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Attention Critics!

Postby beautiful liar » 8/4/2009, 7:05 pm

I would really appreciate some feedback. I am preparing a project application for a writing class - I need to prepare 30 pages worth of material from the novel I intend to write. It's due in 10 days. I'm stuck on a few things - but right now my major debate is whether I ought to leave it in 3rd person, or switch 1st person. Anyone willing to help . . . I will love you forever :D Criticisms, opinions, grammar corrections would all be welcome.

Working Title: Of Wyrms and Women

I sit on the subway, thinking of Wealhtheow. Whether or not Wealhtheow existed. Whether her name was a work of fiction. Hrothgar is a historical figure, as are his sons. But who was his wife? Was she Wealhtheow? Was she the peace-weaver?

The train jerks to a stop. The doors open, the off-key jingle clangs a second afterwards. Whose job is it to fix that? Is there a subway tuner who will adjust the chime to match the rest? I like to imagine him: an old man who began his career tuning pianos and switched to subways when he found it more lucrative. There is less competition in the field of subway-tuning, it being a somewhat maligned occupation in the world of professional instrument tuners. The doors close, and the warning chime sounds a few seconds late.

Reading the opening of Beowulf again led me to think that I am not welcome within the lines. This tradition does not belong to me at all: I am not a warrior, not a Geat or a Dane, not even Anglo-Saxon. This story about Denmark, written in England, is taught as part of the Great Western Heritage. Yet I feel disassociated from the collective consciousness, unwelcome. I picture Vikings as I read, but I don’t know if that’s really who I’m reading about. I was taking a class at the university for something to do, hoping perhaps to meet people, maybe make some friends. Instead, I was introduced to Beowulf, briefly. The instructor assumed that everyone had encountered him before. When the rest of the class moved on, I lingered on the epic, and stopped going to class. I had fallen in love.

The subway arrives at my stop, and I stride quickly out the door and across the platform towards the stairs. I emerge at street-level to find it has started to rain. Of course. I tuck Beowulf into my shirt—at least it won’t get soaked—and I start to jog towards my building. It’s not far, but I wish I had an umbrella, or a jacket, or really anything that would keep the water off. I turn the corner, and dash into my building. It’s an old, depressed building, with an ugly grey exterior and peeling paint in the hallways. The elevator license has been expired for about a year, but nobody seems to have done anything about it. As far as I know, few people have used the elevator over the past few years anyways, both because of the horrible clunking sound it tends to make and the way it doesn’t really line up with the floors when it stops. The stairs, at least, are level. And I’ve never known them to lurch the way the elevator does.

The building is only six stories high. I live on the fifth floor. The climb’s not too bad, but I’m out of breath by the time I reache the top. Fortunately, my door is the first one on the left. I let myself in, and carefully pull Beowulf out of my shirt. I examine the wet book. If I let it dry pressed underneath a heavier book it probably won’t even crinkle. I set it down on a table, and find a heavy textbook. Gently, I smooth Beowulf flat and place the unread A History of World Societies on top.
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Postby beautiful liar » 8/4/2009, 7:07 pm

Original 3rd person, for comparison:

Sam sits on the subway, thinking of Wealhtheow. Whether or not Wealhtheow existed. Whether her name was a work of fiction. Hrothgar is a historical figure, as are his sons. But who was his wife? Was she Wealhtheow? Was she the peace-weaver?

The train jerks to a stop. The doors open, the off-key jingle clangs a second afterwards. Sam wonders whose job it is to fix that: is there a subway tuner who will adjust the chime to match the rest? She would like to imagine so; she pictures him, an old man who began his career tuning pianos, and switched to subways when he found it more lucrative. There is less competition in the field of subway-tuning, it being a somewhat maligned occupation in the world of professional instrument tuners. The doors close, and immediately afterwards the warning chime sounds again, too late.

Reading the opening of Beowulf again led her to think that she is not welcome within the lines. This tradition does not belong to her at all: she is not male, not a warrior, not a Geat or a Dane, not even English. This story about Denmark, written in England, is not a part of her heritage. She feels excluded from the collective consciousness of the poem: she had not heard of the Spear-Danes before reading Beowulf, and did not know that the Geats were from Sweden until she looked it up online. She pictures Vikings when she reads, and is not sure how accurate this is. Sam was taking a class at the university for something to do, hoping perhaps to meet people, maybe make some friends. Instead, she was introduced to Beowulf, briefly. The instructor assumed that everyone had encountered him before. The rest of the class had moved on; Sam lingered on the epic, and stopped going to class. She had fallen in love.

The subway arrives at her stop, and she strides quickly out the door and across the platform towards the stairs. She emerges at street-level to find it has started to rain. Of course. She tucks Beowulf into her shirt—at least it won’t get soaked—and starts to jog towards her building. It’s not far, but she wishes she had an umbrella, or a jacket, or really anything that would keep the water off. Sam turns the corner, and dashes into her building. It’s an old, depressed building, with an ugly grey exterior and peeling paint in the hallways. The elevator license has been expired for about a year, but nobody seems to have done anything about it. As far as she knows, few people have used the elevator over the past few years anyways, both because of the horrible clunking sound it tends to make and the way it doesn’t really line up with the floors, so that you have to step up into it and down out of it. The stairs, at least, are level. And she’s never known them to lurch the way the elevator does.

The building is only six stories high. She lives on the fifth floor. The climb’s not too bad, but she’s out of breath by the time she reaches the top. Fortunately, her door is the first one on the left. She lets herself in, and carefully pulls Beowulf out of her shirt. She examines the book; it’s gotten wet, but not too badly. If she lets it dry pressed underneath a heavier book it probably won’t even crinkle. She sets it down on a table, and goes to find an appropriate tome. A heavy textbook should do the trick; she flattens Beowulf and gently places the unread A History of World Societies on top.
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Postby AnnieDreams » 8/5/2009, 4:38 am

I prefer 1st person when you're that much inside a person's head. It sounds more natural.
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Postby Kicker774 » 8/5/2009, 8:07 am

Brian finds the 1st person view more interesting even though from time to time Brian likes to talk in 3rd person.
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Postby beautiful liar » 8/5/2009, 11:32 am

:lol: thanks Annie & Brian. i've been leaning more and more towards 1st person the more I work on this story, but didn't know whether to trust that instinct.
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Postby Joe Cooler » 8/7/2009, 9:51 am

I know its probably late to chime in but either one works for me. I typically like third person better when I'm reading but I don't mind first person here. If I had to choose i'd go with third person but that reflects my preference rather than your writing. I quite liked the section about the subway tuner by the way.
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Postby beautiful liar » 8/7/2009, 12:51 pm

Thanks. Right now I'm re-writing as 1st person, and then I'll see which version works better with the overall plan. Either way there will be sections of 3rd person, so I have a feeling 1st person will demarcate the sections in a very precise sort of way. Here is a sample of the secondary plot:

She stood in front of her parents. Her hands clasped, her eyes cast downwards. Her bearded father reached for a small cloth bundle on the table beside him. He unwrapped it to reveal a shining torc of simple design.

“We thought it was time for you to have this,” her mother said.

“Wealhtheow, you’ll be going away soon.” Her father looked at her. She was young
and slender. He glanced at her mother, who was once also young and slender. Her gaze remained on Wealhtheow, unblinking.

“Yes, Father.”

Every warrior of the hall wore a torc similar to the one her father held. He had presented countless men with ornaments much finer. Unadorned Wealhtheow was no warrior; wore no treasure. Though the daughter of the king, she was just a daughter. The gold of the torc reflected in her eyes.

Her father had contracted her marriage, she knew. He would give her jewellery; she would display his wealth and power with fine gold.

Her brother entered, steaming from the rain outside. He had been learning to wield an axe from one of the weathered warriors. Seeing the torc, he approached their father.

“Whose is that?”

“It belonged to your Grandfather. It was won in battle from Onthrel the Swede.”

“May I see it?” Her brother took the torc and fastened it around his neck. Her father looked down at the boy.

“It is befitting of a young warrior.” He mused. He placed his calloused hand on the boy’s shoulder.

Wealhtheow’s face flashed as she fought for composure. She closed her eyes and regained herself. Her brother could have the heirloom. There would be others for her, newer and nicer, once she was wed. Wealhtheow stood straight, returned her face to its smiling docility.

Her mother watched her through half-lidded eyes.

* * *

Wealhtheow waited, as wives wait for warriors gone to war. Daily she walked to the shore, scanned the sea for ships. This was the third summer of their marriage. The third season of watching the waves. Waiting.
Her husband led the war-band. His father, called Halfdane, was growing old. When he died his son would lead the Shieldings. His son, Wealhtheow’s husband Hrothgar would rule the Shield-Danes. His song will be sung through centuries.

Wealhtheow turned and walked homewards.

Halfdane’s hall, though full, was small. A new one was needed. The Danes had been at war, winning for three generations. Their tribe had earned great renown. Her father knew of the rise of the Shieldings. He was a shrewd man; many of the other chieftains did not consider them a threat. The home of the Shieldings, after all, was far from their halls. Wealhtheow’s father was smarter. He knew war could be waged across water, and the ships of the Shieldings were strong. So he wedded his daughter to their prince, and she would weave peace between the tribes.

If she could. She remembered the lament of the exiled wife. The wife was far from her own people, living with her husband’s tribe. Her husband’s kinsmen did not approve of their marriage. They drew her husband into a feud, and he was provoked into committing a crime. He acted against his lord, wielding his weapon within the mead hall. So he was outcast, banished over the sea. His wife too suffered for his brash behaviour. She was bound to live apart from the tribe, alone in a forest. Forever separated from her husband. Her family too far to uphold her honour. Wealhtheow wondered how long the wife survived the sundering. To live in the forest without support was surely a certain doom.

Fate had been kind to Wealhtheow so far. She thanked the Norns for that. Her husband, still young, was earning his reputation as a ring-giver. He was as generous to Wealhtheow as he was to his warriors. He adorned her in gold. Like his warriors, she gave him loyalty. She served him as a wife should. Wealhtheow’s mother had told her that she must bind herself strongly to her husband’s people. Earn their trust and love. If she wanted to survive.
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