Is the following passage an example of good or bad writing?:
‘Jack’s stomach turned over. Hate this. Not even sure I want the damn job. Look at these people. The kindly woman leading the interview panel smiled and wondered at Jack’s angry frown.’
Answer: it’s bad. The main problem with it is that the narrative perspective or point of view (POV) in the passage changes/shifts. First we are in Jack’s head, hearing his thoughts, and then we are allowed inside the kindly woman’s head, to be told that she is wondering about Jack’s angry frown. Given that Jack is ‘angry’, he probably wouldn’t think that the woman is ‘kind’ either. So who is telling us she is kind? The woman herself wouldn’t tell someone she was kind, so it must be the author’s voice interrupting/intruding into the scene. If you imagine it as a movie scene, first the camera is with Jack, looking at the ‘kindly’ woman, and then the camera swings around violently to show us Jack’s angry frown. We’d get motion sickness with such a quick change of perspective. When you write a scene, try to make sure it’s told entirely from the main character’s (the protagonist’s) POV, as otherwise it’s disorientating/confusing for the reader.
Look at the following passage and try to find the words that are particularly problematic and that represent shifting narrative perspective or intrusive author voice.
‘The sailor wove his way along the quay – in part because the crowds were thick, in part because that was the way his sea-legs moved, and in part because of his recent visit to the inn. A filthy, suspicious-looking, old crone called out to him and – being a helpful and trusting sort – he made his way over to her.’
If you’re not sure of the answer or would like to check your answer, please do feel free to email me (Adam): adz_d2003 @ yahoo.co.uk – deleting the two spaces either side of the @ sign.
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