This week in my creative writing class we're been discussing point of view (pov) and tense. Personally, it's a bit basic because I know my preferred pov and tense. I know that if I'm writing creative non-fiction it's almost always in past tense, first person. Sure, the first person protagonist isn't always me but it's how I tend to write. My fiction pov of choice is bit more complicated. Almost always third person but beyond that I cannot/could not be more specific. Last week, I would have said omniscient. This week I'm not so sure. Senior year in high school, a classmate read one my writing assignments and commented, "This is written in third person limited. That's what Mrs. Martin said was the hardest to write, wasn't it?" I took that as a complement but brushed it off because, well, he wasn't the best student in our class. I regret not going back and investigating whether he was right in his judgment or not because now I'm quite a ways into a novel and I realized it's the wrong point of view. Sure, some parts can stay but most of it needs major revisions. I have my work cut out for me, and I realize this four days after spring break. Oh snap.
As a class exercise, I've rewritten this same scene multiple times from multiple povs.
I first knew Chuck was over when I noticed his car in the parking lot as I walked back to my apartment as I late after class on Monday night. This meant I would not be accomplishing much in the hour and a half I had left of my day. As I walked up the stairs the smell of burnt popcorn was almost overwhelming. Of course, I wondered who did it, if the fire alarm had gone off, and how long the stench had had to clear. I turned the corner and had my answers before I pulled out my keys.
"Are we the ones who burnt the popcorn?" I asked as I walked through the open door. Bad choice. I regret opening my big mouth. Clearly the answer was yes. As soon as I made it through the foyer I saw Mandy curled up in a chair, her face buried in her knees. Chuck knelt beside her trying--and failing miserable--to console her.
"I set the fire alarm off," Mandy said looking up at me. Mascara and tears seemed to be hosting a marathon on her cheeks.
"Let me put my stuff down and I'll give you a hug," I said doing just that. When it comes to rectifying situations involving my roommates, a hug is always step one. Step two was biting my tongue and not complaining about the frigid temperature and awful odor.
"We were going to watch a movie, do you want to watch it, too?" Chuck offered.
Who could think about a movie at a time like that? Sir, your girlfriend is clearly upset, our apartment will soon reach subzero temperatures, and I doubt the aroma of burnt-popcorn will ever dissipate, I wanted to say, but I didn't. Instead I ignored him.
"I don't want to watch that movie now," Mandy confessed quietly. I went into the bathroom and grabbed the air freshener. I could still hear them talking in the kitchen.
"Where'd you find that?" Chuck asked when I returned armed with Oust.
"My secret stash," I said covering up the burnt popcorn with strawberries and cream.
"Heidi, I wish you'd have been here," Mandy cried.
"Me, too," I said hugging her again. It was only half of a lie. I would have rather been here with Mandy and her fire alarm than taking notes in class at 10pm. I wish I had been here for her sake, not my own.
"I was here," Chuck interjected. I smiled at him. He's trying; he really is.
"Everyone knew it was my fault. I forced everyone out of the building," she groaned. Even my story about Emily burning popcorn during business hours and forcing an administrative building to evacuate didn't really help. It was time for Plan B: comic relief.
"Did you try waving the towel in front of the smoke detector?" I asked; she nodded.
"As soon as we stopped the alarm went off. I thought about blocking the detector, but I didn't think that would work," Chuck explained.
"Have you used a wet towel to clear the smell?" They doubted it would be beneficial, but I wanted to try anyway. At the very least, it might cheer Mandy up a bit. I put a fresh towel under the faucet, rang it out, and began to swirl it above my head.
Success! Well, I don't know if it really helped with the smell, but Liz smiled. In fact, I think I heard a giggle! And right then, that giggle was more important to me than the overwhelming burnt popcorn smell. Mission accomplished, Heidi. Well done.
Oh, but next time I try to cheer someone up with the helicopter-like towel maneuver, I might remember to close the blinds first. I think we had an audience in the parking lot.