Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about my work-in-progress’s point of view.
Right now it’s written in third person limited, alternating between my hero and his best friend.
My MFA adviser thinks the story might be better served with an omniscient point of view. That scares me a little. Omniscient is very hard to do well. If you don’t do it well, it can distance the reader too much from the story. It can come across as just head hopping.
But, working on an MFA is all about experimenting, so I’m working on revising part of my story to omniscient present tense (from third person past tense) to see how it works and if I’m capable of doing it well.
And guess what! I’m sharing the pain with you. Aren’t you excited?
For this week’s hump day prompt, take a scene from your book and try revising it to a different point of view or tense or both.
Here are the first few paragraphs of my story in third person past tense.
Moving through the Nottingham Casino was like navigating the lines of his own palm. Robert Huntington knew every foot of gaudy carpeting, every machine, every table, and more than half of the people working that day, even though he’d been away for two years.
The Nott was home, even now. Even after all. He’d never live here again, but it would always be —
A tug on his hand pulled him out of his thoughts. “Robin.”
He tightened his fingers around hers and said, “I’m here.”
Matilda Fitzwalter brushed white-blonde hair from her freckled cheeks. She chewed at her bottom lip like she always did when she was nervous. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“Too late for that now, Mattie.” He leaned down and kissed the lip she’d bit, then kept walking, taking her with him. This was not the time for doubt. The decision had been made and the only way through, now, was forward.
A security guard stood near one of the blackjack tables. He didn’t look at them and Rob made himself keep his eyes straight ahead as well, but he saw a slight lift of the guard’s chin as they passed.
As they walked, a young woman with long brown hair and bright blue eyes sat at the empty table, directly in front of the dealer.
Alice was smaller than Mattie and in another life, she might have looked even younger. But, hard living had aged her and Rob didn’t think she ran a risk of being carded as she started to play.
They’d chosen her because she didn’t stand out. She was pretty in a way that would have been beautiful given other circumstances. She was just used up enough to make herself invisible, unless she turned on the charm. Unless she tried to catch someone’s eye, no one would remember her being there. That was the whole point.
Rob looked over his shoulder and saw her smile up at the dealer as two men sat to her left. The man to her right did a double take and smiled back at Alice, even though she wasn’t looking at him.
“Now?” Mattie asked.
Suddenly, he wanted to take back his reassurances and get her out of there. Take her away with him, back to the Underground. He looked down at their hands, his dark and hers light. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to open his and let hers go.
She did it for him, pulling her hand out of his. She didn’t move until he finally said, “Now.”
Before she could turn away, he reached for her and took her face in his hands. Her soft brown eyes looked up at him, searching. “We can do this,” she whispered.
“I know.” There was no room for doubt now. Doubt would only make them stumble, and a stumble would mean failure. And failure would mean prison. If they were lucky.
They had one chance to get this right and he’d ruin it if he couldn’t let Mattie go. He bent his head. She lifted on her toes and pressed into his kiss, then stepped back and slapped him across the face. Hard.
He opened his mouth. Nothing came out. Her eyes went to the camera he knew was behind him, on the ceiling. Trained on them, probably. Almost certainly.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
She walked away without turning back.
After she got onto the elevator that would take her upstairs to the Nott’s executive offices, he turned back to the blackjack table and the dealer, in particular.
And, here’s the same scene from an omniscient present tense point of view.
Robert Huntington moves through the Nottingham Casino and it’s like tracing the lines of his own palm. He knows every foot of gaudy carpeting, every machine, every table, and more than half of the people working that day, even though he’s been away for two years.
The Nott is home, even now. Even after all. He’ll never live here again, but it will always be his home.
A tug on his hand pulls him out of his thoughts. “Robin.”
He tightens his fingers around hers and says, “I’m here.”
Matilda Fitzwalter brushes white-blonde hair from her freckled cheeks. She chews at her bottom lip. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“Not even a little bit.” He leans down and kisses that lip and then keeps walking.
A security guard stands near one of the blackjack tables. He doesn’t look at them and Rob makes himself keep his eyes straight ahead as well, but he sees a slight lift of the guard’s chin as they pass.
A silent, barely noticeable, encouragement.
As they walk past, a young woman with long brown hair and bright blue eyes sits at an empty table, directly in front of the dealer. She is smaller than Mattie and in another life, she might have looked even younger. Hard living has aged her.
Alice is pretty in a way that would have been beautiful given other circumstances. A hollowed out kind of pretty that doesn’t demand to be looked at, which suits the day fine.
Rob looks over his shoulder and sees her smile up at the dealer as two men sit to her left. The man to her right does a double take and smiles back at Alice, even though she doesn’t look at him.
“Now?” Mattie asks.
He has a primal urge to get her out of there. He looks down at their hands, his dark and hers light. He isn’t sure he’ll be able to open his and let hers go.
She does it for him, pulling her hand out of his. She doesn’t move, though, until he says, “Now.”
Before she can turn away, he reaches for her and takes her face in his hands. Her soft brown eyes look up at him, searching.
“We can do this,” she whispers.
She believes that, too, bone deep. She believes it with more conviction than Rob can muster.
“I know,” he says, anyway.
He isn’t as sure as she is and she can tell. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other and her eyes go to the camera on the ceiling behind him. Trained on them, probably. Almost certainly. She imagines the security guard sitting in the surveillance room, watching as Rob bends his head and covers her mouth with his.
She lifts onto her toes and presses into his kiss, then steps back. She slaps him across the face. Hard.
Mattie turns from Rob and presses the button for the elevator. When it doesn’t open immediately, she presses it again, her finger jabbing at it until she hears a ding and the doors finally slip open.
Her palm stings and she can still feel Rob’s kiss.
She’d feel a lot better if he wasn’t nervous, but that’s probably too much to ask. She looks at him and he watches her until the elevator doors close.
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