Punching the English Teacher

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At a recent writers group, a member who has traditionally written creative non-fiction brought a fiction piece. At the author’s request, we discussed POV. This piece did a fine job of 3rd person omniscient, but she thought she was using limited from the POV of the second character to come on the scene.

One of the down sides of not having a formal group leader is that everyone and their kitchen sink jumped in to set the record straight.

While most kitchen sinks were right, there was a particular one who, every chance she gets, informs us that she’s an English teacher. She flat out told this new writer that she had no business writing the way she had and needed to stick to limited 3rd and redo her beginning. There was also some tangent about theme.

I wanted to punch her.

The problem, as I saw it, was not what the writer was using; it was lack of knowing the name of what she was using. And if you are doing it correctly, does it really matter if you don’t know the name?

I need to talk to the writer and encourage her to just write. Finish the story. Worry about some of those technical aspects later.

I do think the technical can help our writing, but I don’t believe in force feeding arbitrary rules. 3rd person limited works for me (and obviously the teacher), but that doesn’t mean that every beginning writer must use it.

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11 thoughts on “Punching the English Teacher

  1. I’ve heard these group horror stories all my writing life, and it’s been a long one. This kind of behavior just crushes creativity and, sometimes, good emerging talent. Man, I just hate this kind of thing. So, I’m very happy you wrote about it. Thanks.

  2. The most diplomatic member of your writing group probably should take this person aside and speak with them. When someone pounces on someone who has the courage to do something new and then bosses them about, that’s the kind of thing that kills writing groups. The English teacher needs to be told to make a gentle suggestion, then move on. Especially because POV is largely a stylistic choice. The new fiction writer doesn’t have to sound just like the English teacher to be good.

    And there are no rules about which POV a new (fiction) writer should use.

  3. I’ve always used first person POV when I write. It’s easier for me because then I don’t have to know everything. I don’t need to know what the guy on the bus is thinking or why someone else is doing something. I know what the MC is experiencing and her (mostly her) interpretation of the events around her. Plus it’s more fun to discover the “why” alongside the character.

    And honestly, if you are writing because you love it, throw the rules out the window. I write for myself. I’ve written two novels that nobody has ever read, I don’t think they will ever be read. I had a story to tell and I did, who cares about rules?

    I haven’t taken an art class since I had a teacher tell me that I’d never make it as an artist (and seriously? How many people do “make it as an artist”?), but it was enough to discourage me from ever taking another drawing class… Make sure the author of the piece in question knows that some critics are going to be jerks all the time, regardless of the work in front of them.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your art class…it’s terrible that your teacher said that. I took a painting class and the teacher was awesome. She pushed you outside your comfort zone to make you a better artist no matter where you were on the “making it” scale. I still miss those classes. They were a wonderful creative outlet.

      I need to talk to you about 1st person…it scares the hell out me and my next MC is begging to use it.

      • Just use the pronoun “I” a lot and don’t let the read know things that are going on in the other room lol I pretty much just write. The hardest part for me was knowing things my MC wouldn’t know and having to write around those. Knowing where the story would end made the middle a bit dodgy, but I got there. My friends just find it a little unsettling that I write novels in first person from the point of view of a sociopathic, pregnant serial killer who appears to kill at random but really does have a heart of gold… But that’s the luck of the draw 😉

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