Morning Assurances

Morning Assurances

Would you let me know how this reads? I’ve been working my way through the books at the library about writing, and particularly about writing a novel. I’m feeling I may need to switch from first person narrative to third person narrative as it will allow me to give greater depth to the characters. Does the use of third person narrative still connect with you? Less? More? About the same?

The sun was beginning to come up, at least there was a faint blue glow in the sky. The old man took out the large bamboo salad bowl. It could hold enough for a large family or his own small flock of chickens.

He began making their breakfast salad the same way he did every morning. First he chopped some leafy greens. Usually it would be kale, but sometimes collards or even Swiss chard, but mostly kale.

When there was none in the garden, he would buy it in bunches or by the pound. It all depended on which gave him the most for his money. Kale had almost doubled in price since he got his chickens. They loved kale. Even the stems were chopped up into bite sized pieces.

“You need your calciums,” he would always tell them. They didn’t know what “calciums” were, but they trusted him. The kale tasted good.

Then there was usually something different, a special treat for the day. It might be from the garden like peas in the springtime, but that day because it was fall, he gave them eggplant. They lasted well past the end of summer. He peeled and then chopped the eggplant and added it to the bowl. The peel would go into the compost pile to feed the worms and the worms would feed the chickens.

Next he grated carrots. How long had he been using that grater? The bamboo handle had come off years ago, or so it seemed. Then again, it might have been just last week. The metal underneath was still good for holding. About a half carrot for each chicken was enough. The tops which didn’t work well on the grater would be added to the compost pile.

Then he would dice an apple. Today it was a red delicious, much better than the one yesterday which seemed a little mealy and had a brownish spot he hadn’t seen until he cut into it. Their favorites were Fuji and Pink Lady. They were always the right firmness and juicy. This one cut nicely and juice oozed out as he chopped up the slices. It was going to be a good day.

There was half a banana from last night. He sliced and then chopped it too, including the peel. It still surprised him how his chickens would eat that part. Banana was the one thing Gracie had a difficult time sharing, so in the evening, he always tried to give them extra. What was in their big breakfast salad was for whoever could find it first.

Finally he sliced some lettuce into long shredded pieces. It topped off their salad nicely.

The old man took a can of beans from the cupboard and placed it on the kitchen counter. There was probably some leftover rice in the refrigerator, if he remembered right. There was still part of a fresh sweet pepper left from the garden. They were always a late summer and early fall treat. It would be nice to add to his beans and rice.

He chopped it up into small pieces to make it go further and put it in the chicken’s breakfast salad. They would enjoy it much more than he would anyway.

Maybe the half onion wrapped up in the refrigerator was still good. He would add it to his beans and rice instead. He never gave his chickens any onions because it would make their eggs taste strange, or so he had read in a book once.

The can of beans on the counter gave him an odd assurance throughout the day. He knew his dinner would be waiting for him ready to be prepared. It was a kind of prayer to help him arrive home safely. No one died away from home when there was dinner sitting out ready to be prepared at the end of the day. Did they?

He needed some type of certainty he would make it back home safely. Otherwise who would secure the chickens for the night? Who would watch over them? They could make their way back up into their coop for the night. That wasn’t a problem. But when they came down the next morning and found he hadn’t come home, found he would never come home, what then?

Enough for now. It was time for him to welcome his chickens into their new day.

I have used a vertically formatted illustration for a different tone and to fit on a printed page. This may not be an illustration style I will use, but it does help to point out this is written differently. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

31 thoughts on “Morning Assurances”

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad that whatever it is that makes these stories “work” happens for you in both first person or third person narrative. That lets me know something is right in them! Thanks again!

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  1. You poor old man! 😉

    I like the 3rd person narrative as well…but the perspective of an uninvolved observer makes a difference.
    I wonder if it is necessary to chose between 1st and 3rd person…Do you think it is possible to switch in different paragraphs?
    Or will it cause problems because the complexity of the short stories will increase having parallel story lines…?
    Another option could be to create a protagonist / character, who is acting as third party, observer and narrator.
    ….Mmmh. 🤔🤔🤔
    I will think about it once more. These are just my spontaneous thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, “you poor old man” is right! Because that is not how I want the novel to come across! And that is the problem with saying certain things in a first person narrative…and maybe in third person narrative as well?

      Looking at this as strictly a fictional story taken from a shelf at a bookstore or library, it seems arrogant to say, “I feed my chickens better than I feed myself. I eat very modestly like a poor man so my chickens can have all of the best.” That book is going back on the shelf! But third person narrative would allow a book to say something like “He gave his chickens a bountiful salad filled with delicious foods while he had a can of beans and leftover rice for himself.”

      I had thought, just as you suggested, of flipping back and forth between first and third person narrative. I had also considered making the book as a collection of different journal entries, letters, etc. (I remember from my high school readings that “Dracula” was written this way, and that really caught my interest way back then, even more so than the whole vampire thing. I had never read another book that did that.)

      The other real challenge, as I see it, is how to write the parts of the novel from first person point of view when it comes to what happens to Amelia while she is away on her journey by herself.

      It feels too awkward to have her go away, then come back and tell about what happens for pages and pages and pages. To me, her returning is more the climax to the story and it should end shortly after that. (It would be like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” telling about all of her adventures in Oz once she is back home. The film ends much better with “Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.”)

      Anyway, so those are the puzzles or writing challenges that I’m working through! Your comments and the comments of others have been extremely helpful in working this all out!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Be nice to yourself …and participate in your healthy and tasty chickens diet!

        Well, maybe you can simply experiment with changing the narrators perspective.
        It is easier to decide if you keep in mind that you can change again any time if you feel it doesn`t work. Just give it a try.
        And there is another important aspect to consider….YOU should have fun developing the story and characters. The rest is an add-on.
        Nevertheless, it is great that you ask for your readers opinion.
        It aids a further dimension if readers are at least a little bit involved / get an insight in your creative process and development as a writer! Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much for your sound advice and for emphasizing that whichever direction I go, it would fun! Otherwise, why bother?!! And it would probably show in the finished story too!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. As my Sensei in Tokyo told me..”Relax. Do not think. Feel!”

        Sometimes it helps not to reflect too much. Let the story flow! It will find its way into the hearts of the readers if they are listening…

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  2. Third person is fine, but I loved first person better. More possibility of character? I don’t know. I think your directness and straightforward dialogue, characters, development and descriptions are a unique voice. I like the possibility of finding a way to switch back and forth. Perhaps it would just take me bit to adjust to the difference. It is not easy to share the depth of what you write in such simple language as you have used in the past and that is what drew me originally. But what you offered is fine writing also, Just one surprised fan’s opinion. I love that you are exploring!

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    1. Judi, thank you so much! Some “how to write” books almost look down on first person narrative because it is so limiting. They also point out, and rightly so I think, that it gets really boring to always read about “I” and “me” and “my.” Endless “I, I, I” is never good.

      The idea of switching back and forth is a very good and real possibility.

      And I am really grateful to you for saying that there is depth in the simple language I use.

      For me as I am thinking through all of this, there is a real value in the first person point of view. Almost everything I write here is read aloud before posting. This is because in case it is read aloud, such as to a child at bedtime, it sounds natural and comforting.

      There are things that I say to my chickens, and which I write in my stories, that I think children need to hear. Sometimes parents don’t know how to say them (particularly fathers), but maybe they can say them in a story that they read aloud. For example, when Amelia says she may not return from her journey beyond our back yard garden and I might be waiting for nothing, and I whisper to her, “You mean so much more to me than nothing.”

      Those are words we all need to hear from someone, I think. Some people never hear them. First person allows that type of connection to happen much better, at least for me.

      But I felt I need to explore these things and find out what my regular readers think. You may read things differently than I do, and I need to make sure I’m communicating effectively and that the message I’m trying to give is the same one that you are receiving!

      Thanks so much for being a fan and taking the time to read, consider carefully, and comment!

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  3. I’ve never been a fan of first person in fiction, but I’m using it more myself and coming around to see it’s benefits. I think te first person POV gives a more personal feel to your writing and brings us closer into the moment. After all, you are interpreting the chickens for us; to have a narrator interpreting “the old man” brings us a step further away from them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. After thinking of the question once more, I agree with you, Cathy. The 3rd person narrative works well too but it creates some distance in my view.

      As far as I understand your motivation, John, you would like to give the characters more depth.
      I have got no experience in writing….but I wonder if it is necessary to change the narrative to do so.
      You (as 1st person narrator) could simply question your original perception of the characters and discover new facets
      or to provide more background information and details, you let the chickens talking about each other more
      or the relevant chicken is sharing more insights with you.

      I also agree with Judi B. that the intimacy of the dialogues combined with straightforward , simple language is very special and charming. It is like a dad should feel with, talk to and care for his kids.
      The reader eavesdrop on you and your chicken. …which means the role of the reader will change too if you change the perspective.
      Well, I suppose, you`ve got specific ideas how to further develop your family stories that triggered your research.

      Maybe, the introduction of a 3rd person/ observer / commentator (or a couple that exchange thoughts about what they are observing – like in the ancient theatre) aside of the 1st might support your ideas (pls. see my 1st comment above)…?
      Just some food4thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I have got no experience in writing.” I am so very glad you have no experience in writing! You have got experience in reading, and that is much more valuable to anyone who writes! (One can follow all of the rules in the “how to” books about writing written by great writers, but if you can’t make a connection to your readers, what have you accomplished?!?)

        You, Judi, and Cathy have given me so much to consider. Your comments here as a compilation sums up everything so well, and I am feeling like a closed door has opened.

        I believe I know the direction to take now. Though it may be a much more challenging direction than I had originally planned.

        Now that Emily has been developing her talents though “Summer Art Camp,” I think that perhaps she will be able to make some illustrations for the story that will allow things to be revealed from her perspective. My first person narrative can reveal how I see my chickens. Her illustrations just might be able to reveal how my chickens see me!

        This is an exciting, though challenging, possibility! Definitely “food4thoughts”!

        Thank you, Susanne! Thank you, Cathy! Thank you, Judi!

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    2. Cathy, thank you so much. This is such wise advice from another writer.

      This sentence of yours clarified so much for me: “After all, you are interpreting the chickens for us; to have a narrator interpreting ‘the old man’ brings us a step further away from them.”

      This is likely the kernel of a solution to this writing dilemma. I am interpreting the chickens for you, the reader. You are experiencing the chickens through my first person point of view. So now to consider how the chickens might interpret me! How can they tell you things about me (or the fictional “old man” character) that I would not say about myself?

      The point of “Morning Assurances” is to tell about how the old man in the story makes sacrifices for his chickens. While they have an abundant and varied breakfast salad, he has a can of beans and leftover rice. That just doesn’t work well in first person. (Something like that sounds a lot like bragging. You don’t point out things like that even if they are true.)

      But perhaps the chickens could say that. “We see you bringing home the grocery bags. We see most of what is in them is for us.”

      Just writing that out to see how it sounds…

      Anyway, thank you so very much for taking the time to read and think this through and then to share your perspective! Seriously, your comment about being a interpreter for the chickens really cut right to the heart of the questions I’ve been pondering!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The answer to your question may come by remembering this…who is your audience and what is it that you are trying to tell them. Most of your writing…at least what I’ve read…invites us into your world and those of your chickens. It’s personal…filled with depth of meaning and character development. It’s fun to experiment with different styles and narratives. My thought is to stick with who you are and what you do best which is perhaps the number one thing all of us should do. The rhythm of writing you produce is delightful and charming. I would encourage you to sharpen the tool rather than reinvent the wheel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Shawn, so much. This is good advice…
      “remembering this…who is your audience and what is it that you are trying to tell them.” This is also strong advice…“stick with who you are and what you do best.” I am going to do my best to remember these things. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve enjoyed your writing so far John. The first person style is what drew me into your world and made me want to read more.

    The third person view is just that…a third person view, which in my opinion take out the personal love for the characters.

    The true test, I believe, would be to write in their person for a month and see how your readers respond. If likes and comments slack then you know the first person view is their preference.

    Just my non writer two cents…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Stu. Your opinion and thoughts are worth a lot more than two cents to me! Any writer who has lost touch with his readers isn’t much of a writer in my opinion. I think you are definitely in the majority about the first person point of view being preferred. Thank you so much to take the time to read, to think about it, and to respond! I owe you a lot more than two cents! John

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  6. Hey. I thought that read well. When you use the first person, the perspective – so it seems to me – radiates out from you. You are the still voice at the heart of it all, and, as a result, you are almost not in the story (even though obviously there is no story without you, but from a reader’s perspective). When you write in the third person, as here, it seems to me that the old man is then very much part of the story. The reader would want to learn about him as he/she goes along, as well as the chickens. That, to me, is the difference in using those different voices. There is no right answer. Hope that helps !!! : )

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