Sunday Gather Writing Essential July 8, 2012: Anonymous Narration/Dual Character POV (SunWE)

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Dear Gather-hunterers:

Have you ever looked at somebody and thought, “That person is so weird.”  Not just weird, but mystifying.  “What must be going through that person’s head?  What kind of person would want to live that way?”  Maybe it’s your neighbor’s daughter with the jet-black hair, nose ring, and wall-to-wall tattoos.  Maybe it’s your late-middle-aged church-going loan officer who’s in a gay marriage.

Now, have you ever wondered, “Does that person think I’m just as weird?”  Do you ever imagine that person thinking something along the lines of, “What’s with that guy with the piercing eyes who never smiles and never uses a wrong word?  I wonder what it’s like to be that smart.  He’s creepy.  It’s like he knows what I’m thinking.  Maybe he’s a serial killer.”

Now, have you ever thought, “That would make a good story.”

If that’s the case, then your narrative point-of-view of choice might be Anonymous Narrator, Dual Character Point of View.

  • As with our previous POV, the narrator is anonymous;  the narrator isn’t a specific person and isn’t involved in the story.
  • The narrator, and thus the reader, is privy to the thoughts and motives of two of the characters.  For this form to work, the story pretty much has to unfold in discrete, alternating sections.  A section is told from one person’s point of view, a subsequent section is from the other person’s point of view, and so on, back and forth.
  • As I said last time, an easy way to think of this is to say that the narrator is the author, who knows what’s going on inside these two people’s heads because s/he invented them.

As our text says, examples of this technique are fairly hard to come by, because of the rather specific purpose to which it applies.  The only example I can think of off the top of my head (I read it 40 years ago, so I hope I’m right) is the novel Point-Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley.  I read two of the four examples in our text: “Sinking House” by T.C. Boyle, and “Strong Horse Tea” by Alice Walker. Both are original, haunting, and achingly beautiful.  The other two stories there are “The Only Rose” by Sarah Orne Jewett and “Uglypuss” by Margaret Atwood.  As you can see, two of these can be read online if you don’t have the book, and I strongly suggest you do that.  If you want to be a good writer, you must be a voracious reader.

If you decide to take this on, I suggest that, after reading a couple examples, you begin by inventing the two characters.  Think about what would make it interesting for us to see Alice from Betty’s point of view and vice versa.

I myself have been wanting to write a mystery story, which would be my first serious one.  I’ve now missed Andrea/Patricia’s “Let’s Focus On Mystery” Friday prompt, and Monday’s deadline for Greg’s “Try Something New” prompt is fast approaching, but—oh well!  I’ve been wracking my brain and I’ve gotten as far as sketching out a possible concept/premise/twist.  If this particular concept turns into something, today’s POV technique might be a terrific way to approach it, it occurs to me.  So I’m going to try to make that happen in the next two weeks, right along with you.

The Prompts:

Prose: Write a story using the narrative technique of Anonymous Narrator, Dual Character POV.

Poetry:  Refer to the July 1 column.

  • Put SunWE in the title and tags.
  • Indicate in some way which devices/techniques/figures I should be paying attention to.
  • Deadline is July 21 for today’s prose prompt.  Your grade goes down one letter for each day you are late.
  • I’m kidding. This prompt does not turn into a pumpkin a week (or even two) from today.  If your piece isn’t done by the deadline, get it in when you can.  This is supposed to be fun.
  • I will comment on every submission and include a link to it in the next column.
  • If you would like a little more academic critique–but still very friendly and positive–include the word “rigorous” in your post (e.g. “rigorous critique wanted”).

Here are responses to previous prompts.  Let me know if I missed yours.  I hope you can take a few minutes and read some of the other submissions.



The Sound of Language

Sunday Morning Poem by Tovli S.

Winter Walk by Kerry Dexter

Pastoral Poem by Karen Vaughn

© 2012 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved.  Please share this on, and elsewhere on the web by means of a link back to this page, but please do not copy.   Doug’s latest book is The Depressed Guy’s Book of Wisdom from Chipmunka Publishing.

Doug’s Gather Group is Depression and Creativity, devoted to creative writing about depression and related illnesses, and creative writing as therapy.  Please consider joining.  You can read more of Doug’s posts there, or here.



About the Author ()

57 year old musician, poet, father of 4 grown children, composer, recording artist, author, humorist, survivor. I'm thoughtful, introspective, introverted, open, scathingly honest about myself, creative, a Renaissance guy, willing to grow and change and

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