Tag Archives: Wendy Visser

Thoughts on Point of View

Our most recent around-the-table discussion…

photo by Marcie Schwindt

photo by Marcie Schwindt

Elizabeth McCallister
I think point of view is one of the most difficult things that new writers can face. It seems like a simple enough task – are you writing in the first, second or third person.

It gets more complicated when you actually get down to doing it well. In a sense, you must inhabit not only the personalities of your characters but also the world that you have created. A narrator who describes someone or something seems the easiest route until you realize that you have written something from one of the characters’ POV.

Trying to write from more than one character’s POV can be one of the most difficult tasks. How do you clearly separate the two characters’ POV so that each rings clearly?

Which is the final most difficult task – creating a character who seems fully human.

Jockie Loomer-Kruger
I like first person especially ideal for memoir which is my preferred genre. I [also] like it for the poetry I write.

Second person – sounds like a lecture. Thou shalt not…

Third person – can add a different type of detail from first. Good for fiction with various characters.

Omniscient – All knowing and able to get into everyone’s thoughts – best for descriptive scenes, for commentary on a character.

Barbara Lefcourt
From 1st person, there are unlimited POV – age, sex, ethnicity, personality, stage of life. What first person POV do you feel comfortable writing from.
What kind of minds are you able to get [into] and imagine being?

A major reason I love to read novels is to be able to get into the body and minds of persons totally different from myself.

My own writing of course grows from my personal points of view that have changed with age and with living in totally different environments.

Kathy Robertson
[POV] should convey the author’s opinion without being obvious.
Metaphors are effective tools in conveying imagery.
The true meaning should be elusive, not fully comprehended until the end.
One image building on the other until the complete meaning is fully realized.

Becky Alexander
I like to use the antiquated POV known as the “omniscient storyteller,” the guy who knows all, sees all and this includes knowing (and telling) what the characters even think, let alone what they do, see, etc. Think of the writers of the Bible.

I like this form as it is time tested, has survived for centuries and is the easiest form (for me) in which to write.

Case in point: I hate second person POV. [Sounds like a lecture].

Wendy Visser
Narrative style a) where narrator stands outside the story b) where narrator is part of the poem or story

Humour – writer writes from humourous perspective
• form of entertainment
o should not be forced but natural.

3rd person perspective – work written in 3rd person allows easy access to the reader. Can identify more with the situation – empathy.

First person -[works] depending on subject matter.

Marcie Schwindt
When I think about POV, first, second, third, whatever, just seems like an obvious choice based on the character’s voice and how intimate the reader needs to be with him/her to “get” who they are.

What’s more interesting, I think, is choosing which character’s viewpoint to write from. Personally, I choose the weakest character to showcase because they always seem to pull the most interesting text from me. Strong characters are boring. Weak people have to “fake it”, still have to learn how to cope. They have the greatest potential character arc because they have less to lose from taking risks.

Life is too short to waste writing on boring characters. The next time you need to decide whose story to tell, pick the less obvious choice: the character who might otherwise have been the sidekick. Give the non-speaking stock character a voice. Their story might surprise you.

Rob Quehl
1. In my opinion, if an author switches from one character’s point of view to another’s, then the style of writing should change to reflect this, so much so, that after a few chapters, the reader should be able to flip open the book at random and know whose point of view is being shown at that point.

2. I like the second-person point of view. If done well, it can pull the reader in and get them involved in the story, as it makes it sound like YOU, the reader, are the main character. A wonderful example of second-person for children is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. (See example below.) I have also read second-person for adults, and found it unique and engaging.

Your Very Own Robot (Choose Your Own Adventure #1) synopsis:

Your parents are scientists and inventors. One day, they throw some pieces of a robot into the trash. If you can figure out how to put the pieces together, you’ll have a robot of your very own! But do you know enough to control it? Are you ready for the adventures your very own robot will bring?

Lee Anne Johnston
I find first person narration comes naturally to me and seems to flow. I feel too artificial using third person, although this is just me. First person has obvious limitations, i.e. your narrator can not get into the minds and hearts of others, whereas an omniscient 3rd person narrator can easily float from and into many characters.

Sound Effects

by Wendy Visser

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Pic by Idea go | freeDigitalPhotos.net

Voices, like people, come in all shapes and sizes, but what do we mean when we refer to a writer’s voice? Is it a technique, a gift, or a combination of technique and gift unique to each writer? I think when we speak of writers finding their voices, we mean they have developed a style or a way of speaking that flows through all their work, thus making the individual author’s voice identifiable. Is this a desirable trait and one that every writer should practice? Perhaps if voice is more gift than technique, then it is innate within the writer’s soul and not something that can be practiced.

Established writers asked to aid and abet would-be writers, unanimously offer three pieces of advice. First. Read. Read. Read. No argument there. Second. Write about what you know. On the whole that’s good advice. What we know and what we’ve experienced are safe territories, familiar surroundings, and our voice will have a ring of truth to it. It should sound natural. Personally, I like to tackle foreign subjects and topics beyond my experience. Research can be rewarding and the ability to empathize; to place yourself into someone else’s journey is not only challenging but stretches horizons and exercises those vocal muscles adding a new dimension to this thing called voice. Third. Find your voice and stick with it. I don’t believe you find your voice. It finds you.

Once it arrives at your doorstep, by destiny or design, do you rigidly follow it, letting it always take the lead until it is familiar, as comfortable as a lover’s hug and easily recognizable?

If you accept the ‘stick with it’ approach, then the answer to the above query would be a resounding yes. Shakespeare’s dry wit, double-entendres, mistaken identities, comedic flair, steeped within the history of kings and queens, courts and courtiers of a high-browed castled England, were all part and parcel (techniques) of Shakespeare’s voice; but the indefinable, mesmerizing part of his voice, that part which was gift was born to fit a stage. Staying true to what his hearing audiences expected, bore well for ‘Willy’ and his longevity speaks for itself.

There are times when the consistent voice of a particular writer resonates around and through each piece, so much so, that theme and voice become inseparable. In Wilfred Owen’s poems, lines march from one battle to the next and readers see the bugles and the drums of war through Owen’s anti-war voice. Pauline Johnson’s compelling voice speaks of native struggles against injustice within a non-native culture. Her background coupled with her presentation was applauded by both sides.

The raspy, romantic voice of Leonard Cohen, novelist and poet, combines the harshness of a world cynic with the soft cadences of physical intimacy. Edwin John Pratt’s narrative style of voice is well suited to the unpredictability of nature pitted against man’s ingenuity and courage, while Carl Sandburg’s voice of steel speaks for the underdog in an industrialized civilization. And Robert Frost’s quiet voice hovers above the solitude within the landscapes of rural America.

The voices of the above, in my opinion, are characteristic of outward techniques used in writing, but that phenomenon of voice, which I refer to as gift, is what makes them and their work unforgettable.

If a writer’s voice resists change, can it lead to predictability, even boredom? I suppose that possibility depends upon the individual writer. William Blake’s earlier work, for example, hinged on uncomplicated, and light lyrical poems which later evolved into darker poems more satirical in content. Changing one’s style or way of speaking has the potential for growth and the opportunity for improvement. Trying a different style may or may not work for you, but at least you will have tried a new approach, and it just might be fun.

See if changing your topic or your perspective changes your voice.

  • If you always write in the first person, try second or third.
  • If your work tends to be humorous, try writing a tragic piece.
  • If you are always the narrator or spectator, be the participant.
  • If you never write about nature, put yourself into a landscape.
  • Try writing under a pseudonym.

There is a great deal to be said about the technique and the gift of writers’ voices, and I feel that I have only grazed the surface. However your writer’s voice comes into its own level of expertise, the design or technique part of voice must not sound forced or contrived but believable to readers and when your voice carries the potential to come alive; therein lays its destiny – its gift.

* Information about Cohen, Pratt, Sandburg, Frost and Blake was gathered from their bios contained in ‘An Anthology of Verse’ ed. by Charlesworth and Lee, published by Toronto Oxford University Press, 1964


Wendy Visser is a long time member of the Cambridge Writers Collective. She has recently released her second poetry collection, ‘This Side of Beyond’. Books are available through the publisher, Craigleigh Press, or from the author.

Frontier Woman

by Wendy Visser

photo by Boaz Yiftach from freedigitalphotos.net

photo by Boaz Yiftach from freedigitalphotos.net

Howdy,
I wrote a ‘researched’ prose piece years back, in the voice and character of Calamity Jane which has been published several times and has become one of my favourite performance pieces. If you can believe it, I use a chair with a rung- and ‘mount it’ as if it’s a horse, and no performance about the old west is complete without the boots, hat, and toy guns strapped around my waist. My Calamity Jane speaks in a Montana drawl so all put together, usually goes over quite well.

Frontier Woman
© Wendy Visser

I was born in Northern Missouri, in a town called Princeton ‘round 1852. No one really knows the exact day, as things was never exact in the West, ‘cept if you was shootin’ at somethin’. Record keepin’ was for the sheriff who could read and write so’s he could keep track of all the desperate hombres passin’ through, leavin’ their likenesses tacked to the wall in the sheriff’s office.

I was named Martha Jane Canary after no one I can remember in particular, ceptin’ my mam thought the name held great expectation for parlour sittin’ and tea drinkin’ in some fancy establishment she most likely would never see in her lifetime. I don’t recall much about Princeton ‘cept the sheriff’s office, the saloon open day and night upstairs and down and one church just open on Sunday. The preacher and the undertaker was one and the same. Poured the holy water on ya comin’ in and poured the dirt over ya goin’ out.

We high-tailed it to Virginia City, Montana, when I was around twelve, give or take. Now there’s a town! Saloons on both sides of the street with a few stores saddled in-between. A barber shop and bath house for the men, a milliner’s shop tucked beside the fabric place for the ladies and a general store frequented by both. The town boasted two graveyards but only one church, still open one day a week.

My mam and pappy couldn’t see eye to eye on most things includin’ what each of ‘em saw fit to have their eyes on, accordin’ to mam’s version. Pappy up and disappeared one winter mornin’ after he’d fetched his frozen long johns off the outdoor line where mam had hung ‘em the night before; warmed ‘em up by puttin’ ‘em on, filled himself up on mam’s flapjacks and ham and just strolled off with those lukewarm clothes he was wearin’, his eyes awanderin’ and awishin’ on somethin’ way off in the distance. Mam and me- we never did figure out what it was he was seein’.

Mam hired on in minin’ camps in Wyoming and Utah where I learned to keep the men’s firearms cleaned and primed for the unfortunate wildlife that would wander into camp. One of the miners saw potential in the way his gun and me fit together like we was made for each other. I remember his voice like an inside echo, “ If you’re cleanin’ and primin’ and aholdin’ that gun as smooth as a new born babe, then I’d best be teachin’ ya how to use it.” Twern’t long ‘fore I was outshootin’ the miners and the visitin’ gamblers who’d be shufflin’ their decks with one hand and pocketin’ miners’ pay with the other.

I could sit a horse like it was part of my own body and soon enough my horse skills led to a job deliverin’ messages up and down the mines sprawled everywhere in the hills. I’d be back and ‘outta the saddle ‘fore them other critters had one boot planted in the stirrup. The extra wage lightened mam’s load, but she was none too happy ‘bout forfeitin’ the parlour sittin’ and the tea drinkin’.

Plenty of rumours ‘bout how I got the name – Calamity. Been said any man messin’ with me would be courtin’ calamity. Lookin’ back though, I think, it was that some men weren’t too comfortable with a woman dressed like them who could outride ‘em and outshoot ‘em and who got hired by the Seventh Cavalry of the US of A in Wyoming. Hell, I even scouted for General George A. Custer ‘fore his last stand. For the record, I was not the one scoutin’ for him at Little Big Horn when he and the troops were run over by 5,000 Indians fightin’ to keep their country, their way of life, their spirit. Some men thought the frontier where the sky and earth are one solid line of loneliness and peace belonged to them and a woman ain’t got no right to that. Women should only be acrossin’ the prairie to get from one town to the other.

I finally settled in the Black Hills of South Dakota in the town of Deadwood and everyone was livin’ crazy on account of the gold rush and dyin on account of small pox. Entire towns, includin’ mine, almost wiped out. I was kept busy nursin’ and buryin’ but I never caught the pox. Tough I guess or jist plain too ornery.

Married Burke and moved to Texas but I don’t yatter too much about them times. Better left to the historians to fill in any blanks ‘bout the kind of wife I might have been. I did go back to Deadwood. Deadwood was family. People there took real good care of me and my girl. Even helped pay for her bein’ educated back east in some high-fallutin’ school. My mam would have liked that. Would have been dustin’ off the china, polishin’the spoons and boilin’ the water for tea if she were still here. But me: my every breath was meant to be that mighty fine prairie dust separatin’ the hairs on my skin washed by the wide open trails of gentle blue sky this side of paradise.


Wendy Visser is a long time CWC member. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies nationally & internationally and many of her poems have received awards. She is the author of ‘Riding A Wooden Horse’,an award-winning collection of poetry and her second poetry book,’This Side of Beyond’ was launched in November of 2011.

Why I Write

by Wendy Visser

photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Recently, someone asked me why I write. My immediate quip was, “Well, it beats cleaning toilets or sticking my head inside a dirty oven.”

On later reflection, her question deserves a more in-depth response, so why do I write? And why is poetry my genre of choice?

It’s the challenge of covering the human condition from cradle to grave reducing it to a page. I can assume any identity. Let it travel to exotic places, let it loose in back alleys, or settle it humming softly before a mantel fireplace.

I can capture (eavesdrop on) strangers’ conversations. Put their words into stories and poems. I can kill and not be held accountable; champion the underdog, banish monsters from underneath the bed, or open closets and bring skeletons out to play. Dig in the trenches, and excavate the price of war from the sounds of buried sighs.

I love living dangerously− especially on paper.

Writing is a lonely, and often poorly-paid occupation. Sometimes ideas lead to words that fill the page as easily as a stroll in the park and at other times, it is like a trip to the dentist or a visit to your local blood donor clinic. But through it all, the urge to create is the driving force behind my need to write. It’s been said that everyone has a ‘book in them’. That’s like saying everyone can be an athlete or an actor, a doctor or a plumber and that is simply not true. People may have stories they want to share but the ability to attract an audience is an art that demands diligence and discipline.

Nothing else fulfills or satisfies or identifies me as much as completion and publication of my work. I live to write and write to live.


Wendy Visser is a long time CWC member. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies nationally & internationally and many of her poems have received awards. She is the author of ‘Riding A Wooden Horse’,an award-winning collection of poetry and her second poetry book,’This Side of Beyond’ was launched in November of 2011.

This Side of Beyond

by Wendy Visser
published in her book, ‘This Side of Beyond’, Craigleigh Press, 2011

Origami clouds drift across a paper sky
the quiver of a quail
a clump of daisies and my mother’s face
through imagination’s veil
on this hazy lazy row-away day
where the cry of a Muskoka loon
echoes over the lake lake lake
and memories too have their echoes
crisp soft crisp soft.
I steer the canoe with one paddle
feeling the water’s face
like a blind man who tries
to describe his lover
through his fingertips.
There is a sense
in the regal stance of northern trees
rooted near the shore
that He must have finished
His design right here
and with a flourish signed His name
to the whispery roll of these lullaby waves.

And now the cottage smoke
from a onshore chimney
sings its way through a twilight sun
while the loon preens a feather
from his overdue mate.
Lonely has no definition in this place
for the stillness is a magic key
to another kingdom
a counter clockwise turn
on the wheel of a distant dial.

Before the dark descends
on loons and me this side of beyond
I watch those origami clouds drift
across a paper sky
the quiver of a quail
a clump of daisies and my mother’s face.


Wendy Visser is a long time member of the Cambridge Writers Collective and this blog feature is one of the poems included in her just-released second poetry collection, ‘This Side of Beyond’. Books are available through the publisher, Craigleigh Press, or from the author.

I Am

I Am
by Wendy Visser

I am a sky-travelling balloon
driven by heat
in the black cotton clouds
of a pending storm.

I am the sound of traffic
that craves the ease
of horse and buggy
on country lanes
with sun’s eyelet touch
on muslin shoulders.

I am a weeping willow
whose lace-tossed leaves
rise above the flood
in the wet melody
of a lone wolf’s howl.

I am nine times
my reflective age of six
when everything is made of dreams
and death is miles away.


Wendy Visser is a long time member of the Cambridge Writers Collective and this blog feature is one of the poems included in her just-released second poetry collection, ‘This Side of Beyond’. Books are available through the publisher,Craigleigh Press, or from the author.

Handed-Down Recipes

by Wendy Visser

Hot cakes on the griddle, bacon’s sizzle in the pan, coffee fragrance floating up the back stairs followed by my father’s bellow, “Breakfast’s ready. Last one at the table does the dishes.”

The stampede of feet, the arm punching and head swatting as chairs scrape the floor of their respective places in the mad necessity to not be last. “You’re after me” hollers the middle sibling. “Am not”, shouts the youngest.

“Are too!”

“Am not!” choking on her tears.

Over the din, the parental command, “That’s enough. Another outburst and you’ll both be in hot water and I don’t mean dish water”.

Between the yawns of dawn-time risings and the noise of adolescent squabbles father bows his head then mother serves. . .

  

Mid-day’s mushroom and leek homemade soup with a just-picked garden salad and dad’s yell upstairs, downstairs and the backyard. This time it’s the oldest and the fourth from the end who don’t see eye to eye around the kitchen table in spite of paternal threats of more hot water. Father bows his head. Between the rush of daytime chatter, mother serves. . .

  

Within day’s falling, every pot and pan is heaped with mother’s secret blends of home-grown spices-a dash of this-a hint of that. The clang of the porch bell calls us from field chores and bedroom homework. In the hush of twilight prayer, mother serves. . .

  

Everyone is scattered now to houses of our own, mom and dad no longer a part  of our earthly landscape but when we get together our childhoods are like handed-down recipes fed to us around a table full of memories.

Image: Giovanni Sades / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Wendy Visser is a long time member of the CWC who has served as president, anthology co-ordinator, and membership chair through the years. She is a prize-winning poet and is the author of, ‘Riding A wooden Horse’. Her second full collection of poetry, ‘This Side of Beyond’, is scheduled for publication later this year.