Archive for March, 2009

Writing a novel: a writer’s journal part 4

Whose story is this anyway?

Writers have many decisions to make when they first begin writing a story or novel. In fact, a writer must decide on many aspects of the writing even before a word is written. Some of these decisions include such things as deciding on the characters, including their names, deciding on the setting, thinking about the theme of the story and giving some thought to the structure of the story. I will write more about these aspects in other posts in this series.

Point of view

The author must decide early on in the writing process – preferably before a word is written – as to the point of view of the story. I’ve written before about this topic elsewhere (click here). It is a huge topic and whole books have been written about POV.

At its simplest, point of view can be summarised by asking the question: whose story is this? Who is telling the story?

First person point of view

I can tell the story in the first person. In this point of view I will use the words I, me and my frequently. It reads like I am the main character and I am relating the story. As the author, I am the narrator and I put myself in the role of the character. I have written this paragraph in the first person.

Second person point of view

You can also write a story in the second person and this involves using the pronouns you and your frequently. It is a very unusual way of writing and you will find not many writers use this form of writing in fiction. You might be interested to know that the author of this blog has tried writing a short story like this. You will find it is very demanding to be successful to write using this point of view. One of the inherent dangers in this point of view is that your story will be very confronting to the reader. You can put off readers from finishing the story which is not what you what. If you are observant you will notice that this paragraph has been written in the second person.

Third person point of view

The author who decides to use this POV will use the words he, she and they many times when writing about the characters. She will become, as the author, a detached observer of the events occurring in the story.

Other POVs

The above summary is very simple. The author has several other points of view to consider, but this brief introduction will have to be sufficient for purposes of this article.

Point of view in my novel

Last week I had to come up with the first chapter of the novel I am writing as my thesis paper. It was my turn to present what I had written to the supervising lecturer and to my fellow students who make up my critique group. Before this I had been doing plenty of work on the novel. I had done extensive research on the setting, the characters and other aspects of the work. Finally, I had to be productive and produce the first draft of the first chapter. It is a very rough first draft.

I chose the third person point of view for no particular reason. It is a well used method of story telling. I found it interesting, however, that when preparing for the seminar I realised that it would be worth rewriting the first page or two in the first person. This would have the effect of making the story more immediate and perhaps more exciting. When I put this idea to the group they agreed that it is worth trying. They also agreed that a change from past tense to present tense would add to and heighten the tension.

Making these changes will raise other considerations of course, but it will be interesting to see how it all develops.

Further reading:

Short Story Starters

Okay – so you are trying to face a day of writing – but the ideas just won’t come.


It’s a frustrating feeling, knowing that you have to get a story written in the next two days and off to meet the magazine deadline or competition due date, but you have no ideas. The sinking feeling in the stomach makes the sinking of the Titanic seem like a hole ridden rubber duck in bath tub.

Sound familiar?

It’s a common feeling with too many writers. That’s where I come in. My most popular posts on this blog by far are the series I’ve called Short Story Starters. This is how it works: I give the first line or sentence or two of a story – you use that to get you started and before you know it, you have 200, 500 or even a thousand words and it’s taking over. Wonderful. Problem solved. Use any of the ideas here, adapt them to your own ideas, style, voice – whatever.

Short Story Starters

  1. “I’ve seen that face before.” Ken stared at the photo, trying to remember. That’s the thug who…
  2. Loretta knew she had one chance left. The butterflies were already dancing and the stomach churning threatened a further disaster of epic proportions. She gripped the pole tighter and…
  3. In the fog of trying to wake up Mickey was aware of someone else in his room. He tried to sit up but….
  4. ‘Neil? Are you there Neil?’ The voice was persistent and tinged with anxiety. ‘Are you in there?’ The knocking grew louder and Neil knew he had to respond, somehow. He….
  5. Paula had finished. With a smile of satisfaction she lightly brushed across her mouth with the back of her hand. ‘That was…
  6. The setting sun lit the vineyards stretched out across the valley. Rob watched as the golden glow deepened. He reached for…
  7. Susan hesitated. The door should have been locked. It gently swung open to reveal a…

Over to you. Time to get writing.

Good writing.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.

Happy birthday to this blog

Trevor’s Writing is three years old today.

Three years, almost 800 articles about writing, reading and blogging and nearly a thousand comments has been a challenge. In the middle of that I’ve had some serious health issues and I’ve taken on full time study. I must be a little crazy. The journey has been exhilarating.

To celebrate I’d like to highlight a few features of my blog, especially for newer readers. Here are some links for further reading.

  • About me – some background about me as a writer.
  • My poetry – some samples of the many hundreds of poems I have written, some of which have been published.
  • Short fictionsome of my short fiction that I’ve published here for you to read.
  • Writing hints – just what it says – hints to help you with your writing.
  • Short story starters – stuck for an idea for a short story? Check out these very popular story starters.
  • Writing a Novel – links to the journal I am writing about writing a novel in 2009.
  • Archives – a complete list of every article ever to appear here on this blog – all 800 and counting.

There you have a veritable smorgasbord of reading to help you with your writing.

Good writing.

Writing prompt #8

It has been quite a few months since I gave my last writing prompt, so it’s time for another one.

This time I thought I’d do something different. Instead of just one idea, I’m going to give a list of writing ideas. Use these ideas however you want. You might get an idea for a story, or a magazine article or a blog post. Or you might just use it as a warmup activity before the main writing project for the day.

20 Writing Prompts:

  1. Write about the Teddy Bears’ Picnic from the ant’s point of view.
  2. Write a list of things that are white.
  3. Explain why your character is afraid to go into the shadows.
  4. Write about a librarian who discourages people from borrowing books.
  5. Describe the most vivid dream you ever had.
  6. Make a list of things that make you laugh.
  7. Describe the last time you had a really good cry.
  8. Write about the joys of moving house.
  9. Write a conversation between a tree and a bird.
  10. Describe the most exotic place you’ve ever visited.
  11. Write the transcript of an interview you did with the character of a book.
  12. Make a list of the ten major events in your life.
  13. Write about the worst smell you have ever experienced.
  14. List the attributes of the most evil character you can imagine.
  15. Tell your life story in 50 words or less.
  16. Write a story about a cat in exactly 50 words. It must have a beginning, middle and end.
  17. What would you most like to change about your life – either in the past or the present.
  18. Imagine what it would be like living in a palace and write about it.
  19. Write a list of the ten things you would never do.
  20. Imagine being in your mother’s womb. Write about your feelings.

Related articles:

Writing blog posts ahead

I try to write a new post for each of my three blogs every day.

I try – but have not always succeeded, especially in the last twelve months. While I have been studying for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing I have had to cut back drastically on the time I spend blogging. You can’t blog full time AND study full time; there are not enough hours in each day. Or to put it another way: I do need my sleep.

Two weeks ago I started back in my studies for this year. Over the summer break I worked hard at my blogging and wrote nearly 200 posts spread over my three blogs. Some of these have already appeared; most are scheduled to appear regularly over the coming months. My blogs are generally not time sensitive, so I can plan weeks and even months ahead, writing articles that will appear without any action from me. That will considerably ease my work load while I am studying. It will enable me to concentrate on my studies, especially writing my thesis paper – a forty thousand word novel.

I decided some time ago that I can only realistically post ahead three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I will add extra posts in between as things arise that I wish to blog about. Knowing I have regular articles ready to appear is a great way to go in my opinion.

Good writing.

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