Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's all so different from this angle

It's time to change your frame of mind, and start thinking outside the box.
Most of us automatically write in the first person, which makes sense, it's how we view the world on a daily microcosmic level.
But every once and a while we see our selves as omnipotent observers, standing back and taking in things that others don't pick up on--dynamics going on around us.
Often I find I'm too swept up in my routine to really take a look from outside my narrow point of view.
It's a good idea to mix things up on the page as well.
I know I rarely use the third person, or omnipotent point of view, because often I feel it disconnects the reader. However, when done skillfully it can tell us things that our first person narrative wouldn't know, because they're trapped in their brain with all of their biases.
So, here's an idea, write about the same situation from two or three different points of view, first, second, or third person. Second person is the most challenging, speaking directly to "you" like in greeting cards, I've never tried it before, and I don't know if I'm ready yet, but I'll at least try first and third.

The play should have stayed on the page, I say to George as we rise from our seats and make our way to the lobby. I grab my coat to cover my wrinkled dress with the blue ink stain on the hem he said no one would notice but I know they will.
It's January so it's not so odd. George leaves me at the bathrooms and waits in the way too long line for a coffee the way he always does, without a goodbye, just parting ways like old chums.
I stare at my unfortunate reflection.
English professors aren't known for their waif-like movie star bodies. I had to borrow the green dress, as ratty as it is, from my old room-mate.
Tonight after the dreadful play I'm sure George will lean over his mocha-latte-frappa-something and tell me he's taking the internship after all and will be going to Europe. That's that. His tight lips tell me so.
He didn't reach for my hand during the first act, even to commiserate as the old aunt finally died and I know he heard me sigh at the contrived mess.
The women in the bathroom are impossible. I can't look at them, they make me ill with their attention to detail and high hem lines while they line their lips with war-paint.
George 's grey head sticks out from the crowd. He corals me towards the bar with his finger tips.
"You know Frederich from my work, he's the mastermind behind the new hotel downtown."
"Nice to see you Kathryn." Frederich says. He's a pathetic man with a mustache that should be cut off. But he doesn't have a wife to tell him so. He has no one to tell him so. In fact why have I never seen him with anyone?
"Enjoying the play?" I ask. The stains under his arms reach half way down his chest. He rubs his hands together nervously.
"Fifth row centre, perfect spot."
"Now, if only I could hear anything from the fifteenth row, that would be nice. you would think actors could project their voices. Although with the contrived dialogue, who would really want to hear it anyway, I mean really, I have nothing against little people, lesbians, sisters with mental disorders, and a dying aunt with a fortune, but on principle, do they all have to be packed into one play? I think George could barely keep his eyes open." I elbow him in the ribs. He inches away.
His bloodshot eyes getting wider, face flushing, as he stumbles to say something. Frederich shifts nervously from foot to foot.
"Kathryn is an English teacher, you know." says George.
"Yes, well, it's not every one's cup of tea I suppose." Says Frederich, looking nervously around him. Maybe he does have a date.
"I don't know how it got into this year's line-up, especially since the play-write is a virtual unknown, who was it- Harry Norton, Norman, or something? " I say.
"Yes it's Norman. Harry. Well really I think it speaks to the inner struggle of us all seeking out perfection in this capitalistic world." Frederich's devotion to the play is surprising. He wipes his brow with the back of his hand.
"Completely agree Frederich, come on Kathryn, I see Frank over there, he's almost through to the front of the line, maybe he can order us a couple of glasses of Chardonnay, come on." George grabs my arm.
"What is your problem?"
"You never know when to stop do you? And why are you wearing that coat, it's like thirty degrees in here?"
"You know what, go enjoy this wretched play without me. And I'll save you the trouble and pack up your things tonight so you won't have to skulk back in when I'm gone."
The burst of cold air relieves the anger from my pours. But it also makes me recall I have forgotten my scarf and mittens, both sitting in my purse, hidden carefully out of sight under the seat.

"Rebecca was a little quick with her last line, I think she should have let it breath a little, let the audience really wait for it, what do you think Frederich?"
"Sounded great to me, why don't you go get us some coffees?"
"And the sound cue was about two seconds too late at that last exit, I should make a note of that. I don't care if Dominique yells at me again, I want it to be perfect, he can't expect me not to take an interest. I was just so nervous tonight, I mean, they've been rehearsing for a month, but really, It never really sunk in until the curtain came down, and I was like, that was my play, it really was. It's just so amazing." Harry leans in to kiss Frederich on the cheek, but he turns and begins to walk the opposite way down the isle.
He thought Frederich was finally okay with everything.
While Harry helped pick out Frederich's tie earlier that evening, the brown one with the yellow stripe, it occurred to him that this was a new beginning for the both of them.
He has even made room in the bathroom cabinet. But now Frederich is just as distant as he was before. Harry scans the faces of people leaving the theatre. The Shaws, the Wellingtons, and Harringtons. Too many people Frederich knows. Harry recalls what Frederich told him before, about men of a certain age having a harder time with relationships than young ones of twenty five. He will help Frederich move past these jitters.
Harry loves theatre lobbies, especially from the second level. He stares down at the swarms of people, like little bees, congretating in groups, travelling in swarms, mapping their journeys to and from the bathroom, to the bars. Clinking glasses in dramatic tight theatre dresses and fur covered shoulders. Girls in fifties style pink dresses and orange or green hair. Men in corduroy jackets and ties, with that 'I just got out of bed' hair. The same hair Harry is sporting, that cost him 38 dollars out of a jar.
Ah, the theatre, Harry mutters to himself. Everyone wanting to look like they just threw something on, and didn't have to work for it. Just naturally exuberant and sexy.
And they are all here to see his play. His masterpiece.
Frederich has stopped to talk to a silver haired man. Harry doesn't recognize him. An unfortunate looking woman stands beside the man, wearing her camel hair coat. Her back is to him, but he can tell she's homely by the way she slouches. No attractive woman slouches.
Harry plans to take Frederich out for an expensive dinner as a thank you. It was all Frederich and his family connections that made this happen. Harry makes no apologies for it. He encourages it. And though Frederich had never been comfortable with the idea, he never said no.
When Harry had casually mentioned the play to him last year over Chinese food, Frederich said he'd see what he could do.
The theatre's artistic director called Harry Norman a fresh and biting play write. Someone who pushes the boundaries. It was what they had been looking for, an injection of young blood.
Harry knew Frederich must have greased a few palms in the process.
His skeptical friend Joanna told him Frederich was one of the biggest silent benefactors of the theatre. But Joanna was just jealous because her one-woman show was recently turned down at a much smaller theatre. The world wasn't ready for a crazy woman who pissed on stage, and stapled words to her chest.
Frederich looks up to the second floor, and finds Harry leaning on the banister, as though he knows exactly where a play write might stand and observe his admirers.
Harry sees him and waves.
Frederich pretends not to notice.
He feels himself sweating too much.
He realizes he's made a mistake. He never should have given Robert the play to look at. He knew it was as good as a sealed deal, Robert wouldn't turn it down. That's the way things were. When Frederich suggested the wait to the bar was too long, the next month, a second one was built.
Robert adores Frederich's pocket book, and Frederich adores Robert's lobster buffet breakfasts and summer home in Gimli. But now Harry is in the mix. Poor defenseless beautiful Harry, with dreams of being famous.
Frederich doesn't want to see the newspaper tomorrow. Genevieve is reviewing. She is ruthless. Frederich saw her earlier with a sour look on her face, scribbling madly with her little yellow pencil, while she leaned against the wall. Frederich had to curb the urge to introduce himself, try to intercede, step in as the gallant man Harry thought he was. But it was too late. The mutterings of a dissatisfied and confused audience are rumbling around him. He is a maestro gone mad, standing amidst his own dysfunctional orchestra.
A middle aged balding man with sweat stains, and the love of a man he doesn't deserve. He is in over his head.
The play can't be saved. It didn't deserve to be saved. A still birth.
The insipid woman with the fleck of green in her teeth is right. It's a mess, and all he can parrot back is the press release he wrote himself.
Now he will have to deal with the aftermath of his own greed, Harry's heartbreak, and it's all his fault.
Harry waves. Frederich looks away. He can't face those hopeful eyes. Not when he knows twenty years of resentment is waiting for him over the threshold, when Harry's delusional ambition is exposed and he has nothing to cling to. A drinking problem will surface. So will many boys with self-esteem problems. He'll move to Toronto, naturally, where he'll disappear into the abyss of all the other attention starved want-to-bes and end up waiting tables somewhere. In his off time he'll mutter to himself, walking around with grease stained pants and a tattered notebook.
Frederich heads for the door, doesn't bother with his coat.

That worked well I think. I got a little carried away with the length, but when I get going sometimes it's hard to stop, so why bother? My computer doesn't mind, and I hope you don't either.
Happy writing!

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