How many people are allowed in this story anyway?
New to Story Club but the common theme I'm seeing in every post is a willingness to experiment and be dynamic. It's already having a big impact on my creative writing. Just because I had one idea doesn't mean I have to keep forcing it, especially if it's telling me it's not working. Hearing a master grapple with and have to solve the same types of problems is validating and inspiring. Thanks for all you're doing, George!
I love exercises. Bring it!
Spiderhead! Spiderhead! So happy for you, George. That's very exciting.
And I appreciate this week's Office Hours. I've been playing with some judgmental narrator (close 3rd POV) with the character being observed making comments back to the narrator in 1st person - at this point with mixed results. But I'm tapping into the fun meter and just having a go for kicks. Bringing the fun back into the technical aspects of craft really does open the creative sides of the creative writing world once again.
That was a great question. The first time I read "Puppy" I thought I had finally found a Saunders story I didn't like. It was so disorienting. Now, it might be my all-time favorite short story from anyone. I use it religiously to teach POV, but more importantly to teach principles of empathy - which, for me, is at the center of teaching literature. Looking forward to Spiderhead, and to telling everyone, "The story was better."
I appreciate how you remind us of the classical and elegant, George. When we apply that
to our individual sentences, to our paragraphs, and to our stories, we transform as writers.
I often worry about head hopping. I wrote (and rewrote and rewrote) a novel that just wasn’t quite there. After putting it away for a few years, I find the novel’s central topic is in the news. Looking at it with fresh eyes, I realize the antagonist’s POV is required so the reader understands the stakes.
Flashbacks are tough, took me a while to understand that. It takes the reader out of the moment. I’m sure there’s some “earned” flashbacks...but it cuts into the momentum some.
Great post. Very relevant to what I'm working on, a composite novel...lots of voices. Yes, it will 'cost' the reader so it's a big risk to take. But fun...
I’ve never read a story like VL before & I might not have if I’d known the subject matter so I stopped reading the notes & went to read. Wow. Kyle becomes a hero, an unexpected one who’s trying so hard to be the dutiful son. The hysterical biz of disobeying his parents no-shoes-in-the-house rule a perfect description of someone who’d be ineffectual in a crises. But…you made magic by going into the head of the assailant, who I almost felt for with his brute monstrousness, and gave Kyle the impetus to act. This story expands my writer’s horizons, which I’m in sore need of & reminds me that we have to find compassion (or intelligence as you call it) for all our characters.
Loved what you said about “cost” with pov switching, backstory, time lapses, “discretionary moves”. I still hate backstory except in justified brushstrokes.
I loved when the assailant’s body “tumped over.” Tump is a really great word.
Looking forward to exercises.
It is so exciting about Spiderhead! Few things are as exciting as a dog-stuffed car but seeing that billboard must have been up there.
Thank you for another enormously helpful and generous post.
Thanks, George! It's very kind of you to allow us to peak into your process, to understand your work in progress and how you feel in-between when it is all still under construction. It is SO important to see this for someone who is trying to find oneself as a writer and feels so intimidated by the stunning art (the end version) of other writers and just feels, Oh, will I ever produce something that masterful? I find it interesting to read about your take on the POV. I am currently writing a story (it runs longer than a short story, but I am still not sure whether it wants to be more or not, my main objective now is to follow my gut and the fun and then later I will think about structure and the format; so I might cut a lot, I basically am trying to write myself free, to find my tune etc). I started in first person POV, then introduced third person limited POV for two other characters. I am a beginner, and am not sure whether I will keep it, but for now I am doing it to get into the other characters' heads, to make sense of them in a better way so that even if I delete them later and return to classic fist person POV I am aware of these other characters and who they are etc. I am very impressed by your "third person ventriloquist" in Victory Lap and in The Falls. Victory lap was one of the hardest stories for me to get into, I basically fought with the feeling (this is George Saunders, I want to like and admire his stories) for the first pages, ready to give up, and it was only at the last line, when the hint of action (the assailant at the door and her feeling that something is wrong) was dropped that I got a kick out of the story and proceeded with Kyle's POV, which was a relief for me and already easier to read. So, in this story, I was glad of the different POV's in this story, from Kyle onward the story flew by and at the end I was left in such owe of George (again). This story for me was like a train that starts rolling very slowly amidst relatively boring landscape, then speeds up and ends in a roller coaster that I did not see coming and when it's over I am glad I survived it but still feel the vertigo. Last thing: I try to write stream of consciousness just to see if this is mine, but I find it difficult to write it in a way that really gets into people's head. I would like some fun exercises on this technique.
George, Puppy is my absolute favorite story of yours, and quite possibly my absolute favorite story of all time. I am shocked to learn that what I love so much about it - the competing perspectives of two moms trying to do what’s best for their kid (and the tragedy of neither getting the glimpse into each other’s head that us readers do) - was something you initially fought against!!
George, you've given me a valuable license: to be a more confident judge of whether POV in my story is working or not. This you've done by providing criteria upon which to base my judgement and modeling how/when you implement judgement. Love the 'third-person-ventriloquist' and hope you point this POV out more as you teach us.
Congratulations on Spiderhead. Escape from Spiderhead is a great story. I can't wait to watch it when it comes out.
I've read a lot of books on craft, and this is the most helpful thing I've ever read about POV. I often find that people who are really great at something can't explain why they're so good. You're not just a great writer, but you're also great at communicating how one creates a great story. These posts are invaluable.
Soooo hype for the upcoming style and editing section. It's weirdly hard to sound like myself. This problem creeps on me all the time, losing my voice between revisions for someone else who sounds boring and writerly. I always have to remind myself to just have fun when I'm revising. For me it's a lot like meditation. When my mind begins wandering off, I have to nudge it back into awareness. When I stop having fun during revisions, I have to remind myself what this is all for. Usually reading a good story snaps me back into it.
Congrats to everyone who worked on Spiderhead btw.
I love reading George's comments about stories I have read--and they make me want to read more!
Yes, a film about "Escape from Spiderhead"---that is really exciting!
Thank you for all this, George!