INSTRUCTIONS

This is a famous photograph from the cover of life magazine.  Create three scenes, each no longer than 500 words.


Writing workshop assignment 8

Scene one.  Write a 500-or-less-word scene from the nurse’s POV.  Establish emotional valences for each character with action as often as possible as well as telling.  Be sure to provide imagery so the scene can stand alone for the reader . . . that is provide the who, what, when and where.  Use dialogue, narrative description, or internal reflection.

Scene two.  Write the scene from the sailor’s POV.

Scene three.  Write the scene from the narrator’s POV and allow internalization in one or both character’s minds when needed. 

Purpose

Authors create stories, narrators tell stories, and characters act out and feel in stories.  This assignment is designed to force you to work in different points of view remembering that when you’re writing in a POV, the narrator, or the characters, are acting in their own story worlds.  Each POV is coming from different experiences, attitudes, and knowledge of their own (story) worlds.  This is important especially when the story narrator is telling the story (and every story has a narrator, even in first person).  When in a character’s POV, it weakens the story to have the writing reflect ideation, experience, or memories from another story-world perspective.  For example, if in a nurse’s point of view, it is not effective to have her act or think like a sailor, or like a narrator who might be telling the story from a physical, or psychic distance from the story present.  And for best storytelling and writing, the author must keep his or her world out of the story, the story has its own integrity for credibility and clarity, and authors using the story for their own thoughts and ideas, (even thought they are creating the story) ruptures a story’s effectiveness (that’s memoir). 

This limited scene will also demand succinct prose writing, require definition of purpose for the scene (why is it in the story and what does it do, the story you as the writer will have imagined?), call for logical association of the ideas and appropriate delivery of story-significant information.  The tendency is to do too much in the scene, and not to maintain scene development on one a few story-goals.

Preparation

These links may help:

Dialogue 1

Dialogue 2

Drama

Conflict

Narration

Emotional Complexity

Submit your work for comments, if desired.  Look forward to seeing your talents and skills.

 


   Work submissions for Assignment 8:  Writing a scene from different points of view

Assignment #8 POV

Narrator’s Voice

For as long as Professor Joseph Nordberg’s grandchildren could remember, Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic V-J day photograph, “The “Kissing Sailor” hung in their grandfather’s paneled den among gilt-edged diplomas, law degrees, awards, plaques, and photographs of the Professor smiling beside dignitaries and diplomats.

“Are you the sailor kissing that nurse, Grandfather?” asked his youngest grandson, Joe-Joe.

“Goodness, no, Joe-Joe. That sailor isn’t your grandfather. He never served in the military.” Mrs. Nordberg shifted papers cluttering her husband’s desk. “Pastrami on rye, Joseph,” she said and set down the tray. “Your favorite.”

“Is that sailor kissing you, Grandmother?”

“Heavens forbid I should be so brazen,” Mrs. Nordberg said. “I don’t know why you keep that picture, Joseph.”

Professor Nordberg took off his wire-frame eyeglasses and polished the thick lenses on the sleeve of his white shirt. “No, Joe-Joe. The identities of the sailor and the nurse he’s kissing are unknown. Part of the photograph’s mystic.”

“Then did you take that picture, Grandfather?”

“Not with your Grandfather’s poor eyesight.Blind as a bat, he is.” Mrs. Nordberg inched the tray closer to her husband’s elbow. “Eat, Joseph.”

“That picture was taken by a famous Life Magazine photographer.” Professor Nordberg patted his knee. “Hop up, Joe-Joe.”

Mrs. Nordberg gripped her grandson’s shoulder. “Joe-Joe. Grandfather has work to do.”

“Now, Nina. I can spare a few minutes with the boy.”

“Why is he kissing that nurse in the middle of the street? With all those people staring?”

“People were in the streets celebrating. The Japanese had surrender. The war was over.” Professor Nordberg twisted the cap from the bottle of beer.

“V-J Day. Such excitement everywhere. We lived in New York City then. Come, darling, let Grandpapa work.”  Mrs. Nordberg put her hand in the middle of Joe-Joe’s back and shoved him towards the door.

#

“Take it down, Grandfather.” Professor Nordberg’s teenaged granddaughter pointed to the “Kissing Sailor” print hanging in her gradnfather’s den. “It’s been hanging up there for far too long.”

Professor Nordberg swiveled his leather chair, adjusted his eyeglasses, and squinted at the print.

“You don’t really see it, do you?”

“I see many things,” Joseph Nordberg said.

“That photograph depicts sexual assault.”

The Professor rubbed his chin. “Some are of that opinion.” His granddaughter’s argument–that the kiss was an aggressive sexual encounter and not a spontaneous romantic moment–had been bantered about by critics of the photograph. “However, young lady, you’re judging a past event by today’s standards.”

“Grandfather, be reasonable. Notice the sailor’s aggressive stance. The look at the nurse’s defensive pose. Her arched back. Her left arm, clutching her purse, so stiff and rigid. Is she enjoying the moment? That kiss?”

Professor Nordberg studied the picture on his wall. The sailor, in his dark uniform grappling the nurse in her white uniform formed a startling contrast of light and darkness, evil overtaking good.

“I’ll take it down,” he said.

Assignment #8

Part 2

Sailor’s Point of View

August 14, 1945

Three months earlier, two Japanese kamikaze planes attacked the USS Bunker Hill off the coast of Okinawa. George, a helmsman on the nearby USS The Sullivans, watched from the deck.

Heavy drinking couldn’t mask the images, the sounds, the terror George experienced watching the first suicide plane burrow into the flight deck and exploded: the billowing smoke, black and dense, roiling from the damaged ship; the screams of the injured and dying; the burned bodies he’d pulled from the Pacific Ocean.

George woke drenched in sweat. He yanked the bed sheet and wiped his neck and head. Chilled despite the warm August morning, his body shook. He wrapped up in his mother’s second-best chenille bedspread. “God, I need a drink,” he said.

George was on leave waiting orders to return to his ship.   America was preparing for the final assault of the war aaginst the Japanese.

He dangled his legs over the side of bed and pulled a flask from the nightstand drawer. Empty, damn it.” George flung the flask across the room. It hit the wall and clattered to the floor.

“George! What happened?”

“Shit.” George rubbed his head. “Ain’t nothing, Mom,” he said.

“Better hurry. Larry’s coming soon. Have you forgotten?”

George hadn’t forgotten. Not about a first date with the cute chick he’d recently met. His brother-in-law was driving him to Rita’s house.

Two tickets for Radio City Music Hall’s afternoon matinee were in his wallet.

His dark Navy uniform, cleaned and pressed, hung in the closet.

George walked to the shower humming an off-key version of “Got a Date with an Angel.”

#

George munched popcorn and inched his fingers along his date thigh. Rita was watching the movie screen and wiped a tear as actress Gene Tierney lamented her dead lover.

“It’s over! It’s over. Loud, excited shout and pounding on the theater doors startled the patrons. “What in hell?” George rdopped his popcorn, stood and looked around the darkened theater.

The movie screen flickered and went dark. The theater lights blazed. The loud speaker blared. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Japanese have surrendered. The war is over.”

“It’s over. It’s over.” George repeated the words again and again. He might have a future. He pulled Rita from her seat. They pushed through the crowd rushing to the exits.

“Let’s celebrate,” George said. “Childs Bar is just three blocks away.”

The bar was crowded and noisy; bartender poured drinks nonstop.

By the time the couple left the bar, George’s head throbbed.

Crossing Seventh Avenue at 44th Street, he spotted a woman in a nurse’s uniform–angels of mercy, the sailors had called them. She was watching the illuminated light bulbs on the Times Tower’s zipper sign: “V-J Day. V-Jay Day”.

George rushed towards the nurse. He spun her around, bent her backwards, and kissed her.

“Way to go,” said a passing sailor.

George released the nurse. He looked around for Rita. A foolish grin was on her face.

George took Rita’s hand and together they walked to the subway.

Assignment #8 part 3

The “Nurse”-Point of View

August 12, 1945

Shimmering heat waves danced on the sidewalk. The summer air vibrated with jubilant voices. Times Square teemed with New Yorkers celebrating the ending of the war. Japan had surrendered.

Greta stood at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 44th Street. The young dental assistant’s heart beat wildly.

Did that really happen to me? Greta watched the sailor who just assaulted her turn and walk away.

With trembling fingers, Greta straightened her mussed, white uniform and pushed hair clip in a drooping coil of shiny, dark hair.

She rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand.

#

Greta returned to the dentist’s office on Lexington Avenue.

“We’re closing the office for the day, Greta,” said the dentist. “Cancel our appointments and go home.”

Greta unlocked the door to the cold-water flat. Her sisters weren’t home. She put a pan of water on the stove, gathered towels and soap, and pulled off her uniform.

Greta washed and dressed quickly—-her sisters might arrive at any moment—-and put the kettle on the stove. A cup of tea should settle my nerves, she thought.

Both sisters would scoff if she told them what had happened. “So much fuss over a kiss from a stranger celebrating the end of the war.”

Greta put a scant half-teaspoon of sugar in her cup—-sugar rations had been sharply reduced in May—and was sipping tea when her sisters arrived.

“Such excitement in Times Square,” May said.

Greta nodded. “A great day for America,” she said and forced a smile.

#

Greta submerged the memories of the sailor’s large hands holding her in a vice-like grip, of his strong arms wrapped around her. Of being tilted backwards, and kissed full on the lips.

The incident was an unimportant event in a momentous time.

Part Two

June 10, 2013

The makeup artist deftly arranged Greta’s cap of dark, silver-streaked hair.

“Ready in two, Lucille,” called a voice.

The television hostess, blond, bright-eyed, smiled into the camera. A photograph of the “Kissing Sailor” flashed on the television monitor.

“Here today is the woman positively identified as the woman in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photograph.”

Greta smiled, a shy, warm smile. “Thank you for having me, Lucille.”

“When did you first see the photograph?”

“I was leafing through Eisenstaedt’s book. It happened so many years ago. A forgotten incident.” Greta’s hand brushed across her lips.

 “What convinced you that you were the woman in the picture?”

“It was my figure. My hairdo. And the white nylon stockings. I prided myself, you know, on keeping the seams straight. I also recognized my tapestry purse.”

“The sailor has been positively identified,”Lucille said. You and he were reunited last year by CBS news. But you and George,the sailor in the picture, didn’t reenact the famous kiss, did you?”

Greta hadn’t kissed anyone for a long time after George’s assault. Not the dentist’s son. Not that nice, cross-eyed law student attending Brooklyn Law School.

“No,” Greta said,” I didn’t kiss George.”

Instructor Response

Assignment #8 POV

Narrator’s Voice

For as long as Professor Joseph Nordberg’s grandchildren could remember, Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic V-J day photograph, “The “Kissing Sailor” hung in their grandfather’s paneled den among gilt-edged diplomas, law degrees, awards, plaques, and photographs of the Professor smiling beside dignitaries and diplomats. Well done. Writing flows well.

“Are you the sailor kissing that nurse, Grandfather?” asked his youngest grandson, Joe-Joe.

“Goodness, no, Joe-Joe. That sailor isn’t your grandfather. He never served in the military.” Mrs. Nordberg shifted papers cluttering her husband’s desk. “Pastrami on rye, Joseph,” she said and set down the tray. “Your favorite.”

“Is that sailor kissing you, Grandmother?”

“Heavens forbid I should be so brazen,” Mrs. Nordberg said. “I don’t know why you keep that picture, Joseph.”

Professor Nordberg took off his wire-frame eyeglasses and polished the thick lenses on the sleeve of his white shirt. “No, Joe-Joe. The identities of the sailor and the nurse he’s kissing are unknown. Part of the photograph’s mystic.”

“Then did you take that picture, Grandfather?”

“Not with your Grandfather’s poor eyesight.Blind as a bat, he is.” Mrs. Nordberg inched the tray closer to her husband’s elbow. “Eat, Joseph.”

“That picture was taken by a famous Life Magazine photographer.” Professor Nordberg patted his knee. “Hop up, Joe-Joe.”

Mrs. Nordberg gripped her grandson’s shoulder. “Joe-Joe. Grandfather has work to do.”

“Now, Nina. I can spare a few minutes with the boy.”

“Why is he kissing that nurse in the middle of the street? With all those people staring?”

“People were in the streets celebrating. The Japanese had surrender. The war was over.” Professor Nordberg twisted the cap from the bottle of beer.

“V-J Day. Such excitement everywhere. We lived in New York City then. Come, darling, let Grandpapa work.”  Mrs. Nordberg put her hand in the middle of Joe-Joe’s back and shoved him towards the door. Just great. You are really doing well!

#

“Take it down, Grandfather.” Professor Nordberg’s teenaged granddaughter pointed to the “Kissing Sailor” print hanging in her gradnfather’s den. “It’s been hanging up there for far too long.”

Professor Nordberg swiveled his leather chair, adjusted his eyeglasses, and squinted at the print.

“You don’t really see it, do you?”

“I see many things,” Joseph Nordberg said.

“That photograph depicts sexual assault.”

The Professor rubbed his chin. “Some are of that opinion.” His granddaughter’s argument–that the kiss was an aggressive sexual encounter and not a spontaneous romantic moment–had been bantered about by critics of the photograph. “However, young lady, you’re judging a past event by today’s standards.”

“Grandfather, be reasonable. Notice the sailor’s aggressive stance. The look at the nurse’s defensive pose. Her arched back. Her left arm, clutching her purse, so stiff and rigid. Is she enjoying the moment? That kiss?”

Professor Nordberg studied the picture on his wall. The sailor, in his dark uniform grappling the nurse in her white uniform formed a startling contrast of light and darkness, evil overtaking good.

“I’ll take it down,” he said.

Well done. And you made a scene with significance with in a section of good writing and good storytelling.

Assignment #8

Part 2

Sailor’s Point of View

August 14, 1945

Three months earlier, two Japanese kamikaze planes attacked the USS Bunker Hill off the coast of Okinawa.  George, a helmsman on the nearby USS The Sullivans, watched from the deck.

Heavy drinking couldn’t mask the images, the sounds, the terror George experienced watching the first suicide plane burrow into the flight deck and exploded: the billowing smoke, black and dense, roiling from the damaged ship; the screams of the injured and dying; the burned bodies he’d pulled from the Pacific Ocean. All good, Cathryn.

George woke drenched in sweat. He yanked the bed sheet and wiped his neck and head. Chilled despite the warm August morning, his body shook. He wrapped up in his mother’s second-best chenille bedspread. “God, I need a drink,” he said.

George was on leave waiting orders to return to his ship.   America was preparing for the final assault of the war aaginst the Japanese.  Put this somewhere else. It interrupts the very effective flow you’ve created for the story.

He dangled his legs over the side of bed and pulled a flask from the nightstand drawer. Empty, damn it.” George flung the flask across the room. It hit the wall and clattered to the floor.

“George! What happened?”

“Shit.” George rubbed his head. “Ain’t nothing, Mom,” he said.

“Better hurry. Larry’s coming soon. Have you forgotten?”

George hadn’t forgotten. Not about a first date with the cute chick he’d recently met. His brother-in-law was driving him to Rita’s house.

Two tickets for Radio City Music Hall’s afternoon matinee were in his wallet.

His dark Navy uniform, cleaned and pressed, hung in the closet.

George walked to the shower humming an off-key version of “Got a Date with an Angel.”

#

George munched popcorn and inched his fingers along his date’s thigh. Rita was watching the movie screen and wiped a tear as actress Gene Tierney lamented her dead lover.

“It’s over! It’s over. Loud, excited shout and pounding on the theater doors startled the patrons. “What in hell?” George rdopped his popcorn, stood and looked around the darkened theater.

The movie screen flickered and went dark. The theater lights blazed. The loud speaker blared. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Japanese have surrendered. The war is over.”

“It’s over. It’s over.” George repeated the words again and again. He might have a future. He pulled Rita from her seat. They pushed through the crowd rushing to the exits.

“Let’s celebrate,” George said. “Childs Bar is just three blocks away.”

The bar was crowded and noisy; bartender poured drinks nonstop.

By the time the couple left the bar, George’s head throbbed.

Crossing Seventh Avenue at 44th Street, he spotted a woman in a nurse’s uniform–angels of mercy, the sailors had called them. She was watching the illuminated light bulbs on the Times Tower’s zipper sign: "V-J Day. V-Jay Day".    

George rushed towards the nurse. He spun her around, bent her backwards, and kissed her.

“Way to go,” said a passing sailor.

George released the nurse. He looked around for Rita. A foolish grin was on her face.

George took Rita’s hand and together they walked to the subway. Very nice.

Assignment #8 part 3

The “Nurse”-Point of View

August 12, 1945

Shimmering heat waves danced on the sidewalk. The summer air vibrated with jubilant voices. Times Square teemed with New Yorkers celebrating the ending of the war. Japan had surrendered.  Great.

Greta stood at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 44th Street. The young dental assistant’s Her heart beat wildly.  You’ve got the reader in the scene and introduce the character. When you use expository material here (like her occupation) you push the reader out of the story. It’s easily delivered below.

 Did that really happen to me? Greta watched the sailor who just assaulted her turn and walk away.

With trembling fingers, Greta straightened her mussed, white uniform and pushed hair clip in a drooping coil of shiny, dark hair.

She rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand.

#

Greta returned to her job at the dentist’s office on Lexington Avenue.

“We’re closing the office for the day, Greta,” said the dentist. “Cancel our appointments and go home.” This is awkward dialogue: too many words, something the dentist wouldn’t say in this way in this setting. What about: “Go home, Greta,” the dentist said. “Celebrate!”

Greta unlocked the door to the cold-water flat. Her sisters weren’t home. She put a pan of water on the stove, gathered towels and soap, and pulled off her uniform.

Greta washed and dressed quickly—-her sisters might arrive at any moment—-and put the kettle on the stove. A cup of tea should settle my nerves, she thought. Not needed.

 Both sisters would scoff if she told them what had happened. “So much fuss over a kiss from a stranger celebrating the end of the war.”

Greta put a scant half-teaspoon of sugar in her cup—-sugar rations had been sharply reduced in May—and was sipping sipped tea when her sisters arrived. Don’t interrupt with narrator thoughts unrelated to the immediate story. Avoid passive constructions.

“Such excitement in Times Square,” May said.

Greta nodded. “A great day for America,” she said and forced a smile. Good!

#

Greta submerged the memories of the sailor’s large hands holding her in a vice-like grip, of his strong arms wrapped around her. Of being tilted backwards, and kissed full on the lips.

The incident was an unimportant event in a momentous time.

Part Two

June 10, 2013

The makeup artist deftly arranged Greta’s cap of dark, silver-streaked hair.

“Ready in two, Lucille,” called a voice.

The television hostess, blond, bright-eyed, smiled into the camera. A photograph of the “Kissing Sailor” flashed on the television monitor.

“Here today is the woman positively identified as the woman in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photograph.”

Greta smiled, a shy, warm smile. “Thank you for having me, Lucille.”

“When did you first see the photograph?”

“I was leafing through Eisenstaedt’s book. It happened so many years ago. A forgotten incident.” Greta’s hand brushed across her lips.

“What convinced you that you were the woman in the picture?”

“It was my figure. My hairdo. And the white nylon stockings. I prided myself, you know, on keeping the seams straight. I also recognized my tapestry purse.”

“The sailor has been positively identified,"Lucille said. You and he were reunited last year by CBS news. But you and George,the sailor in the picture, didn’t reenact the famous kiss, did you?” Maybe let Greta say this information. And keep the narrative in scene?

Greta hadn’t kissed anyone for a long time after George’s assault. Not the dentist’s son. Not that nice, cross-eyed law student attending Brooklyn Law School.

“No,” Greta said,” I didn’t kiss George.”  Very nice.

The purpose of this exercise is to practice POV, but also to see how different the writing can be with different effect. You’ve demonstrated some imaginative uses here well. And thanks for the submission. WHC

  1. Dear Dr. Coles,
    Your suggestions, as usual, are appreciated, and I love the details on tightening a scene. More impact–and tied to the theme– to have Greta remark to the newswoman that she didn’t reenact the kiss with George.( Wonder if I will ever get to the point where I can see those errors in my writing?)

    Worried a lot about writing something clearly not expressed in the picture, but I have always thought “The Kissing Sailor” wasn’t a romantic moment based on posture and stance of the sailor and the nurse; so I did some research before writing this assignment.

    Thanks,
    Cathryn

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1.        

 

            Japan had just surrendered. Times Square was alive with revelers so I went there, still in my nursing uniform, to experience the celebration. A sailor, also in uniform, emerged from a sea of faces. He kissed me. Bent me over and kissed me full on the mouth. I resisted at first, thinking I was being assaulted. Then I realized he was celebrating. So I went with it.

            I felt as if everyone was watching. I grasped the edge of my skirt, pulled it down. I thought of my Bobby, who would never hold me again. I sighed, involuntarily, and embraced this sailor, kissed him back and tasted the whiskey on his breath. He had risked his life for our country just as my Bobby had.

            When he let me up, I looked around, embarrassed. I handful of people applauded. Caught up in the spirit of it, I waved at the audience, but deep inside I felt guilty. Bobby had died in battle just weeks ago.

            The sailor grinned at me. He looked persuasively handsome, jubilation in his face. He asked me to dinner. Why not, my shift was over and I had nowhere to go except to my lonely apartment. I smiled back and said yes. We rambled through the streets. He revealed a flask and offered it to me. I took a swig, and passed it back. He gulped several swallows. Then he regarded me with big brown eyes. That’s when he truly took me in his sights.

            Somehow, we found a quiet place. We sat in the back where it was nearly empty. We had a few drinks and a meal. I don’t remember what. He talked about Chicago, his hometown, and about his war experience. He wept when he spoke of buddies he had lost. I nearly wept too. He snapped out of it though, before it became a cry fest. “Let’s not talk about that,” he said. “Today we should be happy.”

            I told him a bit about myself, but I didn’t mention Bobby. He didn’t need that. I didn’t want him getting sentimental again.

            “Come with me to my hotel room,” he said. “I’m leaving for home tomorrow.”

            It felt good to be wanted. Suddenly, I needed him desperately. “Yes,” I said. “Yes.”

            The hotel was within walking distance. My anticipation heightened with each step through the lobby, up the elevator and down the hallway. He opened the door, standing aside to let me in. But I had second thoughts. I took his hand in mine and turned his wedding ring about on his finger. “If you wanted to cheat on your wife, you would have taken this off.”

            I retraced my steps, back through the hallway, my footfalls silenced by carpet. My feet seemed to linger, moving sluggishly, waiting for a call of protest, or a touch on my shoulder. It never came.

 

 

2.

            I was thinking of the nurse again, while my wife, Margaret, slept in the nook of my arm. It happened twenty years ago. The Japanese had just surrendered. On leave from the USS Jubilee, I must have been the only one on board that couldn’t get out the next day. I left my buddies at the tracks and resolved to celebrate. People were reveling in Times Square. In a fit of exhilaration, I started kissing women. Any unattended woman, old or young, short or tall, it didn’t matter. But when I kissed the nurse, I was thunderstruck by her avid response. She was persuasively beautiful in her white uniform, but a tinge of sorrow touched her eyes. I suppose we all had sorry tucked beneath the surface, but I had too much joy, at that moment, to consider it.

            Desiring company, I asked her to dinner. I led her through the crowd, and we shared my bourbon. I liked the way she knocked it back. I found a restaurant that wasn’t too crowded. We had a nice meal and a few drinks, probably too many, because I started talking about myself. How I’d seen my friends blown apart in front of my eyes. I embarrassed myself by crying. So I started talking about home, Chicago, but I didn’t mention Margaret, whom I had married just before signing up. I hadn’t seen her for three years. In fact, I’d barely seen any women in that time. This Nightingale before me was a gift from heaven. I asked her to spend the night with me. To my amazement, she agreed. I remember, she answered with a simple, enthusiastic “Yes.”

            But she changed her mind at my hotel door. It was my wedding ring. Maybe she didn’t notice it before. She took my hand and turned the ring about on my finger. “If you wanted to cheat on your wife, you would have taken this off,” she said. Then, she walked away.

            I wouldn’t remove that ring for nothing. Still, I wanted to call to her, “Come back.” I wanted to run to her, bring her back. But I did nothing. The feel of the ring, as she turned it about on my finger, lingered. It felt heavy, rooting me in my place. She disappeared around the hallway bend. I went to bed alone.

            She was right, of course. I’ve had many good years with Margaret and I expect many more. You might think that one night would not have changed anything. But it would have diminished me, and thus my relationship with Margaret.

            On nights when I can’t sleep, without any good reason, like this night, I think of her. I wonder what has become of her, and if I could have lived two lives, what might one with her been like.

            Margaret moaned softly. I kissed her forehead and turned over.

 

           

3

           

            V-J day unleashed a massive celebration on Times Square. The weight of a thousand atmospheres arose from people’s shoulders. And so it was for sailor Timothy Katzowski, Katz to his friends. All his buddies had already left for home, but today, every man on the square was his friend and every woman his sister, aunt, or grandmother. Dressed in full uniform, he started kissing women, an expression of his boundless joy. But when he kissed the nurse, he realized he wasn’t kissing his sister. No way.

            Registered Nurse, Dottie Hall went straight to Times Square after her shift at St. Joseph’s Hospital to quietly experience the merriment, absorb the warm vibrations of the crowd. Then Katz grabbed hold of her, bent her over and kissed her full on the mouth, disrupting her tranquility, thrusting her into a flurry of contrasting emotions. Fear, at first, and then embarrassment; people were watching. She tugged at the skirt of her uniform to keep it from riding up. He took her breath away. She surrendered to the kiss, kissed him back. From that moment, the day took on new possibility and new consequence.

            They wandered the streets together, looking for a restaurant. She drank some of his whisky. The V-J day celebration became a backdrop to mutual seduction. Call it a courtship to a one-night stand. Even a casual observer could see the magnetism between them.

            Note their behavior at a quiet table in the back of the restaurant they found. He holds a chair out for her. They share moments of intimate conversation. He can’t take his eyes away. She twists the end of her hair, demurely bats her eyes. He reaches across the table and touches her arm for a moment. Later, she does the same.

            They sauntered into his hotel lobby. Eyes followed them through the lobby with casual interest. This kind of thing was happening between many couples on this night. The conclusion seemed inevitable.

            But a counterbalancing force lay within each of them, a power less flamboyant than their sexual attraction, but present nevertheless. Dottie brought it to the forefront, testing her desire against her virtue. With Katz having opened the door to his room, a night of long absent pleasure a few short steps away, she took his hand and twisted his wedding ring about on his finger. “If you wanted to cheat on your wife, you would have taken this off,” she said. His eyes clouded over. She turned and walked away.

            He had tucked his wife into the depths of his mind, she, who he had thought of every day of the three years since he’d seen her, but now just one night away from their long-impossible reunion, he forgot her. He watched the nurse walk away. He went to bed alone. He silently thanked her.           

Instructor Response

1.        

 Terrific job, Russ.  It’s so well done, I’ve used this to make only some refining comments that I hope will he helpful.

            Japan had just surrendered. Times Square was alive with revelers so I went there, still in my nursing uniform, to experience the celebration. A sailor, also in uniform, emerged from a sea of faces. He kissed me. Bent me over and kissed me full on the mouth. I resisted at first, thinking I was being assaulted. Then I realized This is awkward filtering through character that is not needed.  Reader knows she is narrating.  Removal makes the prose sharper.  He was celebrating. So I went with it.  This is a phrase that seems out of a young woman’s vocabulary.  It seems masculine slang.  It detracts from an accurate voice, and from credibility of point of view.  You’re inside a woman’s head.  Think like a woman (not easy for men, admittedly, but you have the ability).

            I felt as if everyone was watching. I grasped this is subtle, but check word choice here.  Consider “grip”, which has a slightly different meaning.  See if it’s closer to what you want.  the edge of my skirt, pulled it down. I thought of my Bobby, who would never hold me again. I sighed, involuntarily, and embraced this sailor, kissed him back and tasted the whiskey on his breath. He had risked his life for our country just as my Bobby had.

            When he let me up, I looked around, embarrassed. I handful of people applauded. Caught up in the spirit of it, I waved at the audience, but deep inside I felt guilty. Great stuff!  Like the way you’ve kept the emotional arcs moving and desires up front.  Bobby had died in battle just weeks ago.

            The sailor grinned at me. He looked persuasively handsome, jubilation in his face. He asked me to dinner. Why not, my shift was over and I had nowhere to go except to my lonely apartment. I smiled back and said yes. We rambled through the streets. He revealed a flask and offered it to me. I took a swig, and passed it back. He gulped several swallows. Then he regarded me with big brown eyes. That’s when he truly took me in his sights.

            Somehow, we found a quiet place. We sat in the back where it was nearly empty. We had a few drinks and a meal. I don’t remember what. He talked about Chicago, his hometown, and about his war experience. He wept when he spoke of buddies he had lost. I nearly wept too. He snapped out of it though, before it became a cry fest. “Let’s not talk about that,” he said. “Today we should be happy.”

            I told him a bit about myself, but I didn’t mention Bobby. He didn’t need that. I didn’t want him getting sentimental again.

            “Come with me to my hotel room,” he said. “I’m leaving for home tomorrow.”

            It felt good to be wanted. Suddenly, I needed him desperately. “Yes,” I said. “Yes.”

            The hotel was within walking distance. My anticipation heightened with each step through the lobby, up the elevator and down the hallway. He opened the door, standing aside to let me in. But I had second thoughts. I took his hand in mine and turned his wedding ring about on his finger. “If you wanted to cheat on your wife, you would have taken this off.”

            I retraced my steps, back through the hallway, my footfalls silenced by carpet. My feet seemed to “seem” is often a very necessary word but it is way over used and here works against you.  “My feet lingered . . .” is what is needed, isn’t it?  It’s stronger not to use seem, and also tighter prose.  “Seem” makes things less assertive, less forceful.  Avoid when not absolutely necessary.  linger, moving sluggishly, waiting for a call of protest, or a touch on my shoulder. It never came.

 

 

2.

            I was thinking of the nurse again, while my wife, Margaret, slept in the nook of my arm. It happened twenty years ago. The Japanese had just surrendered. On leave from the USS Jubilee, I must have been the only one on board that couldn’t get out the next day. I left my buddies at the tracks and resolved to celebrate. People were reveling in Times Square. In a fit of exhilaration, I started kissing women. Any unattended woman, old or young, short or tall, it didn’t matter. But when I kissed the nurse, I was thunderstruck by her avid response. She was persuasively beautiful in her white uniform, but a tinge of sorrow touched her eyes. Great. I suppose we all had sorry tucked beneath the surface, but I had too much joy, at that moment, to consider it.

            Desiring company, I asked her to dinner. I led her through the crowd, and we shared my bourbon. I liked the way she knocked it back. This is great voice—male, cocky, appropriate for character.  I found a restaurant that wasn’t too crowded. We had a nice meal and a few drinks, probably too many, because I started talking about myself. How I’d seen my friends blown apart in front of my eyes. I embarrassed myself by crying. So I started talking about home, Chicago, but I didn’t mention Margaret, whom I had married just before signing up. I hadn’t seen her for three years. In fact, I’d barely seen any women in that time. This Nightingale before me was a gift from heaven. I asked her to spend the night with me. To my amazement, she agreed. I remember, she answered with a simple, enthusiastic “Yes.”  Very nice!

            But she changed her mind at my hotel door. It was my wedding ring. Maybe she didn’t notice it before. She took my hand and turned the ring about on my finger. “If you wanted to cheat on your wife, you would have taken this off,” she said. Then, she walked away.

            I wouldn’t remove that ring for nothing.  The double negative here is a little out of the sphere of the rather erudite voice up to this point.  Consider consistency in voice here.  Still, I wanted to call to her, “Come back.” I wanted to run to her, bring her back. But I did nothing. The feel of the ring, as she turned it about on my finger, lingered. It felt heavy, rooting me in my place. She disappeared around the hallway bend. I went to bed alone.

            She was right, of course. I’ve had many good years with Margaret and I expect many more. You might think that one night would not have changed anything. But it would have diminished me, and thus my relationship with Margaret. Yes.

            On nights when I can’t sleep, without any good reason, like this night, I think of her. Who?  Always be sure when you use a pronoun the antecedent is unquestionably clear.  Nurse or Margaret?  You need to tell reader.  I wonder what has become of her, and if I could have lived two lives, what might one with her been like.

            Margaret moaned softly. I kissed her forehead and turned over.  Nice!

 

           

3

           

            V-J day unleashed a massive celebration on Times Square. The weight of a thousand atmospheres arose from people’s shoulders. And so it was for sailor Timothy Katzowski, Katz to his friends. All his buddies had already left for home, but today, every man on the square was his friend and every woman his sister, aunt, or grandmother. Dressed in full uniform, he started kissing women, an expression of his boundless joy. But when he kissed the nurse, he realized he wasn’t kissing his sister. No way.

            Registered Nurse, Dottie Hall went straight to Times Square after her shift at St. Joseph’s Hospital to quietly experience the merriment, absorb the warm vibrations of the crowd.  Just to compliment on you nice exposition gently and effective immersed here.  Good storytelling!  Then Katz grabbed hold of her, bent her over and kissed her full on the mouth, disrupting her tranquility, thrusting her into a flurry of contrasting emotions. Fear, at first, and then embarrassment; people were watching. She tugged at the skirt of her uniform to keep it from riding up. He took her breath away. She surrendered to the kiss, kissed him back. From that moment, the day took on new possibility and new consequence.

            They wandered the streets together, looking for a restaurant. She drank some of his whisky. The V-J day celebration became a backdrop to mutual seduction. Call it a courtship to a one-night stand. Even a casual observer could see the magnetism between them.  Yes!

            Note their behavior at a quiet table in the back of the restaurant they found. He holds a chair out for her. They share moments of intimate conversation. He can’t take his eyes away. She twists the end of her hair, demurely bats her eyes. He reaches across the table and touches her arm for a moment. Later, she does the same. Yes!

            They sauntered into his hotel lobby. Eyes followed them through the lobby with casual interest. This kind of thing was happening between many couples on this night. The conclusion seemed inevitable.

            But a counterbalancing force lay within each of them, a power less flamboyant than their sexual attraction, but present nevertheless. Dottie brought it to the forefront, testing her desire against her virtue. With Katz having opened the door to his room, a night of long absent pleasure a few short steps away, she took his hand and twisted his wedding ring about on his finger. “If you wanted to cheat on your wife, you would have taken this off,” she said. His eyes clouded over. She turned and walked away.

            He had tucked his wife into the depths of his mind, she, who he had thought of every day of the three years since he’d seen her, but now just one night away from their long-impossible reunion, he forgot her. He watched the nurse walk away. He went to bed alone. He silently thanked her.     Perfect.

 

You’ve demonstrated well the use of points of view.  And you’ve embellished the individual advantages of each point of view creating a different story with different presentation and understanding in each point of view.  Personally, I see advantages to each of the three stories you crated, advantages that effectively have different effects on a reader.  So I’m suggesting, when doing a novel or any longer work of fiction, go against the norms of rigid adherence to a single point of view to enhance understanding and meaning of theme.  Always consider choice of the best point of view for what you want to achieve.  Also, just a reminder, when in scene, keep in control of the point of view.  Almost all contemporary writers slip from narrator into character (and occasionally an irritating authorial point of view) totally out of control with detrimental effects.  It usually unnecessarily weakens prose and storytelling.  But not when writer is in control.  Viriginia Woolf slipped around in different points of view in the same paragraph, sentence even.  For her, it was effective and a brilliant performance.  [Mrs. Dalloway.]

 

  1. Thanks for your comments. Exploring the same scene from different POVs fascinates me. I easily get lost in it if I’m not careful. However, I’ve always shied away from changing POV within the same scene. It usually seems too confusing.

    • You’re absolutely right about the confusion. It might help to think of dialogue among characters as actually a change in point of view in scene in a certain way. What a character is saying is coming from his or her unique point of view and usually works best if what is being said emanates in a recognizable character voice. In narrative it’s a little different, there is a slip, or at least muddy origin, of point of view by unclear context, pronoun usage, consistency, logic, word choice, ideation, syntax, credibility, etc. In most contemporary fiction, every character is really just the author acting as themselves behind a rubber character mask. (Really, would stage drama be any good if that was a modus operandi?) Today’s teaching is: if it flows, so what? But for an author not to think about complexity of point of view in story often misses opportunities for characterization (and credibility for motivations in the plot) and a story doesn’t reach the fiction potential possible. I sense you’re beginning to do this without analyzing it, which is the way it is for a good writer. Best regards, Bill

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NURSES POV

When Mr Mullins proposed, I burst into tears. I was only eighteen. He had his call-up papers in his pocket.

“You won’t forget me, will you?” I asked.

“Don’t be a dolt,” he said.

We bought an engagement ring from a little market stall; a silly cheap thing, but it meant the world to me. He said we’d be married as soon as he got back.

He was away two years in all, serving Queen and Country. I wrote to him every week. He couldn’t write so often but he signed every letter “with love”.

And at long last he came home.

I was waiting for him on the High Street, just as we’d arranged. His train was due at three. I’d come straight from the hospital in my uniform and my hair kept slipping out of its pins. Every blond head made my heart jump. What if I didn’t recognise him? I checked my watch again and again; the town clock struck the quarter hour.

Then there he was in his blue sailor suit, striding up through the crowd. He was so handsome, my Mr Mullins. But I felt so shy of him there in the street. We stood like strangers. He seemed taller, darker, and the look in his eye was so peculiar. He’d grown stubble on his chin.

“Hello, Betty,” he said.

I wanted to take him to the tearoom and talk and talk, to chase away that awful shyness. But he dropped his bag to the ground, and it all happened before I could stop him. He grasped me round the waist and bent me backwards, pressing me down with his shoulder. I caught a musky, spicy scent and then his lips were on mine and something else too, wet and pushing against my teeth.

I twisted out of his arms and ran. I didn’t know what else to do.

That evening it all came out over the dinner table. Mother’s neck flushed and her lips went thin. After that, it was no good. I told Mr Mullins I couldn’t marry him.

Mother said it was a lucky escape. She said he’d turned to drink since coming home, and to other unmentionables. I later met another nice young man who liked to chat in the tearooms. But it wasn’t the same.

In the summer heat, I tossed and turned against the bedclothes. I smelled that scent again, musty, spicy. I tried to forget him, and I doused the back of my neck with cold water. But into all my dreams came Mr Mullins’ kiss, taken there in the middle of the street, with all the world watching…

 

SAILOR’S POV

I got home summer of ’44. The heat was something else. My train was due in at three and I was dog-tired. The straps of my kit-bad had worn a blister on my shoulder and I hadn’t shaved for a fortnight.

At the station people were swarming everywhere. I pushed my way through and headed for the High Street. I knew she’d be waiting. She’d written me every week.

Betty.

She was a nurse now she’d said. Well, she always had a soft side. She had cried when I asked her to marry me.

“You won’t forget me, will you?” she said. I had my call-up papers in my pocket.

I just laughed. What a dolt, I said.

I came up just as the town clock struck the quarter hour. What a picture she was: the cap, the hair pins. She weren’t no little girl anymore, that was for sure.

She looked at me with those big blue eyes.

“Hello, Danny,” she said.

Her face was like one huge question mark. But she didn’t need to hear what I’d been through these last two years. We’d get married now and put it all behind us.

We stood there in the street. God she looked so damn clean in that nurse’s uniform. I thought of the legs and arms I’d seen, blown off like bits of tree branch, and the men they belonged to crawling about on their faces.

I grabbed her and bent her backwards, and kissed her hard on the lips. I could feel her twisting under me as I pushed my tongue against her teeth. I don’t know why I did it. I guess I just needed some of that whiteness to rub off.

A week later she to wrote to say she couldn’t marry me after all. She sent back the little ring I’d bought her. I reckon that’s what hurt the most.

The nightmares got worse. I tried drinking and dance-halls and other girls. But none of it worked. In the heat of the nights, I’d stare at the ceiling and think of Betty. But I knew she wouldn’t be thinking of me.

 

NARRATOR’S POV

Well, in the end Miss Sinclair and Mr Mullins did not get married. You must have heard why: it was the talk of the town.

On that Thursday afternoon, Betty Sinclair was waiting on the High Street outside Morley’s, just as she and Mr Mullins had agreed. She was terribly nervous, checking her little watch and rearranging her hair pins. Would she even recognise him, she wondered? It was so long since they’d said goodbye.

Mr Mullins had proposed two years ago with his call-up papers in his pocket.

“You won’t forget me, will you?” she’d asked, dabbing her eyes.

He laughed and called her a dolt.

They bought an engagement ring from a little market stall; a silly cheap thing it was, but she was over the moon. He left a few days later, sailing away to serve Queen and Country. Betty wrote to him every week. He replied when he could and dutifully signed off his letters ‘with love’. Now he was coming home.

The town clock struck the quarter hour, and at last he came striding up through the crowds. What a pair they made, he in his sailor’s uniform and she in her starched nurse’s outfit. Quite the picture, if it weren’t for what happened next.

There they stood, hardly knowing what to say. She supposed they would go and have tea together – something ordinary like that.  But he had something else on his mind entirely. And before you could say “Jack Robinson” he’d grabbed her round the waist and tipped her over backwards.

He kissed her full on the mouth, right there in the middle of the street. 

Betty was mortified, and rightly so. Mr Mullins had always been such a nice young man.

Breaking down at the supper table that evening, she told her mother everything. Mrs Sinclair flushed and pronounced such behaviour disrespectful to say the least. Not long after, the engagement was called off.

It was probably for the best. Mr Mullins was rumoured to have taken to drink since his return; and to other pastimes better not mentioned.

But as peace-time dragged on, Betty feared she had been too hasty. She tossed and turned through the summer nights and thought again and again of that passionate kiss, in the middle of the street, with all the world watching…

Instructor Response

You deserve nothing but praise for work well done. You’ve captured the essence of point of view. Your style adjusts to each POV. You are writing from within each point of view with credibility and great effectiveness.

Particularly commendable is the narrator. The narrator has a distinct voice and a specific time period, later than the action but still identifiable as unique. Great! Most beginners would write that narrator as if the author is speaking through him or her. In general, of course, that is ineffective although the intuitive way to write. You have the gift to make the narrator work for your story without authorial intrusion; be sure to use it consciously whenever it suits your story and purpose; it will continue to make your writing special.

Your work also points out the different effects that can be attained when switching point of views. How characterization changes. And how value judgments about what a reader likes changes, usually unique for each reader. For me, the pain seemed heightened in Betty’s POV. I was drawn in more and my emotional response was heightened. Perfect, especially if this is meant to be Betty’s story, and Betty’s emotional arc is featured. But the other points of view serve other purposes well, depending on how the story is structured and for what purpose. Certainly Danny’s POV rounds out his characterization well, and the reader’s sympathy for a sailor, male, and some what detached from the encounter, is present but not as strong as with Betty. Again, perfect. As Danny’s story, the emotional valence is right for a male sailor, and the scene effective advances story plot.

The narrator point of view, I think, nicely emphasizes the morality complexities. It could be valuable in a number of different circumstances.

I hope the exercise was useful. You have demonstrated the use of point of view very well.

Thanks for contributing.

WHC

  1. Many thanks, WHC
    I did enjoy this exercise, and it also prompted me to go back to a story I wrote a while ago (about another Betty). I had fun with the narrator too – what a gossip she is!
    I am looking forward to the next exercise, as I am finding them extremely useful.

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