Thursday, January 09, 2014

Writing Examples - First Person Past Tense

So far, I've learned a few things about myself and my writing style. First, it is really hard for me to free-write without editing. I always knew that, but now it's obvious. I'm used to writing a first draft for school projects or college essays and just turning them in without re-writing or editing much at all. Generally, this is because I edit as I go. So, I will say that what I'm including as my examples of writing below are as "free write" as I can make myself be right now. The second thing I've learned is it's really hard to stick with writing in the first person past tense - I tend to want to throw in some present tense, and it gets really awkward. I'm hoping I was able to keep it all in the past tense, but feel free to comment if I'm incorrect!

I'm about halfway through my goals for this week. I still need a 30 minute block of free-writing practice for third-person past tense point of view focusing on character development.

Here is my work so far this week:

One paragraph free writes for both points of view:
  1. 1st person past tense:
    When I woke up that morning, it was dark out. I glanced over at the clock and saw that it was nearly 9am. Why was it still so dark? I pulled aside the lightweight curtains near my bedside window and looked out. The sky was deep gray, nearly black, and large snowflakes drifted slowly to the ground. Snowflakes? In May? I looked again, more closely, and eventually recognized that large pieces of ash were drifting down, even some burning embers, and a deep red glow lit the horizon.
  2.  Third person limited omniscience past tense:
    Jason watched the large pieces of ash drifting in the wind, and wondered what was happening. Could it be a volcano or a forest fire? He lived in the Midwest for crying out loud! What could be causing such a strange phenomenon? He saw that the wind was blowing the ash towards his house from the direction of the glow. Whatever was out there, was headed closer to him and everything he loved.
30 minutes of character development for Jason in first person past tense:

I stayed in bed for as many hours as I could stand, watching the hands of my watch tick past 1am, 2am, then 3am. The glow of the flames reflecting from the lake and the thick smell of smoke in the air kept me from nodding off. I glanced at my reflection, stopping to run my fingers over the dark circles under my eyes. Everything I ever cared about was in danger. How could I sleep at a time like this?

I knew in my head that the flames shouldn’t be able to cross the lake towards the house, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my animals. Could they breathe with all this smoke in the air? Did I do enough to try to get them out?

The fire had been burning for almost a week. At first, it was just a few hints of smoke, and didn’t even make the morning news. Then, my neighbors evacuated. A day later, the power lines burned. I was struggling through each day without any updates from the local news, relying on my own brainpower and limited brawn. The simplest of tasks took twice as long. Instead of a quick shower every day, I was now braving the nearest section of lake with a fragment of bar soap left over from a hotel trip as often as I could stand it. My clothes now smelled permanently of smoke, so I didn’t both trying to wash them, but the drifting ashes formed a grit on my skin that I tried to wash off whenever I could.

I had spent two days making sure my animals were as safe as possible. The lake formed a natural firebreak before my house and personal yard, but some of the goats were fenced in on the other side of the lake. Rather than risk stranding myself if a rogue fire started near the road, I took the small rowboat back and forth across the lake rescuing them a few at a time. The ones that didn’t come near enough to the lake, I had to assume would either fend for themselves or may have already succumbed to smoke inhalation.

The backyard was completely fenced, so I brought the goats in and locked the gate. The vegetable and flowers gardens were the first casualties, but at least I didn’t have to worry about keep the grass trimmed. I took a few buckets of water at a time from the lake and wet down anything flammable within sight – the wooden storage shed, the woodpile, even last fall’s leaves that were still composting. I spent another day chopping down any trees that were nearby, and tossing the wood into the lake. Every so often, a burning ember would drift into my backyard, so I kept my eyes open as much as possible.

I tried not to think about where the fire would go once it passed my property. I knew it had to pass my property, otherwise everything I ever cared about would be gone. This wasn’t what I signed up for when I bought my small farm. I thought it would be a utopia – no people around to distract me from what I wanted to do, working in the dirt, with the animals, raising a better breed of goats for the sheer difficulty of it. I had increased their milk production by 5% with the second generation. Now I wasn’t even milking everyday, much less tracking any information. Even when I did milk them, there was nowhere to store or process the milk since the power was out.

Before my cell ran out of battery, I received a call from one of my local distributors. He was concerned about being able to promise his local store a certain amount of organic milk and cheese and wanted to make sure I would fulfill my contract. I told him to stick his organic cheese in his ears if he didn’t want to hear me curse him out. I hung up on him, just in case he really wanted to hear me curse, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
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