep writing that entire three minutes even if they're just writing I can't think of what to write or I wish this bitch would drop dead. I will not take up what they write. I explain all this, even the part about wishing the bitch who assigned this exercise was dead.) Afterwards, if people want to share, they can share outloud. We talk about what they did--good details, that sort of thing.

Almost always, they have written this paragraph in third person.

2. (1st person) Then they have to take that paragraph and put it in first person, using the vocabulary of a four year old. Again, the three minute thing. Again, we share, if people want to.

3. (1st person recollected) Then we talk about the tv show The Wonder Years, in which the experiences of Kevin are narrated by himself--but himself as an adult. The narrator-Kevin never says, "Back when I was ten," but rather describes things as if they were happening to him at that moment but with the vocabulary of an adult instead of ten year old. (I hung around Jenny's locker, hoping against hope that she would stop and pick up her math book between classes. I had just about given up hope when I saw her coming through the crowds in the sixth grade hallway, her long and luscious brown hair shining, and the moment I saw her, everything I had intended to tell her, about the misunderstanding with Trish, about how I felt about her, went out of my head and I could only stand, abject, lock-jawed, weak-kneed, and gaping...) Then they re-write the paragraph as if Oswald were thirty and narrating the events experienced by four-year-old Oswald.

4. (3rd person) Last but not least, I have them narrate the whole thing by someone else, someone famous. I've always used the Crocodile Hunter as an example, although now that's a little sad. We're coming up on little Oswald now, freezing in his backyard. Crickey, he's a skinny one! George Bush is one, Barbara Walters and Spock get used a lot.

Then we talk about how every story has a narrator and how the 'voice' of the story is actually the voice of the narrator. The narrator is the invisible character in every story, the one we both know best and least.


Blogger Responsible Artist said...

Love the shirt. PoV exercises are excellent. Thank you. I thought it was me and that I was the only one who had trouble with point of view until late in life but since I've been prepping for my class I've discovered many inconsistencies in how PoV is described and defined and taught and no wonder it took a while to get it.

June 25, 2007 2:16 PM  
Blogger Caroline M. Yoachim said...

Great exercise. I remember it from Clarion...the last bit was particularly fun -- some people could do great impressions of famous voices :)

June 25, 2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Karen Sandstrom said...

I need to take a class from you.

June 25, 2007 10:06 PM  
Blogger mary grimm said...

That is so nifty.

June 25, 2007 10:46 PM  
Blogger Beth Adele Long said...

I think the photo matches entirely... it's a great POV study!

June 26, 2007 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 24, 2009 2:36 AM  

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