Writer’s Wednesday: Primal Practice
Writer’s Wednesday with Chase Ambler
It’s always easy to slip back into narrating like yourself when writing. If the character you’re narrating from is not yourself then try to stay away from your usual voice. To practice with some interesting voices, I want you to narrate from the point of view of another species. Choose rare animals or even your own pet—anything to get outside of yourself. In many ways writing is like acting. You have to become the character in whatever way you can. When writing as a character from my novel, I found myself bothered by things the character was dealing with in the book even though they were not problems I was experiencing directly in my own life. When that started happening when I wasn’t even writing, I knew I was getting somewhere.
Here’s my attempt to enter my dog’s mind:
Mine, mine, mine, bird poop, mine, raccoon—last night, two, one male, one female. Female crossed my line. Crossed my line! My land! This way, this way, this way.
Oh, hey spotted male. That’s right, stay on your side of the standing wood. Already had raccoons cross my line last night. I’m on edge. I’ll rip your tail off if you cross my line. But you’re cool on your side of the standing wood. What do you have? New brand of food? Gimme, gimme, gimme. Ack! Standing wood in the way. Good thing too, you cross my line and I’ll rip your fur out—top coat and undercoat too.
Right, raccoon. This way, this way, this way. Up the tree, back to the top of the standing wood. . .
What was that? Door sliding open. No, human. No! I’m working here. Have to see where this raccoon went. Dared to cross my line.
Dammit! He’s pointing inside. Tapping the clothed paw.
Just pretend I don’t see him. This way, this way, this way.
Here come the waves from him. Anger. What did I do? I just got out here? And that raccoon crossed my line! He probably needs to leave. He’s always leaving.
Scknat! The sound from his top paw. Now he’s serious.
Alright, I navigate the grass to the door.
Spotted male blurts out a bark at my human.
Oh hell no! I turn and rush the standing wood.
“Shut up! I’ll take you down!” Uggg, standing wood in the way. “You don’t talk to him in that tone you disrespectful piece of—“
Prackt! Prackt! Now he’s slamming his top paws together and barking at me. What did I do? I was just defending your honor. Sheesh.
“I’ll bite you later, Spotted Male,” I whisper through the spaces in the standing wood.
Prackt! Prackt! Prackt!
I trudge to the door. That glare from the eyes. I can’t stand it. Look away. I probably won’t get breakfast today.
It’s fun to imagine myself from my dog’s perspective. I probably do ruin a lot of my dog’s fun when I make her come inside. My scene may not be the best, but at least I got out of narrating like me somewhat. Take this exercise to other animals than your pets if you want. What does a lizard in the desert narrate like? A seahorse in a tidal pool? A raptor soaring on the winds?
When you go to write from a human character in your next work remember that, while they may have slivers of your personality, they are a different person. Try to enter that fictional character and separate their thoughts, actions, speech, and narration style from your own.
Chase Ambler is an American writer who spent his childhood in South and Southeast Asia. His life has been shaped by strange obsessions: heavy metal music, mountains, travel, and soccer. These subjects have all molded his poetry and prose in some way, but the birth of his daughter may have the greatest impact yet. He lives with his wife, baby daughter, and dog in Colorado. If one went looking for Chase, they could find him anywhere from changing diapers to summiting 14,000 foot mountains, but odds are he’s in front of the computer working on his next novel. Visit the FB page for his Novel: Snowsong