Why have I chosen this photo from my place of birth, Grafton, taken in 1924, as a header to this post? For several reasons:
I like it very much, firstly because of its classical and historical attributes, as well as for the varied expressions and actions of the subjects in the photograph.
It’s from my family album, showing my paternal grandparents, “Pop” and “Ma”, at reverse ends of the photo, with their tennis group.
For me, it illustrates, metaphorically and visually, some of the aspects underpinning the concepts of Voice and Point of View. The varied poses and personas of the subjects lead me to ask what each person is doing, thinking, feeling and expressing in this photo. What have they just said, or are about to?
This is reminiscent of the questions asked by the author when managing point of view and voice in modern fiction.
The POV used by creative writers since the 1950s, at least in the United States of America, and in Australia, differs greatly from the Omniscient approach so widespread in earlier times. Classical novelists portrayed multiple viewpoints throughout their novels and within segments. These authors managed skillfully to create huge works of art, peopled with many characters, whose thoughts and behaviours reflected the society of the time. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina remains with us today as an aesthetic monument to its creator and to the social and historical setting portrayed therein.
Omniscience is still found, occasionally, in well-structured modern literature, when its use is warranted by the genre or by the needs of the particular story being recounted.
Modern writers of fiction today, however, write within and about a very different social milieu. Readers in the “New World” have seemingly lowered concentration spans, by comparison with the past, and have less patience with tackling long works. And they want to know about the “modern” societies in which they find themselves. This is a more hectic and frantic world than that of the past. Books have begun to “thin out” in relative terms.
Authors today tend to focus on a particular character’s viewpoint, within and throughout a select part of a story or chapter in a novel.
POV has come to signify a style of writing, with its own constraints and conventions, that tends to result in greater character intimacy and deeper understanding of persons involved.
Usually, the writer selects one character in the story to be the principal POV character. This character might reflect a certain voice or style of speaking, which is also typical of modern POV. This may be consistent throughout the novel, or last for a chapter, or for a section within the work.
In 3rd person POV, as with 1st person, the narrator knows and experiences everything sensed by the POV character. What the character sees and hears is crucial to the vivid unfolding of the story, as are the smells, thoughts, tastes, dialogue and feelings linked to the main character. The narrator will show, and sometimes tell, what the character is experiencing, as directly as possible within the POV conventions.
The omniscient narrator knows and shares with the reader the same experiences and senses as listed above, but from multiple viewpoints across and throughout the novel.
Novels may be narrated from one or from multiple points of view. Modern POV expects narrative to adhere strictly to one point of view for the duration of at least a whole scene. This may last for a chapter or more. Multiple viewpoints can be written in both first and third POV, but the more POVs there are, the more difficult it is to establish closeness between the reader and the characters.
An example of a multiple 1st person POV novel is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is an example of a multiple POV 3rd person novel.
For Whom the Bells Toll by Ernest Hemingway is an example of a novel with 3rd person limited or close POV.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, in which a child character tells the story, is an example of 1st Person Limited POV.
Poetry is not my best and most practised genre. Like many writers, I lack confidence in my ability to create successful poems. For this reason, this post will be followed by recent research exploring poetry I carried out online: what it means to many others like me, struggling to understand and/or to produce it.
The above photo is of my first childhood house at Waterview, via South Grafton. It was taken several decades after my time spent there within the bosom of my first family. I think it is the inspiration for the following poem, which is probably my best yet.
My Father’s House
The rain is white words on the
tin roof of my father’s house
structured nail by nail
with work hardened hands
and world weary
Love is the vowels in between
the brick-like consonants
that ricochet and reverberate
in order to create
our family’s sanctuary
If our house could recite
it would narrate in peals
of laughter and of squall
wrapped up in timber
hidden walls – the covers
on the book
of my father’s
In researching definitions and features of poetry, I came across a seemingly defunct wordpress website entitled Poetry Blog, which I found very useful:
Poetry comes from a Greek word which means “to make or to create”. So a poem is something made or created and the poet is the creator, and language is the material out of which s/he creates his/her work of art.
It is a very ancient art which was born as an oral form and accompanied by simple music and dance. it expressed what people regarded as meaningful and memorable in their lives: natural disaster, births and deaths, brave actions, dangerous enemies, battles.
It was often part of religious rites. Poets and listeners enjoyed playing with words, choosing and arranging them to produce music and meaning.
A poem is a self-contained text, which makes sense as it stands. It differs from prose most obviously because it is written in lines whose length is decided by the author, not the printer.
How the poem looks on the page, its visual lay-out, is as important as its sound quality. A poem makes intense use of language, which results in a far greater concentration of meaning than is commonly found in prose.
Today poems exist in printed form, but the careful choice and arrangement of words still account for the unique quality of poetry.
Poems contain rhyme, rhythm, meter, imagery and structure in creating something that is more than prose.
The comments at the end of the post, What is Poetry?where followers tried to define or illustrate the main elements of poetry, were particularly fascinating and interesting for me:
Quirky language within a set of rules
Another way to tell a story
Poetry is a supernatural thing that comes from inside
To share an idea, thought, experience, mood
Poetry is the art of saying a lot with few words
Poetry is the unheard voice crying out to be heard
The lines from the heart and soul, more so than the head.
Poetry is beauty, sadness, pain, hope, glory, defeat, inspiration and motivation, all tied in together with a sprinkle of love from the authors
Poetry is the flow of words that just come from nowhere and have to be put on paper before forgotten forever
Poetry is what the reader reads it to be
Poetry is an expression of the soul, connecting fantasy and reality.
Poetry expresses ambiguity of meaning
Another useful source I came across for definitions of poetry was the website Run Spot Run. Some of the most interesting points are expressed as follows:
The word “poem” comes from the Greek word, poíēma, “a thing made,” Poets are therefore artisans who build with words, though not necessarily complex or impressive words. Frequently the words from which a poem is constructed are quite humble, ordinary words.
Poetry is organized into lines, the boundaries of which are decided by the poet, rather than by margin or page edge. The line lengths, the words with which lines begin and end, and the rhyme, meter and visual structure created by the line structure
An economy of language is another feature, unlike that of prose. A poet examines each word critically – for meaning, musical value, emotional qualities and even a word’s relationship to the poem and to the page. In this way, via innovative and critical word choice, a poet will plumb meaning and significance in a short space.
A comprehensive list of definitions of Poetic genres can be found here: Elements of Poetry
Perhaps poetry always manages, by its nature, to escape being defined? What do you think?
We live near the beach at North Coogee, so we are fortunate enough to get a fairly constant sea breeze. But other areas in Western Sydney and in the Western plains were not so lucky. Residents of Richmond on the north-west fringe of Sydney saw the mercury climb to 47 degrees on Saturday, placing the town within less than a degree of the title of global hot spot. Tamworth reached 44C and Moree 46C, while Walgett and Bourke were heading towards a sweltering 47C.
As soon as you leave the eastern seaboard, temperatures soar in summer. And it’s getting worse. My husband travels by train to Lidcombe to go to work, and he feels the difference as he nears the far western suburbs of Sydney.
We were warned that this weekend past was going to break records. I’d joined a long queue in Harvey Norman store on Friday to purchase an electrical fan for our daughter and her two young boys; most of the inexpensive electric fans in the district were already sold out. The woman in front of me in the queue was buying the same fan—along with dozens of other women—for her daughter.
I rang my son in the Lower Hunter Valley on Saturday. He said Paterson, near where he lives, was the fifth hottest place on the globe that day. He and his wife, her mother, and their four children were staying indoors at Vacy with the air-conditioner turned on.
129 bush fires had been raging not far away in the Upper Hunter. Twenty are still uncontained today.
NSW Rural Fire Services (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons expressed relief that no lives had been lost, thanks to the combined effort of firefighters and the community.
“This is as bad as it gets”, he said, “with wind gusts of 90 km an hour fanning the fires, and flames higher than houses striking towns and properties. ”
Out-of-control bushfires have all but decimated the small town of Uarbry in NSW’s central west.
After a weekend of catastrophic fire conditions that destroyed homes, livestock and agricultural machinery in various parts of the state, assessors today, Monday, have begun investigating the extent of the damage.
Two firefighters were among those to lose properties, while two of their injured colleagues have been hospitalised.
My sister rang from Mullumbimby on the far North Coast of New South Wales. She had turned on the air conditioner for the first time: against her ideological stance, but it was hot and humid. She talked about possibly moving south to (cooler) Tasmania and expressed anger at the Climate Change sceptics in the government and the world.
“It’s not just a question of records being broken here,” she said, “but it’s the overall rise in temperature across the globe that is happening quicker than expected.”
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) created many of the enduring terms for the mind and for the unconscious that have enriched literature and humanity during the twentieth century. Certainly he was firstly a follower of Freud and the psychoanalytic method that Freud instigated. But terms such as “projection”, “archetypes”, “complexes”, “the shadow”, “the collective unconscious”and “the anima/animus” all owe their enduring resonance to him and to those who built on his legacy, some of which is still being uncovered today. The Red Book, with its beautiful mandalas and paintings by the author, has only in recent years been open to public scrutiny.
Jung also wrote about polarities and the importance of wholeness, that is, the need to synthesise disparate entities, in order to find what he called “the self”. When I first read Jung, during my own adolescent crises, it was as if he was talking directly to me. He understood what I’d been going through, and what I was to go through later on. And I would come to see, eventually, how my individual experiences and search for wholeness were a reflection of societal structures: the microcosm in the macrocosm, and vice versa.
When asked once what he saw as the most important and ubiquitous aspect of the human mind, Jung replied without hesitation: “Projection“.
Could it be that many of the problems facing the world at this time can be seen in terms of projection? Is this why the new President of the United States has taken to demonising Muslims? In differentiating between “them” and “us”, the others (Muslims) become the demons or, in Jungian terms, “the shadow”. If ignored, the shadow side of us becomes relegated to the unconscious. Jung stated that: “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is… Mere suppression of the shadow is as little of a remedy as beheading for a headache.” (Jung: CW: Psychology and Religion).
I interpret the election of President Donald Trump in terms of Jung’s shadow idea: the visionary Obama is succeeded by the Machiavellian Trump. I’ve recently replied to emails from very dear friends in America, aghast at Trump’s antics, and apologetic about that phone call from our Australian Prime Minister. I tell them that good often follows bad, and vice versa. You have to look at the shadow and try to understand it, and where it’s coming from, in order to deal with it, and to see where it’s going.
In any case, I tell them (my American friends), bullies never last all that long; or at least they come a cropper in the end. Hopefully they don’t cause too much damage in the meantime.
Bullies in literature usually get their come-uppance, I say. Look at Javert in Les Misérables by Victor Hugo; Hannibel in The Silence of the Lambs; and the punishment meted out to Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park, when she must live with the ruined Julia, where, Austen tells us, “shut up together with little society, on one side no affection, on the other no judgment, it may be reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment.”
And who could forget the part in The Neverending Story when sensitive Bastian Balthazar’s nemeses are thrown into garbage bins?
I must admit to relishing harsh punishments meted out to bullies in books such as these.
A bully is a schoolboy’s word for a narcissist. Sometimes, though, it just means teasing. A malignant narcissist is the psychological term for someone who has become so self-absorbed that their only purpose in communicating is to satisfy their needs for self-aggrandisement. In his analytical memoir, “Awakened by Darkness”, Paul Levy describes such a narcissist as “a thug in the realm of the psyche”, who acts with cruelty towards those to whom he is closest: parents, sisters, mother, children.
Levy defines “synchronicity” in his book, as events that appear to happen outside of the time-and-space continuum, seemingly contradicting third dimensional reality. He links this term to the beginning of an enlightened person’s awakening realisation, often mistaken for a psychosis, of the “dream-like nature of reality”. This describes his own inner journey from the darkness of an abusive father/son relationship, towards the light of a spiritual awakening.
Other books I’ve been reading in recent times include, The Good Society by the American economist John Kennedy Galbraith, given to me by one of my wise American friends several years ago. It begins with the words: “Among the great nations of the world none is more given to introspection than the United States.”
And I’ve returned to reading The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, an uproariously funny novel about an anti-hero, Ignatius J. Reilly, “flatulent, eloquent and pretty much unemployable.”
This novel was published posthumously by the author’s mother, after the author, sadly, took his own life.
Sometimes it takes courage to enable one to laugh at negatives, while awaiting or working towards a more positive resolution.
I need to add that, rather than looking outside ourselves or our communities, we must consider the possibility that economic and environmental degradation, shootings of innocents, increasing youth suicide and climate change, are outer signs of inner problems and wrong values.
Mental illness is widespread in most communities. That would be a good place to start.
Thank you for including me, Feedspot: http://blog.feedspot.com/creative_writing_blogs
Blogging Award 2017
Now, with the hottest January on record here in Sydney, and no relief during the nights, I am creating this post on a very humid day with a high of 35 degrees celsius to announce a blogging award.
A highlight of 2016 was travel to the cooler climes of Croatia and Bosnia Herzogovina for a week in their autumn (October), followed by another week in freezing (for us) Budapest and Copenhagen.
I have recently spent some time uploading videos that I took during these unforgettable holiday destinations (posted on Vimeo and YouTube). The video below shows the breathtakingly beautiful harbour of Cavtat, where we stayed in the award winning Hotel Croatia, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. My husband was there to lead the 3rd International Symposium on Stuttering, held at this gorgeous hotel. From the sea, it resembles a dazzling white cruise ship, perched on the cliff of “the Mediterranean Sea like it used to be” at the southern most tip of Croatia.
Now, while posting this video of a perfect summer’s day in Coogee, I am forced to scratch beneath the surface of the beauty and the pleasure of the sand, sea and sky, to suggest a problem we need to look at…
Environmental Degradation (Blogging) Award?
I realise that many countries in the Northern Hemisphere, including beautiful Croatia, are experiencing freezing conditions at the present time. Extreme polarities between highs and lows in different seasons and locations are part of global warming (or climate change), which is one of the biggest challenges that we on earth will face in the coming years. We must all join together, at least in acknowledging this reality: of our precious earth’s atmosphere being degraded. We cannot afford to put our heads in the sand like the inimitable ostrich, or like Donald whatshisname, and rest in denial. Actions are needed on all fronts, from Paris to technological research and beyond. Which countries and individuals will take up the challenge and receive awards for fighting and solving ecological degradation? The Goldman Environmental Prize
is known as the “Green Nobel” and is awarded annually to countries and individuals who are heroes in the fight for the earth and its resources.
The Craft of Writing
That said, I am pleased to upload this, my first post for 2017, focusing on climate records broken on a global scale, and a small blogging award for me.
I am proud to announce this Blogging Award for my website, “The Craft of Writing”, which has been placed among the 20 best writing blogs online according to Feedspot.com. As well as being a wonderful incentive for me to start the new blogging year, this award lists other exceptional creative writing sites, some of which I have been following.
Visit the Feedspot Award page by clicking here or by clicking on the badge in the margin of this site.
Topics for 2017
Apart from creative writing and environmental issues, I would also like to continue to write about the other previously stated topics of interest to me, which include psychology, especially destigmatising mental illness; spirituality in its broadest sense; travel; mythology and supporting minority groups.
Please continue to follow and comment on my posts. I love and thrive on feedback.
Reading and creative writing have always been the subjects that interested me most from early childhood onwards. I lived in the country on a farm, but I was seldom alone because of my love for books. I still like nothing better than settling down with a good book that tells a story in fine prose; and I have come to be passionate about my own attempts at writing, including short stories, memoir, novels and poetry. I can still remember the stories and poems that stirred my imagination in primary school. At high school I loved Shakespeare and could not relate to those students in the class who abhorred his writings and taunted the English teacher.
During a career in teaching across most levels, I was often drawn to, and good at, teaching story writing. Whether it was when I taught at primary school level, or as a high school Special Education teacher, or later on as an Adult Migrant teacher, and Academic English tutor, I was called on to act as a writing mentor on a one-to-one basis. And in recent times I have further developed this skill with fellow writers in the Bondi and Waverley Writers’ Groups. These groups, one an affiliate of the NSW Fellowship of Australian Writers, the other part of the Friends of Waverley Library, met/meet monthly for workshop input from fellow writers, with suggestions given for improving works in progress.
I have been writing most of my adult life, starting off in the 60s and 70s while travelling around Europe and living in France. I wrote in a journal to record my travels, and later wrote for for therapeutic purposes, letting the thoughts and feelings pour out of me.
I started moving more and more towards fiction from the 80s onwards. During the 90s I studied creative and professional writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, where I learnt about the features of creative writing. This included Creative Non-fiction, a genre that has become increasingly important here, and in the United States in recent times. In the nineties, I taught academic features (essay and report writing) to overseas students at the University of New South Wales. This served to underscore for me the differences between the two genres. Creative Writing refers to prose or poetry that employs fictional devices, such as narrative structure, the use of scenes, imagery, emotional affect, metaphor, plot, and vital characterisation, voice, tone and language. Most think of fiction when they read or hear the word “creative”, however it can also refer to memoir writing, or factually correct writing that employs the devices usually associated with imagined works. Journalistic writing employs some of the features of creative writing, but the main focus there is on fact rather than on the imagination. One way of gaining an idea of what constitutes “creative” writing is to consider academic writing, which is a genre that falls far outside this category. In fact, if you consider a continuum with Creative Writing at one end, then Academic Writing could be placed at the opposite end of the line.
Tim Winton, one of Australia’s best novelists, once claimed that not having studied at university was a boon for his writing career. Not everyone is as lucky as Tim Winton; most of us need input from the professionals. I came to university studies as a mature age student, so I escaped some of the stultifying aspects of academia, at leasr in terms of fictional creativity.
I started teaching myself to blog in 2008 with Blogger. I gave myself the name “Sibyl”. This was probably a sign of the fact that I am basically shy, and the idea of being “out there” on the world wide web was at first quite shocking for me. I wrote stories about my past, some linked to my early attempts at writing with a therapeutic goal in mind. I also wrote about my family, my travels and other topics of interest, such as mental illness. I had already been taking photos with a DSL camera by then, and I added some of these to my posts. Then in 2010, when I took over the Bondi Writers Group presidency, I started a new blog for the monthly newsletter. My personal blog had become more and more focused on Creative Writing and Publishing issues and I decided to import my writings to WordPress. This has led in recent times to this wordpress website, which I am now calling “The Craft of Writing”.
Short Story Writing
I have been writing short stories for many years, and have more recently started to think about offering them to journals or competitions. Having had a couple of stories chosen for prizes and publication, I am now motivated to continue along this path. People usually think of fiction when they speak of short stories, however memoir pieces can also fit loosely into this category. A short story is a structured narrative in the third or first person, more rarely in the second. The length is usually between 1500 and 3000 words, but it can be longer or shorter. The introductory paragraph/s usually set the scene, introduce the main character and engage the reader’s curiosity. A second part represents the rising action, while introducing conflict and suspense. Climax, revolving around a turning point, occurs in the third segment, which serves to prolong the reader’s expectation of a satisfying conclusion. The fourth part represents the falling action, which leads the narrative towards a resolution and the ending. A good way of explaining the conclusion of the story is that it fulfils the promise set up in the introduction. Of course, this analysis is purely formal and can be challenged or overturned by a well written story. In my opinion, the ‘voice’ of the narrator is even more crucial in creating a successful story, as it carries the other elements such as structure along with it. And voice escapes any attempt at a single analysis or conceptual unpacking, as it refers simply to the way or manner in which a story is narrated.
A novel is a longer work ranging in length from 20 or 30 thousand words to 100 thousand or more. It does not have to be as rigorously structured as a short story in order to succeed, and can have many characters and multiple story line deviations as a result. However, a well structured novel is still a delight to read, and the successful reader is aware when reading a poorly structured novel. A novel that is too wordy will often not pull the reader along with it. The good novel is rich in content, but sparse and economical in words. Honesty and originality are important elements in good novel writing; an experienced reader will pick up immediately on false and unlikely scenarios. An example of a very well structured novel is Disgrace by J.M. Coetze, in which scenes balance one another thematically, or are set in contrast, just like in a well written play, e.g. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
Creative Non Fiction
I studied this subject at the University Of Technology, Sydney in 2006. The current “guru” of this genre is the American academic and writer, Lee Gutkind. He edits a magazine called “Creative Nonfiction” that has a strong internet presence. He has published several books on the topic including The Art of Creative Nonfiction: Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality. Of course there have been forerunners of this type of writing, such as Truman Capote with his In Cold Blood and Australian authors, for example Drusilla Modjeska’s pioneering story about her mother in Poppy.
My pathway was always going to take me along a creative trajectory, whether it be as an artist, writer, poet or actor. Perhaps the choice to be a doctor or a scientist is more likely to lead one to a stable, less emotionally risky, goal. But the creative writing choice was what made me feel comfortable in my skin, and, therefore, happier.
Please note that I have changed the title of my blog to “The Craft of Writing”, which correlates with the main goal of my writing. I thank my kindly blogging expert, Gina for this suggestion. I admit that I am no expert when it comes to technology, and I shall be requiring assistance from my mentor next year to make my design and posts even better.
I have decided to revert to the “Write4Publish” tagline, as my blogs have been associated with this moniker from the beginning. It explains my second goal of practising and showcasing my fictional and fictionalised memoir writing. I have been blogging since 2008, first with Blogger, and then using the WordPress platform.
I have found the SEO (search engine optimisation) and other plugins very useful on the WordPress.org site. However, I haven’t always been able to advance my skills by joining forums and learning about layout features and design.
Zac followed my partner along the footpath near our home, one afternoon when Mark was walking towards the gym; these gym sessions were daily events and sacrosanct at the time. An Aussie Terrier, starving and weary.
This day, instead of continuing on his route, Mark bent down, picked the skinny runt up in his arms and proceeded to knock on dozens of doors up and down the hills, asking: “Does anyone know this dog?” No-one answered in the affirmative. We rang several vets in the area, looked out for ads and put up notices; nothing. Once the two children saw him, his white coat shot over by a splattering of deep grey and a dash of beige round the eyes and ears, they fell in love. Fast. Two weeks later and our daughter had fallen so madly in love with the little mutt, it started to look as if he was ours to keep. And we had finally settled on ‘Zac’ for a name.
Like many adoptive parents, we dreaded, during the days that followed, the knock on the door, or the phone call that might announce the arrival of the ‘natural’ parent or parents of this undernourished, but otherwise perfect, little fellow. Luckily that never happened, and he fitted into our household like another family member.
He was the gentlest little creature, who put on weight quickly so that we didn’t have to carry him on long walks anymore. He loved chasing the ball that my husband threw almost to the moon; his other love was swimming in the ocean pools near home.
Our dog had no concept of recreational swimming, but he suffered from a severe strain of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) when it came to finding balls under rocks and retrieving them in the water. When you think about it, dogs are as varied in looks and temperament as humans. Our boy was gifted at fetching a ball in the water and bringing it back in his mouth. More than that, he could sniff out a hidden tennis ball under rocks and dig it out with his front paws.
One day, down at the dog pools, on the rocks by the sea he found, during a ten-minute period, not one, not two, but three tennis balls stuck firmly under rocks ,by using his supranatural sense of smell and his short little front legs.
At the Dog Pools you could see big and little dogs, and big and little humans. At the risk of stereotyping, men often seemed to like big or ‘butch’ types of dogs, such as alsatians and staffordshire bull terriers, while women tended towards smaller ‘cutie-pie’ dogs, maltese terriers and King Charles spaniels. The other day I met a young woman with a tiny fox-terrier cross and a large ‘blokey’ sort of dog as well in tow. In the course of our conversation, she said that the latter belonged to her boyfriend, and that they had moved in together several years ago. Because our dog chose us, this theory does not hold up in our case. Luckily he’s very cute.
Our two children had left home and Zac was a doted-upon only child. It was a good idea, as we were ageing, to have a dog to walk, and it was a great way of meeting people from different walks of life and backgrounds. Funny to see the dogs all jumping up in recognition and wagging tails as they met anew each time.
In the evenings, he would jump up and sit on my knees while I was watching television. Mark was a big favourite, as if Zac knew that it was he who had found him wandering the streets and took him in. It seemed that it was meant to be.
Fast forward fifteen years. Zaccy was no longer the active ball of zest he’d once been; he was partly blind, deaf and incontinent. When we made the decision that he was no longer enjoying life, I took him along to the vet one evening. I knew my husband would not be good at coping with this. I refused requests from friends to come along as well. Afterwards, I cried all the way to my Soul Group meeting.
‘What’s wrong?’ some group members asked, worry flooding their faces like the tears streaming down mine.
‘I’ve just said goodbye to the best little mate I’ve ever had,’ I spluttered.
Afterwards, one of the members of the group came up and whispered in my ear:
‘When you came in, and sat down, your little dog jumped up into your lap and sat their, looking as if he belonged.
Since the proliferation of Creative Writing courses in universities in the Anglo world, much has been written and said about “genre” in writing.
While talking with a friend from my writers’ group recently, the question of the basic difference between mass media and literary fiction came up. She said: ‘One underlying aim in commercial fiction is to provide hope, e.g. romance stories always end happily, and in crime fiction there is always a solution and the criminals end up paying for their crimes.’
We contrasted this with ‘literary fiction’, in which experiences and insights, both positive or negative, are what count. However, when I hear this term nowadays, I think back to classical writers of the past: Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charles Dickens, who employed an omniscient point of view and approach, and upheld classical traditions of the time. ‘Creative Writing’ is the new general term that has sprung up in its place.
Creative Writing contrasts with Non-Fiction Writing in the broadest sense. It is the sort of writing that novelists, short story writers and poets employ. Non-Fiction includes traditional biographical works, academic texts, journalism, and books on a diverse range of subjects, such as food (recipes), self help and memoir.
Of course, with fiction, there is a breakdown of genres within the broad genre: Science fiction, romance, historical fiction, mystery, horror, detective stories, action, fantasy and adventure. However, here I am interested above all in an overview of the term in relation to fiction and memoir. Literary Fiction
Literary fiction has almost lost its significance today, since most writers are writing for commercial reasons, to be published or self-published in books, eBooks, or online, as quickly as possible. For that reason, the term “creative writing” is more appropriate as a general term for writing that employs fictional devices today. This distinguishes it from academic writing, on the one hand, which endeavours to present factual or argumentative texts in an objective framework. Journalistic writing, too, is based on the principal goal of providing factual information to the public, although there will be some overlap with fictional genres in the expression.
Truman Capote’s non-fiction work “In Cold Blood” (1966 ) is looked on as the forerunner of this genre in modern times. It is also the ultimate true crime novel. Based on painstaking research and interviews, Capote used the story of the cold-blooded killing of a family in rural Kansas, and his investigation of the crime, as the plot for his novel. It is written brilliantly, employing all the techniques of the best fictional writing: strong characterisation, realistic sounding dialogue, vivid imagery, and narrative suspense, without wavering from the facts. (Apart, perhaps from the ending, where he improvises a little; endings are often difficult for this type of writing).
One of the first attempts at a creative non-fiction novel in Australia was “Poppy” by Drusilla Modjeska (Penguin 1990), in which the author recounts her mother’s life; it is well told but lacks the dramatic, page-turning aspect of plot-driven fiction. A past master at this subjective type of writing is Helen Garner, whose “The First Stone” is now a classic, as well as a cause of ongoing controversy for student discussion in Creative Writing Courses in Australian universities.
“Memoir” has taken on a slightly different aspect within this new context. It still belongs within the category of non-fiction and refers to first person narration that focuses on a particular aspect or period of a person’s life. Memoir “sticks to the facts” but especially today, often employs creative techniques, such as narrative drive, strong characterisation, vivid dialogue, and dramatised events.
Most fiction is based on one’s experience, however the connections are concealed behind invented characters, settings and names. Many writers are wary of “treading on the toes” of living relatives and friends when they recount true events. It is easier and less constricting to invent, rather than to recount the facts.
Lee Gutkind, an American author, is looked on as the Godfather of Creative Nonfiction today. He is the editor of a Creative Non-fiction journal and the author of Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction.
The Hero’s Journey
I had attended a seminar on “The Hero’s Journey” and could not see how this theory, first elaborated by the American scholar Joseph Campbell “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” (1949), could be applied in a helpful sense to my writing. George Lucas used it in the “Star Wars” movies and it is very relevant for screen writers in the film industry today in the United States and elsewhere. It is based on the idea of the “monomyth”, i.e. that all stories can be conflated into one: the hero’s journey. This starts with the Call to Adventure, continues through Initiation, and ends with the Return. Each of the three stages can be broken up into sub-sections linked to certain archetypes. I feel that this theory can be applied more readily to commercial mass media genres, such as the “Star Wars” screenplays, than to literary writing, at least in terms of plot.
On the other hand, I can see that the archetypes are invaluable as guides for creating character types in fiction.
Just as the debate on genres changes in response to commercial interests, this is true with relevance to movies on the big screen as well.
The picture above is from an article on the Barnes and Nobel blog site: B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.
POV Choices: Say you are writing a story set in the forties and fifties. You have a character in mind, a young woman, Enid, who has the world at her feet… “the world is her oyster” … in a way. She has strengths, assets, weaknesses or flaws, and … limitations. She meets and falls in love with a young man, Will.
You wish to seek consistency in point-of-view, so that the reader is clear about who the main focus character is, i.e. who is leading the action, and how the other characters are to be shown through the filter of this main protagonist.
Your first choice is to tell Enid’s story from the first person limited POV, probably the most popular POV (apart from first person present, especially popular for young writers and readers). Third-person subjective is often called “limited” because the author/narrator is limited to the lens of the main character. This would allow some of the intimacy of first-person, while still enabling the reader to remain a witness to the action, rather than an (almost) participant. The subjective narrative mode filters the story through the sole lens of Enid. The reader is invited inside and gets to play the role of “a psychic clinging to her back”, to borrow Chuck Wendig’s colourful words. (terrible minds.com).
The other main character, or focus character, is a young man. Your second possible POV choice is to bring his perspective in line with the woman’s and to alternate POVs, one chapter at a time, or one segment at a time. (This is called Third-Person Episodic or Third-Person Multiple or Third-Person Limited Shifting). However, this would probably slow the action down considerably. So far, you’re plugging for numero uno above. This means, you will, therefore, have to filter his POV through her lens, and through dialogue between the two and others, keeping in mind that dialogue also has the major role of furthering the plot in any narrative.
With 3rd person POV, the metaphorical “camera”—representative of the reader’s perspective—is outside the action, hovering over the female character, maybe pulling back all the way from time to time. Intimacy increases with this perspective: the reader is now allowed access to her internal realm. The “she” character filters everything through an intellectual, emotional, and experiential lens for the reader.
You must remember that, with this choice of a subjective perspective, the woman’s unfavourable characteristics will gain emphasis. However, another danger is that you may try to water down the character’s moral complexities to justify her negativities. You must stand firm in this: Highs and lows, light and dark, are important for the narrative.
You may find that a different choice — a different lens, camera, and filter — will work better, in order to tell the story you really want to tell. First Person/present tense? This would require restarting and making major changes to the novel as it stands. So, fingers crossed, you don’t have to go that far.
How about a decision to intersperse POV between the two main characters, but with an emphasis on one of them? Enid rather than Will?