March blog

Whose point of view is it anyway?

I’m sure many of you will have seen, read or heard about the controversy this week over a photo of Stacey Dooley holding a black African child, part of the film she’d been making out in Uganda for BBC’s Comic Relief fundraiser. It was a photo that we have seen many times since Comic Relief was first started back in 1985 – celebrities in Africa, making films of how the money raised is being used. This time, the MP David Lammy accused Stacey of perpetuating “tired and unhelpful stereotypes,” adding “the world does not need any more white saviours.”

Many of you will have your own opinions about this controversy. What it did for me was two-fold: firstly, I did think about how the celebrities might be seen by the Africans they were visiting, and secondly, it brought home how careful we writers must be in considering “whose point of view is it?”Playground

It just so happened that one of my workshops in the same week was about Point of View. We considered the much less-political scenario of a public park here in England and how we were going to describe it in a story.

Before you even start thinking about swings and slides, the very first decision you must make is WHO IS DESCRIBING THE PARK? Unless it is an authorial piece, it cannot be YOU. It MUST be your character.

  • A new young Mum taking her child to the park for the first time will be looking for other young Mums, children the same age as her own, what equipment her child could safely use, where the toilets are etc etc.
  • A Mum of five who’s been coming here for the past seven years will be looking for her usual bench and other Mums she knows.
  • A ten-year-old allowed out on his own for the first time, might be looking for his friends and the climbing frame he’s not usually allowed on.
  • An estranged husband hoping to catch sight of his child will be looking for a good vantage point where he won’t be seen and whether he knows any of mothers already there.

Do you get the idea? Put YOURSELF in your character’s shoes and see the park from their point of view. It will make your description much more real for your readers and it will give more life (and backstory) to what can often be dull bland descriptions.Hand

If you have any comments on this topic, please do write in.

Time to Read

How much time do you have to read nowadays? Books, magazines, newspapers, websites? It seems that our busy lives rarely allow us the leisure of just sitting down and reading.

If you commute to work, then trains, tube and bus may allow some valuable reading time. But otherwise?

This was brought home to me twice in the last week. Firstly, a family member admitted they weren’t keeping up with the Guardian Weekly – my present to them last year. The magazines, delivered to the door, were piling up and each edition needed many hours of concentrated time. The family member in question has two grandchildren with two more on the way. Sadly, babysitting and the Guardian Weekly don’t go well together.

The other occasion was at one of my writing groups, where people bring paperbacks to pass around. I was told that even charity shops don’t want second-hand books now – there are just too many to store or display and they don’t move quickly enough off the shelves.

Just once in a while, if I have a particularly gripping book on the go, I find a quiet room and sit and read. But I feel guilty! Why? Because there are always so many other jobs and responsibilities around the house that really need my attention.

I know many people read when they get to bed. When I get to bed, I’m too tired to read and all I want is twenty minutes watching Douglas Henshall (Shetland) and I’m off.

And then, again, if you are a writer, shouldn’t you be writing rather than reading? There, I believe, the answer is definitely NO. Writers MUST read.

Here’s an article from Noteworthy – The Journal Blog that gives 14 reasons why writers must read: click here

One writer friend of mine catches up with her “reading” by listening to audio books as she takes the dogs out. There’s quite a discussion going on as to whether that really constitutes “reading” a book. A bit like seeing the film and not reading the book, some people say. Really it depends what you want from a book. A good story and/or good writing.Hand

Again, any comments more than welcome.

Also this month: who invented the full stop? more competitions to enter, and writing prompts.

Happy Writing!


2 Comments on “March blog

  1. Thank you, Mary. And for thinking about it! Sometimes it’s too easy to believe everyone thinks the same as you. Accounts by eye witnesses to an accident or incident are often the least reliable, although unintentionally. This can be put to use so well in writing fiction, keeping the reader guessing as to which view is the “right” one. Happy writing!


  2. Really enjoyed your blog Linda. I like the idea of describing something from different peoples point of view. I remember a long time ago watching a play on television from three points of view. It was really interesting to see how something told one way could be completely different when it was told by a different point of view. Thought provoking. Actually I’ve sat here thinking about it for a good hour. I must get on.


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