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’m only making 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 phrase seems out of a young woman’s vocabulary. It sounds like masculine slang and thus 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  necessary word, but it is way overused 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 a pronoun’s antecedent is unquestionably clear. Nurse or Margaret? 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 crafted, advantages that have different effects on a reader. So I’m suggesting, when doing a novel or any longer work of fiction, to 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) which is totally out of control, with detrimental effects. It usually unnecessarily weakens prose and storytelling. But not when the writer is in control. Virginia Woolf slipped around in different points of view in the same paragraph, even the same sentence (I’m thinking in particular of Mrs. Dalloway). For her, it was effective and a brilliant performance.

  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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