Tag Archives: point of view

Poem Tryouts: It’s All About Perspective

7:49 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Best of You sung by Foo Fighters

Hello there! Brrr! The weather looks like it has decided to get serious. Pour yourself something hot (If your time zone is at the other end of the day, consider hot apple cider and brandy), pull up your computer and start the grey cells going. NaNoWriMo is on the downward slope. Keep your eyes on the barn door. You’re heading home now.

mountain far

far away

Let us consider perspective. Artists know it’s all about perspective. When describing a locale, people, and events, we need to keep in mind [more so in fiction than poetry], that in writing about a scene, based solely on distance and angle, we can’t apply the same degree of detail to everything. Our characters, especially whoever is narrating, can’t know many things.

Consider a character, or a person you know. The two of you are sitting side by side in a car. What do you see of the other person? The two of you get out and continue a conversation, over the bonnet (front part) of the car. How has your perspective changed? The other person crosses the street to talk to someone else. How do things alter as the person recedes? How does the scene change if, as you watch, traffic passes between you?



How much detail do you include? If you are describing a range of mountains you see in the distance, out your window, how much can you tell your reader. If you are getting out of your car in a parking lot near the foot of one of the mountains, how much more do you see? If you have begun the ascent, what will you focus on now. How much detail do you want?



You are watching reports of a protest, on your television. You jot notes. What do you see? You are in the crowd watching the protest. Now what? You are part of the protest. How has your angle and knowledge changed?

Perspective is an important consideration. We need to be able to give our readers a sense of placement and of distance (whether near or far), a sense of what our narrators do, or do not, know because of their perspectives.

The exercise: At different heights, degree of detail is different… the kinds of things



one can see are different… the sounds one can hear are different… the angle of vision is different… things don’t always seem to be what they are … depending on the proximity, smell might come into play. Time of day can join the crowd.

I have a lengthier, more complicated version that we did in 2012 which you can look at and even do if it piques your interest. This shorter, kinder version is specifically so poets can play.

Choose an event, or a setting. I want your narrator to consider the chosen item from a specific place. You need to let us know, without shoving it in our faces, where the place is in terms of its relationship to what the narrator is going to talk about, or describe.

too close

too close

Change the narrator’s view. Alter the angle or the distance and have your narrator discover something they hadn’t seen or known before about what it is they are describing.

Is there a significance, or an epiphany, with the new perspective? (There does not have to be)

That’s it. Nice and easy… or you can do the original exercise. Heh Heh.

I will see you Thursday for some talk on the different modes of writing prose, which might be interesting to consider in a longer poem; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for our monthly image prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 18/11/2014 in exercises, poetry


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Poem Tryouts: Rashomon

8:14 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Run by Snow Patrol

Hello, everyone. Another gorgeous day outside. There are rumours of an early snowstorm in the Midwest which will bring our temperatures plunging by midweek. As long as the sun shines. Hey, NaNoWriMo-ers! You should still be in fairly full throttle, so let’s see what we can find to help you along. You can apply today’s exercise to your plot, or use it to stretch. Poets, think of this as a possibility for a dialogue poem, or a counterpoint poem.

We’re going to play Rashomon today. For those who don’t know the story, it appeared as a Japanese film known for a plot device which involves various characters providing alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident. If you are interested in more [I think it will make the exercise clearer], I have included a link to the least confusing plot summary. We are going to have two possibilities to work with:

1] Think of an incident that involves other people being around, as participants and witnesses. Have each of them tell their view of what happened. You will need to know who each person is, at least as far as occupation, and how they are involved. The incident can be from your life, the news, or made up.

2] Alternatively, have one person recount an incident to five different people. You will need to know who the people are and their relationship to the speaker. Think about it: do you tell a story the same way to your partner, your best friend, your mother, a reporter, a policeman, your employer?

This gives you a chance to play with voice, as well as point of view. Have fun with this when you decide how to structure the piece, whether narrative or poetry. In terms of a poem, you may certainly cut the number of people involved.

Wow! Short. So rare. I will see you Thursday for more on narrative writing; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for another of my narrative prompts.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 11/11/2014 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Poem Tryouts: Narrative Consciousness

7:41 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to The Beatles singing Get Back

Hello, all. Here we go with this week’s narrative exercise. As prose writers you need to be aware of the effect of the narrator, point of view, and distance, on the story. Keeping a continuity of narrative voice for the length of a novel is not an easy thing and you will need to train your ear.

“It is through action that characters most successfully and fully emerge, and seldom mere description.”[Roorbach, Writing Life Stories p74]

You need to look back for a character you have created or one from real life. Or use a photograph from a magazine. Ahead of the exercise:

Give the character a gender. [I am going to refer to the character as ‘he’ rather than the wretched dual pronoun thing.]
Name the character.
What does this character want… more than anything else… NOW?
Think: Is it the kind of matter that can sustain a story?
Explain the want.
Who is preventing the character from getting what he wants?
What does this character think about himself?

Keep these in mind as you follow the steps of the exercise.

1. Don’t have the character move. Describe him in prose. Just the person; no background. Describe especially the things people remember about him. Third person point of view.

2. Have this character move, but stay close; continue to focus tightly on him. Think of yourself as a movie camera in a close-up. Third person point of view.

3. Have your character approach and say something to someone else. Don’t get inside the second character. Describe the second character through your first character’s eyes. This can be third, or first person. Try both points of view and note how they differ.

4. Again, think of yourself as a movie camera. Continue with the interaction between these two characters, but report it from a distance, or through some kind of partial obstruction (fog, fence, screen door mesh, wind, snowstorm, passing traffic)  Third person point of view. BUT do let the reader be aware of the partial obstruction or distance that separates you from the characters.

5. Describe something your main character can’t possibly be aware of–but that is in some way related to him. It can be something physical about himself, or something that’s going on right now far away or nearby out of his sight. Third person POV.

6. Have your two characters go separate ways. Send away your starting–main–character first. Follow him for a while noting what he does.  Third person POV.

7. Come back to the second character. Reveal to us that your second character has been lying to your main character or concealing something the whole time. This may have been done for positive or negative reasons. Tell us how and why and since when this deception has been going on.  Third person POV.

8. End by showing us the first character again, probably unaware of the deception. This can be third, or first person POV.

Note that the exercise, while focusing on character, includes something the main character wants and a possible conflict, or two. Both of these are necessary in fiction to propel the plot.

Poets: Pick one of these steps and adapt it for a poem. If you choose a step that can be told in either first, or third, person point of view, try both. If you find the differences interesting, give us both versions and tell us what you note.

I shall see you Thursday for links; Friday for this week’s prompt roundup; and next Tuesday for a narrative prompt that focuses on eating.

Happy writing, everyone.

P.S. The Roorbach book is worth having if you write narrative.


Posted by on 12/11/2013 in exercises, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: To Travel This Road or Not?

7:40 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Soolaimon by Neil Diamond — it’s a little early to be bopping in my chair, but this is what the cloud gave me; you try not dancing to this!

Hello lovely people. Excuse the rush of emotion; I’ll beat it back into its cage before the next post, but I’m excited still from my celebrations on Sunday. Who knew turning sixty could be such fun? I’m also excited because in four days we head towards Christmas, a giant family celebration at my mother’s.

How appropriate. James Taylor is singing That Lonesome Road. Speaking of roads, think how many you have traveled down in all your years. Think of how many you didn’t travel down. Spend some time thinking about all the forks in your road, both literal and metaphorical.

What are you looking for? All the times you stopped at a point in your life and had to choose one way over another, to keep traveling. The choices can be as far back, or as recent, as you wish. Ask yourself not why you chose to go down one path, but why you did not choose to go down the other. Ask yourself what might have happened if you had chosen the other. Speculate. Fantasise. Think of the big things and the small.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

As with Robert Frost’s speaker, has a choice, or choices, ‘made all the difference’ to your life?

This is one of those topics that is often helped by drawing, so feel free to rough out a map. I find it a tremendous help, because I can see decisions in order, in time, in relation to each other. I can jot sensory images and details on the paper and sometimes I can see a poem developing.

The poem does not, ultimately, have to be about you. You are using what you come up with as material. You might want to write about moments of decision; or, a fantasy about a road not taken; or, the whys of choosing some roads over others. Consider writing in the third person. Even if you initially write in first person, try the poem with the other. I am often surprised. For a very good article on the subject of point of view, check writer Sandra Beasley on ‘Risk & Point of View‘.

I look forward, as always, to seeing what appears. I shall be seeing you Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts, but then I will be dark until January 3rd. I know. I consulted my stress metre, my husband, my kids, my mother, everyone, and decided to have a two-week holiday [okay, two and a half weeks]. Yes, I shall miss you. I always miss you when I take time off. Enough mushiness. Go write.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 11/12/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Skydiving into Tuesday Tryouts

7:26 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Little Darling by The Diamonds

Hi, everyone. We have another prose/fiction/narrative exercise [i.e. not poetry]. This is an interesting one that could result in some hair pulling, but can also result in a cool piece of writing. If you are having problems with NaNoWriMo, this will add about 1500 words. More importantly, it will allow you to play with perspective. Non-NaNo people, I suggest trying out the exercise, then looking to see where you see a poem. That leaves things broad for you which, I know, drives some of you nuts. Remember: there is no wrong way. The objective is to write. Ready to play?

This exercise suggests another way to look at something, a person, a setting, an event. In this exercise, your narrator(s) (imagine a camera eye)  must start high in the air and descend, getting closer and closer all the time to the same spot on the earth — and finally, passing through that spot and going under the ground (yes, a camera eye that has a heck of a swivel).

RULES ( how about that!):
Don’t change your target in mid-exercise.
Don’t move side-to-side; that is, focus on the same event on the ground but observe it from different altitudes.
You may, however, change narrator and/or point-of-view (first-person, second-person, third-person) from step to step. An anonymous third-person will often make sense.
It’s all right to read ahead (but it’s interesting to take each step as it comes). Try to write at least 250 words for each step.

REMEMBER: At different heights, degree of detail is different… the kinds of things one can see are different… the sounds one can hear are different… the angle of vision is different… things don’t always seem to be what they are …

If you are able, try this physically. Choose something that you are able to view from at least four levels and do so. For each, note the differences, the things you notice at one level, that you don’t see at another. No, no, don’t bang your head on the wall. This was an exercise my mentor and I gave high schoolers. Don’t over-think the steps. Relax. Write.

These steps may result in a continuous narrative… or a collection of different possibilities.  No transitions needed, at this point.

You might wish to target a character, a moment or event from an existing story. Or you can just wait for each step and see what happens, as you write. Whichever, decide what your focus is.

1.    Pretend you are like a bird or at the height of an airplane in flight, at least 600 feet or 200 meters in the air. Focus on your target (which is on the ground). Write everything you can see or hear. Try for at least 250 words.

2.    Pretend you are high in a tree or on a church steeple or on the roof of a nine-story apartment building or at a similar height. Remember: You may shift narrator and/or point of view from the previous step. You might even change the time of the narrative from that of the earlier step. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.

3.    Pretend you are looking out a first story-window  or sitting in the cab of a big truck or standing on a table or riding a horse. In some way, you are a little higher than most people’s heads.  Remember: You may wish to shift narrator and/or point of view. You may wish to shift the time of the narration. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.

4.    Pretend you are at eye-level with a grownup. (Okay, you are a grownup; I didn’t want to change my pattern.)  Or perhaps you are an invisible narrator. Remember: You can shift narrator and/or point of view. You can shift time. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.

5.    Pretend you are at the height of a child sitting on a rock or of a Labrador Retriever’s  eyes. Perhaps you are a child, or a Labrador Retriever (see what I mean about choosing to be a different narrator?]. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.

6.    Pretend you are underground, perhaps in a tunnel, a subway, a grave, a ditch. Remember: You may wish to shift narrator and/or point of view. You may shift time. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.

There is the possibility of adding smell to the equation, as that would change with proximity.

Non-NaNo poets, I think you can do the exercise and then look at what you have written as material within which to find a poem. You can also play with writing a narrative poem. Include all the steps. It can be about changes in perspective, about seeing things differently, maybe unexpectedly, with a shift in perspective. This can be figurative, or literal.

If you are struggling, but game, for heaven’s sake write me ( and say: This is what I have but I’m not sure about… or, I understand all, except this bit.

Above all, enjoy the experiment. It’s a valuable exercise for both prose and poetry. I shall see you Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for the next exciting installment of narrative exercises.

I’m off to organise my Christmas shopping! Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 13/11/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Try This

8:33 a.m. — Atlanta

mmmmm… That Lonesome Road James Taylor. Excuse me a moment while I melt.

How are you all? Short week for many. While I don’t, technically, share that, as my time is my own, with my husband home my routine shifts, so I feel the short week aspect.

For the next few weeks, we are going to refocus where we were in May: the self. Fortunately, Poetic Bloomings has been warming you up! When I discovered they were going to do a series of prompts on self, I dithered about where to go with mine. I decided, for my peace of mind, that I will not look to see what their prompt is each week. If we mesh, you write a poem for both of us; if we touch on a similar subject, you play nice and write two poems, one for each of us.

First, a link to the Thursday Thoughts where I discoursed upon why the self is so important in the writing of poetry. Scroll down until you reach this paragraph: As an actor creates a persona to speak words, share an experience, convey an attitude, or point of view, so a poet creates a speaker. The speaker acts as a buffer between poets and their audiences. Unless a writer says, ‘This is completely autobiographical’ [and even then, given memory…], we, as readers, can never be sure what the writer tweaked to make the poem work, and read from there. I include this paragraph here in case you don’t wander over to read/reread me waxing on about the importance of self to writing.

Let’s re-enter gently and have some fun. I would like us to create our own creation myths this week. Creation myths were first told as stories to explain the unexplainable. Much later, they were written down. They don’t have to be long, but if you are having fun, go to it.The myth can be for where you came from, where your family came from, where your world came from, your place in the world and how you came to be you… any one, some, or all.

As for form, consider it. I think writing a haiku that encompasses an entire creation sounds like fun. An etheree unfolding from one to ten syllables might work. A haibun is particularly well-suited. Given the unpredictability and chaos of creation, free verse might be the form. It’s your myth.

The best I can do for you is to give you a link to a site with creation myths, suggest you read a few and do one of two things: note the elements in common and write yours to include these elements; find one you especially like and model yours after it. I found a good site and for those without much time, I suggest the Norse, India, Babylonia, Mossi, and China myths.

There is no right, or wrong. This is your myth. In answer to all questions: this is your myth [however, feel free to ask]. Create, post and then come back to read other myths. I look forward to reading what you come up with.

In case you missed the event poems from a couple of weeks ago, go read the results. They were particularly good. Otherwise, I shall see you Thursday for punctuation [be there]; Friday for the prompt roundup; and next Tuesday for another prompt on self [I will try and be more specific Thursday].

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 04/09/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Thursday Thoughts: The Poet is Never the Speaker

12:01 pm, Thursday, 6 January, 2011 – Atlanta

I’m not sure why I feel I need to gird myself for this entry. I have been part of all sides: unknowing, unaware child reader, teenage student, adult reader, adult student, teacher, writer.

As a child who loved to read poems, it never occurred to me that the writer of the poem was the speaker. Never, as a child, as I read Stevenson, Frost, Dickinson and others, did I think this is the poet undergoing whatever is happening in the poem. In High School and college I still made the distinction. Eighteen years on I became a teacher and, as much as I loved poetry, I did not understand how it worked, in the same way I have always understood the structures of fiction.

To help me teach both the analysis and the writing of poetry, I asked a colleague, who became my mentor, if I could attend his creative writing  class as a student, for the poetry semester. I came out of that feeling confident about teaching poetry, but the bonus was I came out of there writing poetry. Jack [James Penha] also gave me chapbooks of his and I remember the look of horror on his face when I made the assumption he was the speaker of one of the poems. That was the first time I had muddled my thinking and the first time I heard: The poet is never the speaker, a mantra I told my students for the next eighteen years.

We had many discussions on the subject, Jack and I, while I clarified my thinking. I thought it odd that I had never before had any doubts, but now felt a little confused.  I realize, now, that the confusion arose from the fact I knew when writing a poem that I was part of the poem. But so are all poets because we write what our speakers say. We make the decisions to do with how they will say what we want to share, describe, explain.

Jack tells the story of a poem he wrote about his father who worked in a shipyard during WWII. To make the poem work his father had to die. Weeks later a friend commiserated with him over his father’s death. I imagine Jack’s face was much as when I confused him with his speaker. Jack’s father was alive and well, but for the integrity of the poem, for the poem to work, his father died. Think about it: when working on a poem, when crafting it for submission, or just for the pleasure of the craft, how many times have you had to change a fact, or include something that didn’t happen, for the poem to work.

Does that mean we are never the speakers? That no poem we write is completely what happened, or what we believe? Of course not, but we are the only ones who know. John Keats wrote “When I Have Fears” shortly after his brother died. Are the thoughts expressed his? Probably, but we don’t know if his thoughts are the first two quatrains and he added the third so the poem could be structured as a sonnet. Our audience doesn’t know either; students don’t know. Not 100%. And so, the speaker. We all know, when we read poems, what the speaker thinks, or believes, but unless we talk with the writer, we don’t necessarily know what they tweaked for the poem to work, or, when a writer presents a view not hers because she is interested in writing from the opposing viewpoint.

The speaker also gives us a buffer, stands between us and our readers, can make us feel less vulnerable, can take on a persona or voice that we ourselves may not have, can present a viewpoint we may or may not own. We write to convey a particular truth about people, the world, life. Ultimately the poem is more important than the absolute truth.

Whew! Do, please, add your viewpoint to comments. This is the first time I have not had a roomful of people to discuss this with and I think that’s what feels strange to me. Also not having pictures and asking you for the patience to read a piece this long.

Tomorrow, is the weekly roundup of possibilities.


Posted by on 06/01/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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