Hello and welcome to the 100 Day Writing Challenge, Day 28.
Yesterday – whenever yesterday was for you – I asked you to write a scene in which one character is waiting for another character, who then turns up. And I did quite a long preamble about voice and the linked areas of tone, point of view and genre.
Today I’d like you to have what you wrote yesterday to hand. What we’re going to be doing over the next few days is putting this scene through a series of incrementally bigger changes and conversions, transforming it, deliberately mistranslating it. Playing with voice and style in a situation where the material isn’t something you’ve got huge emotional investment in, so we can focus on the icing, not the cake. You may think I’m implying with that metaphor that voice is a superficial part of the story, but of course icing is emphatically the best part of a cake. A cake is just a delivery system for icing. Have you ever eaten chocolate frosting with a spoon? Literally the high point of your entire life wasn’t it. Mine too.
So I’m going to ask you, in a moment, to rewrite the scene. However, this time, instead of third person limited ‘she said, they said’, you’re going to write it from the perspective of a first-person narrator. And because you’re super cool, limbered up from weeks of training and capable of punching through literary walls with your bare hands, let’s have you recast it in the present tense as well. So ‘I stand beneath the burnt palm tree, hands in my pockets. “You came then,” I say.’ That sort of thing.
Some of the alterations might feel quite perfunctory, an ‘ed’ changed to an ‘s’, a ‘he’ to an ‘I’. But as you rewrite I’d like you to consider some of the bigger implications and possibilities this recasting opens up. When we’re this close to a character, do we get some of their inner commentary on things? A bit more of their way of thinking, their habitual rhythms and vocabulary. How does that shade the scene? Maybe the text becomes longer and more discursive. Maybe they think in quite clipped, simple clauses. It might not be a big change, just a subtle tweaking here and there. There might be metaphors you used in the original that don’t really sound like them.
Use the original as a basis, but don’t worry if you find yourself wanting to tweak dialogue or whatever. That’s fine, you’re not translating ancient holy texts, you’re the author.
Just, you know. I don’t know how is going to end up. Let’s spend the next ten minutes finding out.
A first-person, present tense rewrite of yesterday’s scene. If you get through it, consider extending the scene so we find out what happens next.
Right. Ready? Three… two… one… go.
And there you have it. Well done. Our first bit of, well, not editing exactly, but dismantling. Not seeing the text you produced as a sacrosanct record of your value as a human being but a mass of clay and gears to be smooshed and monkeyed with to make something new. Words as Lego. Don’t get me started on Americans pluralising Lego. It’s not on, guys. Stop it.
Right. Before I go off on a tangent, let us draw a discreet veil over today’s proceedings. Thank you, sincerely, for sticking with me this far, and an even bigger thank you for sticking with yourself. You’ll have days that feel great, days that feel a bit challenging, but they’re all learning experiences, they’re all pennies in the piggy bank. They’re all good days. Take care, and I’ll see you tomorrow.