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working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Sunday, June 5, 2011

home at last!

We made it home safely despite numerous thunderstorms and tornadoes blowing across the middle of the U.S. I'm glad to be here and the weather has made a rapid turn for the better--and even though we've gone from winter to summer in a day, I'm not complaining.

So I pose a question. What do you as a writer feel about 1st or 3rd in your own writing? What makes you decide to use one or the other? or maybe omniscient? For myself, 1st feels more immediate and action oriented, whereas 3rd can be a bit more ethereal with the possibility for more in depth description of scenes. Because this story takes place in the distant past I lean toward 3rd person--I want to create a certain feeling about the characters that is difficult in 1st person because the style of speech and internal thought were so different in the forties. Having the story at a slight remove might help me in this endeavor. Here are two versions of the same paragraph:

Lavinia Hewitt stood in front of the ornate gilt mirror in the middle of the second story hall of her parent’s Georgian home. Reflected there she could see the stairwell and from her mother’s sitting room behind her small patterns and shadows moved across the antique mottled glass. She peered closer, searching out dark images of doors and furniture. From the bedroom to her right her two older sister’s murmuring voices rose and fell as they primped in front of the floor length mirror. They were getting ready for her wedding. She had picked out their chartreuse velvet gowns herself, the last sister to take this final step, moving into a new phase of her life. Her eyes slid back to her own small heart shaped face and she noticed that her expression looked sad. She wondered why; it was her wedding day, she should be happy.  

      Shadows and patterns in the ornate gilt mirror caught my eye as I tried to focus. Dark shapes crowded the corners, picking up light coming through the window of the room directly behind me. The sound of my sister's murmuring voices in the bedroom brought me back--my two bridesmaids were preparing for my wedding. Why did I look so sad? My hands shook as I reached around to fasten the neck of my heavy satin wedding gown. When I stood back I saw a stranger dressed in white. 

Of course there are many ways I could have written this. I chose the easy route, using what I had written in 3rd and trying to evoke the same feeling in first. "Show, don't tell" is much easier in first person but...


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