Find Your Voice

Posted 30 May, 2009 by DLWhite in Writers Write 1 Comment

I’ve had this little ditty by Fairly Odd Parents’ Chip Skylark in my head all day.

It’s sung by *Nsync’s Chris Kirkpatrick and since I’m a HUGE fan, I actually have his songs from FOP on my iPod. It’s rather fun to go from Ludacris “Slap” to Chip Skylark “Find Your Voice”  to Madonna “Holiday”. I love shuffle.

There is a point to my rambles about iPods and cartoon songs. Lesson #4 in my Advanced Fiction Writing Class  is about Viewpoint, Voice, And Tense.

Viewpoint- or uh. Point of View, or the intentions of the narrator. Who’s telling the story and from what vantage point?  We learned about three viewpoints:


Third person Omniscient- Sees from every point of view. The story may flip back and and forth between characters, which can be dangerous for new writers because the transition between viewpoints can be hard without effective action and dialogue.

Third Person Limited- Most stories are from this point of view. It focuses on the protagonist (or the antagonist) vantage point, but it’s still third person.

First Person- Stories are the most intimate, personal account from this viewpoint. New writers should take care to not use “I” too many times (something I am totally conscious of and had to make myself change until it came naturally to me to not use it so often). I don’t often like this viewpoint, but it does give a little mystery because You the Reader don’t discover things until the Main Character discovers them. I kind of like having the story unfold that way.

The other elements of the class were on Voice and tense. Voice is baiscally who your narrator is, and changing up the dialogue and story details depending on the Voice. In a scene with a mom, a doctor and a child, the story will vary depending on the voice.

Tense is sort of a thorn in my side. I positively dislike stories written in present tense. A LOT of fan fiction is written in present tense and it drives me up a wall… “He opens the door and peers out. Seeing nothing, he figures it’s just a kid playing a prank and shuts the door, again. As soon as he closes the door, the bell rings again.”

Drives me insane. The argument for the use of this tense is that it makes the story seem very immediate. *shrugs* I don’t prefer it.

Most people (fiction writers) use past tense and though it’s technically in the past, that fact  sort of becomes invisible and it feels like real time…. “He opened the door and peered out. He saw nothing, so he figured it was just a kid playing a prank and shut the door, again. As soon as he shut the door, the bell rings again.”

Reads better to me. I guess I’m just used to it.

I got a 100% on my quiz for this lesson (*cabbage patch*) and our assignment was to write a scene from each of the three viewpoints, remembering voice and tense.  And away we go…

Third person omniscient

The bus rumbled slowly down the city block, carting its passengers to their destination with all of the urgency of a turtle. A woman and a small child, perhaps her son, sat in the front two seats, staring ahead at the road before them, chatting amiably with the driver. The woman was on her way to work, her white maid’s uniform pristine and white. The child seemed bored, swinging a leg back and forth, randomly bumping it against the hard plastic of the barrier in front of him. The woman kept checking her watch and then glancing out of the window. The driver was oblivious—his mind was on his schedule and keeping the bus rolling forward through stop after stop until he reached the end of his route. He would then turn around and come back the same way. It was the same routine, everyday. It was a habit. It was comforting to them all.

Third person limited

The bus rumbled slowly down the city block, too slowly for Alma. She had to get to work, and she couldn’t be late again. It wasn’t his fault, though, the driver. These behemoth mass transit. vehicles just didn’t go very fast. She chatted and joked with him, trying to lighten the mood, all the while willing him to drive faster, make that yellow light. Just a few minutes would make a big difference. Jeffrey sat next to her, kicking the barrier in front of him as he swung a leg back and forth. He’d have to sit in the office again, today. Alma couldn’t afford to take him to day care anymore. She shifted nervously in her seat, sneaking in a glance at her watch now and then. At this pace, she would just barely make it to work on time.

First person

The bus rumbled slowly down the city block. Too slowly. Ms Edwards’ last warning rang in my ear, about being late. I shuddered to think what would happen if I dared disobey—I already couldn’t afford daycare. Jeffrey was going to have to sit in the office again today, where the receptionist would look after him. It was a long, boring day for him, but I couldn’t afford daycare for him anymore. I was so ready for him to go to school full time. The bus seemed to slow down, and I checked my watch again and again. I shifted, and then rocked back and forth, trying to sooth my nerves, joking with the driver to take my mind off of the fact that if I was late again I’d be fired. He wasn’t paying attention though—his eyes were on the road and the stops at every block where he picked up and dropped off. He would drive and drive until he reached the end of his route, and then turn around and drive back the other way. There must be so much comfort in his routine.

Et voila!

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