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Point of View and Voice

Even if you aren't a reader of middle grade fiction or a middle school teacher, if you are a writer you might want to consider reading THE FRUIT BOWL PROJECT by Sarah Durkee and get a lesson in point of view and voice.

The first 46 pages sets up the premise - the writing teacher is a distant relative of a rock star, a performer/writer who comes to the middle school and gives the kids a writing assignment. From page 47 until the book ends on page 153 we see the results of the students' work. Included are essays, poems, songs, letters, scripts, and more in the fifty pieces submitted for homework.

It is an interesting study of the same story...the basic premise all the students must use is that a boy drops his pencil during a test and upsets a girl. Later in the cafeteria he tells a joke, resulting in his buddy having milk snort through his nose onto their food. You would think reading so many versions of the same story would get old, but it doesn't. The author manages to change the tone, style, voice, and pov so much that I wanted to see what she would think of next.

Durkee is able to use a variety of techniques to let the reader see the same event from many vantage point, as well as let us hear the voice of the numerous narrators relaying his/her version of the story. Some made me snicker, while others had me going back to read again a passage that displayed particularly inspired word choices.
When I am working on my own writing, I need to keep my characters firmly in my mind. I don't want them to become a caricature of themselves, to blend into one another, or worse yet...sound like a bunch of mini-me's! One suggestion I had from Kate Messner when I was editing my first book was to go through the entire novel, choosing one character, and read just that character's lines aloud beginning to end. It was a great help for continuity. Another thing I did was to do word searches to make sure I wasn't having  my characters repeat themselves too much.

What do you do to help your characters stay true to their voices?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
I've seen this book in the library but haven't read it yet - thanks for the suggestion.

And along the lines of POV....I'm struggling a bit with my mg mystery and whether to write in third person omniscient or third person limited with some changes of pov. I'd love to bounce some ideas off you at lunch!
May. 28th, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
It's a date! I love to talk mysteries...and have some opinions on pov with same. Shall we meet at our usual quaint spot? Don't be late.
May. 28th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC)
That book sounds good. Thanks for the recommendation!
May. 29th, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC)
It really is quite interesting how she included so many different perspectives!
Mar. 14th, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks, from the author!
Hi, Marjorielight!
I know this post is an old one, but I just happened to get a Google alert today that my book "The Fruit Bowl Project" had been mentioned in your blog, and I just wanted to thank you for the shout-out from the bottom of my writerly heart :).
Sarah Durkee, NYC
Mar. 19th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks, from the author!
Hi Sarah! So glad you were alerted, albeit late. :-) (My last Google alert was about a type of chicken named Marjorie - LIGHT colored feathers! haha)

I truly enjoyed your book and am so glad our fantastic librarian ordered it for our students (and teachers) to enjoy.

All the best to you! Keep Writing -
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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