Writing 201‘s first workshop explores the concept of “Angles” within storytelling. It’s nice to get a reminder to give some real intentional thought to the question of angle, particularly in the context of my fiction. When I write these posts I have a pretty clear grasp (at least for now): I am writing as me, sharing something with the (nebulous) you. I know there is more to it than that, though. With each post I have to think about what I am going to say, how I’m going to say it, why I am saying it in the first place and why I’m saying it as I am. The classic “So What?” comes into play.
I have had years of academic, reflective and non-fiction writing, through school and work. My writing has been torn to pieces (and sometimes gently molded… I really liked the instructors and peer-editors who took the gentle-molding approach over the chain-saw), and printed in monthly newsletters, quarterly alumni-magazines, presented as sermons or “homilies,” read in classes, graded and returned…. I have a lot of experience with the necessity of finding your particular angle on a matter before putting it out into the world. In my preaching class one of the assignments was specifically geared to the importance of figuring out your angle — really more of an object lesson. There were less than a dozen of us in the class, and each of us had to compose (and present) two sermons through the term. One was on the passage (for the Christian’s in the class) or topic (for those of us who don’t necessarily preach from the bible) of our choice. But one of them had to be about the Good Samaritan Parable.
At first there was concern among us, what would it be like to have to sit through ALL of those sermons about the same passage. How boring would that be? And what about the poor souls who had to do theirs last, after everyone else had already shared?
“Don’t worry,” our instructor reassured us, “they will all be different.”
And, indeed, they were. Because each and every one of us brought our own angle to it. We dug into the text, we did our research, and we were informed by what was going on in our own lives, or the lives of our congregations (real or imagined). Each of us was taking a different approach, and so the lessons we drew from the text were different.
I know how important it is to know your angle, to think about it, and to pay attention to it. I know how to edit with “angle” in mind. At least, when working with academic papers, or reflective writings.
But I’m trying to use 201 as a way to focus on my fiction writing. Editing my fiction is something that is a relatively new phenomenon for me…. often I would just write what pleased me, and then switch when a new “shiny” came along.
I am focusing on a single piece right now (desperately trying to get far enough ahead on it that I can start writing on some of the other pieces that will take more traditional formats), and editing is happening. As is filling out an entire world (or, to be honest, worlds). Which means lots of story’s, being told from many different perspectives. Part of what I’m doing with Disparate Threads (part of the reason it is appearing as a blog-based story) is making space for story-elements that fall outside of the regular plot-line. And some of this material, this “periphery,” requires me to pay close attention to the angle I’m writing from, actually, sometimes multiple angles that I am writing from.
I recently posted an excerpt from an academic paper (because, yes, I am a geek, and wrote a pretend academic paper for my fantasy world). Though my purpose for the post was to show what the social norms were at a time (so you would know that the upbringing of one character is not totally normal) that was not the reason that the author would be writing the paper. I had to think of why they would be interested in the cultural (specifically, the child-rearing) practices of the nobility. In this case I decided it was to show the ways that the nobility were actually influenced by the peasant classes, and tried to keep that thesis in mind as I wrote the excerpt.
As I focus on editing different sections of this story (both those that have been posted and those yet to be shared) I need to keep this in mind. Remembering the angle the section is coming from, the unique perspective and point of view of the narrator/”author” of the segment, why they would be sharing this particular information/story, will help to strengthen each piece. Giving it an even larger purpose than the ones I originally set out with (“I need something that explains X,” or, “I’d like to give more information about Y.” By letting the teller have their own reasons for telling it makes the piece much richer.
At least, that’s what I think. What have been your experiences with working with “angle”?