Schemes and Scenes – Part Three


Schemes and Scenes – Part Three

This is the third article in an occasional series on scene development.  Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, Chapter Three, focuses on points of view, with three exercises.  Read the second article.

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Spot the point of view problems

A.  Susan and Ed

Susan heard the key in the lock box and then a second key in the front door. She grabbed Ed by the arm.

“My God, I forgot, it’s the realtors.”

He looked around the living room, at the papers strewn on the couch, the mail piled on the coffee table. He remembered the two days’ worth of dishes in the kitchen sink. “What, you mean today? Now? With people?”

They had no time to lose. “You take the kitchen, I’ll handle here.”

Susan began gathering papers and shoving them in the fireplace, while Ed made a dash for the kitchen. Once there, he grabbed the dish pan and began stacking things in it as quickly as he could. He then hoisted the overflowing pan out of the sink and kicked open the cupboard.

No, they would look in the cupboard. Where then, the refrigerator? Behind the furnace in the basement?

He ducked out the back door just as Susan backed into the kitchen in front of the realtor and an earnest young couple.

“You’re sure you wouldn’t like to tour the upstairs first?” she asked.

“No, actually, I’d like to see the basement,” the young man said. “I’m thinking of setting up a shop in my home, and I need to know if there’s enough space.”

“Oh, very well.”

Ed came back through the living room just as the couple disappeared down the stairs.

“Okay, where are the dishes?” Susan said.

“Trunk of the car.”

How would I fix this?  (Aside from washing the dishes left over from last night)

POV jumps between the two characters, often in the middle of a sentence.

I would rewrite this as a single scene, either from Susan’s or Ed’s POV.  But, one cannot see what the other is doing.  The scene must address the off-stage actions of the other.

Ed will not know about Susan filling the fireplace or stalling the realtor.

Susan will not know about Ed gathering up and carting around the dishes.


B.  Lance and the Cabbie

A battered New York cab pulled over to the curb and Lance climbed in. The cabbie was a slight, withdrawn man who wasn’t much given to conversation. This was fine with Lance, who buried himself in the Times as the cab wound its way north through the traffic choking the Park Avenue tunnel.

Finally, the cab pulled up to Grand Central Terminal. Lance handed the cabbie a ten and disappeared into the crowd.

How would I fix this?  (This was so subtle I had to go look in the Appendix)

POV shifts between the two characters.  The book editors claim Lance would never call the cab a New York cab, that only a cabbie would.  Lance would not see himself disappear into the crowd, but the cabbie would.  Lance would join it.

I would rewrite it ever so slightly:

“A battered New York cab pulled over to the curb and Lance climbed in.” –> “Lance hail a battered cab and climbed in.”

“…ten and disappeared into the crowd.” –> “…ten and joined the crush headed for the station.”



C.  Take a sample scene of say, an eight-year old boy name Mitch in school on a Thursday afternoon at the moment he looked out the window and realizes that the first snowfall of the year has begun. Write this scene from the first person, third person, and omniscient points of view.


I look out the window. Mom drives, like she always does. The man on the radio talks about snow. The sun isn’t out. I know, because the sun is usually so bright it hurts my eyes on the way to school.

I remember that Ben, my brother, scooped the walk last winter. I said, “Can I scoop? I can do it as good as Ben. Please?”

She said, “Are you big enough? I guess you can. You know, Mitch, you won’t always want to.”

I don’t tell her she is wrong. I will always scoop the walk. When I get done we can make snow men, just like Ben and I did. And we can have a snowball fight with the Madison’s. And cocoa afterward.

After we finally get to school, paying attention to Ms. Schmidt is hard. I keep thinking about the snow. I look out the window, wanting it to snow. Then I think how lucky I am that My desk is by the window. When I starts, I bet I’m the first one to see snow.

Ms. Schmidt catches me. She tells me if I can’t pay attention, I will have to stand in the corner. From then on, I try really hard to listen. But it is so hard. And I just know it is going to snow. And I want to be the first to see it.

The sky gets really dark gray and I could hardly see my paper. When Ms. Schmidt turn all the lights on, and I can see again. How dark it will it get? Will it be as dark as it is at night?

Later, I wait until Ms. Schmidt has her back turned. I look out the window. The kids look, too. Ms Schmidt taps the white board, and I jump. My heart pounds and I can hardly breath. I don’t want to stand in the corner. If I am standing in the corner when the snow starts, I will miss it.

A little later, during arithmetic, I look out again. Then I see it, and I’m afraid that if I blink, I will lose it. Is it the first one? Am I the first? When Eddy whispers, I know I am first. A tiny snow flake…floats…down…alone.

I don’t care if Ms. Schmidt sees or not. I hold my breath, watching. It looks just like the picture of a snowflake, so soft and so white. It lands on the sidewalk.  Then it just…disappears. I fell sad only a little wet spot is all that is left.

I look up, hoping it isn’t the only one. Then I see them. Lots and lots of them. They fill the sky. I want to run outside and catch them, stick my tongue out, taste them. I giggle. I hear the rest of the class giggle.

Now they come down so fast I can barely see the big green house across the street. The sidewalk gets wet. And, then, the snow starts to make little piles. I remember mom saying I can scoop the walk when I get home. I clapped my hands and look at the clock. Maybe there will be lots and lots of snow when school gets over.


Mitch looked out the window as his mom drove to school. The sun hadn’t come out yet. Usually, in the mornings, it was bright and hurt his eyes. The man on the radio talked about snow.

He remembered that his big brother Ben, got to scoop the walk. He asked, “Hey Mom, can I scoop? I can do it as good as Ben used to. Please?”

His mom said, “Are you big enough?” She looked at him and smiled. “I guess you can. You know, Mitch, you won’t always want to.”

Mitch thought about telling her she was wrong, but didn’t. He imagined really deep snow, and how much fun it had been when he helped Ben; then Ben helped him make a snowman; then they had a snowball fight with the Madison’s. Afterwards, they had hot cocoa.

Paying attention to Ms. Schmidt was hard because he kept thinking about the snow. Every time he did, he looked out the window. Mitch was lucky his desk was by the window. He hoped he would be the first one to see a snow flake.

Ms. Schmidt caught him, and told him he would have to stand in the corner if he couldn’t pay attention. After that, Mitch tried hard to listen, and pay attention. But it was hard.

And then, the sky got really dark gray. Mitch could hardly see the paper on his desk. Ms. Schmidt turned all the lights. He wondered how dark it would get. Would it be as dark as night?

Mitch snuck glances out the window when Ms. Schmidt looked the other way. He noticed other kids looking, too. Some of them leaned toward his desk, crowding him. He jumped every time Miss Schmidt tapped the white board. He didn’t want to stand in the corner. He might miss the first snow flake.

Then Mitch saw something. Afraid to blink, for fear of losing it, he looked harder. He knew he had seen the first one, because Eddy whispered something. He held his breath and watched. A tiny snow flake…floating…down…alone. It looked just like a picture so soft and so white. It landed on the sidewalk. He blinked when it just…disappeared. Mitch felt sad that a little wet spot was all that was left.

He looked up, hoping it wasn’t the only one. He saw them. Lots of them. They filled the sky. Everyone giggled. He could hardly see the big green house across the street. When the sidewalk got wet, Mitch remembered mom told him he got to scoop the walk. He clapped my hands as the snow started to make little piles.


Mitch sat in the car with his mother as she drove him to school. The radio repeated the snow warning. Unlike other mornings, the sun was hidden behind clouds.

Mitch asked, “Can I scoop? I can do it as good as Ben. Please?”

His mom said, “Are you big enough? I guess you can. You know, Mitch, you won’t always want to.”

Mitch smiled and nodded.

Ms. Schmidt, the teacher, tried to keep her class focused on the lesson.  But the prospect of a snow storm excited the children. She reminded the class of the corner, and the stool in it. As the morning continued, the clouds built up, and everything got darker. She turned on the lights.

As she was teaching arithmetic, Mitch saw the first snowflake. He held his breath as he watched it floating down, alone. It landed on the sidewalk. After a moment, it disappeared, leaving only a small wet spot. Then snow flakes suddenly filled the sky.  Mitch could hardly see the big green house across the street. The snow began to accumulate in little piles.

To be honest, I am not sure if I really captured the difference between First Person and Third Person.

I guess I know what my next Amazon purchase will be about.

Recommendations anyone?

Read Part Four.




One thought on “Schemes and Scenes – Part Three

  1. Pingback: Schemes and Scenes – Part Two | Simply Silent

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