First Person v. Objective POV – Class Exercise

I’ve been wanting to post this. For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been attending a Fiction Writing class every Monday. Each week, we’ve focused on a different element of writing fiction: plot, character, dialog, description, setting, voice and point of view.  (Yes, I know that’s only 7 topics. We didn’t meet on Memorial Day) This post is one of the exercises I did. It’s very different from the story I’m working on, but also helped me to hone my point of view for that story. I’d love to hear what you think.

Reunion – First Person POV

I was standing near the bar with my girls. The girls I’d spent all my time with in high school. The girls who looked to me for approval about what to wear, where to go, even who to date and most of all, who could be in our “in” crowd. It was strange to be there with them after so long and even stranger that we all fell back into the old patterns.

I surveyed the room again and realized that all the little clusters were like mine that way. We had all fallen back into our high school habits so easily. Across the room were “The Stoners” and on the other side of the room were “The Jocks”. Hanging out near the DJ were all “The Creatives” and, of course, near me were “The Popular Girls.” Movement near the door caught my eye, and I saw her walk in.

She and I had squared off in grade school, but the stakes had gone up in high school. Thirty years later, she still bugged me. I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of actually making eye contact, though.

“Sharon,” Lori whispered, “Did you see who showed up?” I glared at her.

“Don’t look at her,” I demanded. “She wasn’t one of us then, and she’s not one of us now.”

Kara was studying her perfect manicure from the day spa I’d recommended to her. “Sharon,” she started hesitatingly, “Why do we hate her so much? I don’t remember doing anything to us.” Her voice trailed off as she saw the daggers my eyes threw at her.

With her words, my entire adulthood fell away and I remembered how it began. I glanced over at Debbie and hoped she didn’t notice. I remembered being the new girl on the playground in third grade, when she was better at the sports than I was. I remembered being second to her for academic awards, and I remembered the display cases in the lobby filled with her drawings and pottery. She’d never said a word, but that smug look on her face every time she did something better than me had spoken volumes. I was sure that she took every opportunity possible to make me feel smaller than I was. And I’d sworn that being shorter than her wouldn’t make me less powerful. I would show her. And I had. I glanced over at her again, hoping again that she would be looking away. But this time, she was looking in my direction. I felt all that old resentment boiling up in my perfectly sculpted, tummy-tucked, abdomen. Three kids hadn’t changed how I’d fit my clothes. I felt my acrylic nails bit into my palms as I clenched my fists, and I felt the three-carat diamond with sapphire baguettes that Jay had bribed me with after his latest affair cut into the base of my fingers. I looked over at Kara and smiled a tight smile.

“She didn’t HAVE to do anything. She just was.”

I saw Debbie get up from the table where she had sat down with her friend Lisa. The two of them had been thick as thieves back then, and look at them now…still buddies. I would bet they spoke weekly, at least, all along. She started walking towards me and my girls.

“Keep going,” I thought. “Just get your drink and move on.” But no. She stopped around 5 feet away from me, and brazenly stared me down.

“Let it go, Sharon” she said. I saw the venom in her eyes. She hated me as much as I hated her, it seemed. “I never did anything to deserve being treated like a second-class citizen by you. I shouldn’t have taken it then and I won’t take it now.” I was surprised. This wasn’t the scared girl, I’d been able to cut with a look back then.

“Oh, right.” I said, sarcasm dripping. “Like you weren’t always trying to beat me to the highest grade, or the best score. The only thing you didn’t try to beat me at was cheer, and that was just because you were too big and clumsy.” I looked back at her, hoping my expression was one of boredom and disdain so she couldn’t see how taking second place to an Outsider had galled me.

“You treated me badly then, Sharon”, she said to me, “and if I let you, you’d treat me badly now. You’re a bitter, angry woman. I may never get why you resent me, but you did and your cronies egged you on in your mission to make me feel small.” I looked over to Lori and Kara who looked very uncomfortable at this unexpected confrontation. Debbie walked away.

I looked back to the table where Debbie had sat down with Lisa again, and their friend Corinne had joined them. Envy, jealousy, they rose up inside me almost uncontrollably. I noticed that Lori and Kara had stepped back from me a little bit.

“Kara,” Lori looked away from me, “Do you want to come to the Ladies Room with me?”

Reunion – Objective POV

The reunion was still gathering momentum. Small groups of former classmates, some of the men now balding or grey where they’d once had flowing long 1970’s shag hairstyles. Some of the women’s bodies showed the changes wrought by childbirth or unhappiness and some by untold hours at the gym.

Sharon stood in the corner near the bar, surrounded by several of her old gang. They had staked out a corner of the room, as surely identified as their territory as if they had roped it off.

Occasional girlish giggles burst from their conversation, which might have seemed slightly out-of-place to an untrained observer. These women had gone to great lengths before the party, to show their station in life, with designer clothing, perfectly coiffed hair, nails and makeup, and toned bodies, evidencing hours with their personal trainers.

Around the rest of the room, small clusters connected reconnected and murmured phrases of greeting to one another “Hey, Dan! Great to see you buddy! Been hitting the tennis court much?” “Fran, you look wonderful. You haven’t aged a day. Me? Well, I’m keeping busy with the kids and community activities.” Sharon’s group didn’t move around the room. It was a statement to the rest of the guests. “Come pay us court” they said, wordlessly.

The door opened and Debbie walked in. She was tall and had a commanding presence, with a body that reminded her classmates that she’d been the star on the field hockey team, even if her hips had broadened and her stomach swelled a little with having kids. Her face had the kind of wrinkles caused by living in a sunny, dry climate. Her dress fit slightly imperfectly and her nails had dirt under them. Her once ash-blonde hair now had gold threads from intense sun, and silver threads from age running through it. Some women in the room might have spent $300 or more to have hair that looked like hers. Despite having aged a little over the past thirty years, she was still only of the few people in the room who could be instantly recognized. She gazed around the room, observing the dance of the groups already there, when she saw someone she recognized.

“Lisa!” Debbie exclaimed. “It’s been too long. I was hoping you’d be here. Let’s go catch up.” Lisa and Debbie had been best friends in high school. Separated by distance and direction in their lives, the two moved to a small table to catch up with each other before either started to work the rest of the room. Debbie noticed Sharon glancing at her. Debbie narrowed her eyes, looking back at Sharon for a moment before turning back to Lisa.

“Then David and I separated for a while, so he could get his act together, but we’ve been back together nearly fifteen years now and things are better than ever”, Lisa finished.

“Do you know why she hates me so much?” Debbie asked.

“Not a clue. Maybe she thought you were competition.” Lisa chuckled. “I can’t imagine what she’d compete with you about, though.”

Debbie smiled. “I’m going over there,” she said, “It’s been thirty years. We’re both adults. I’m going to ask her.”

“Well, it’s your choice, but frankly I wouldn’t bother. For pretty much the same reasons you want to.”

Debbie stood up and started walking toward Sharon and her group. As she made her way across the room, her back straightened. To those who had watched her walk down the auditorium aisles at academic awards day in grade school, the posture was familiar. A close observer would never see any anxiety.

Debbie stopped around five feet from Sharon. “Let it go, Sharon.” She said. “I never did anything to deserve being treated like a second-class citizen by you. I shouldn’t have taken it then and I won’t take it now.” Debbie’s voice was quiet and determined. It didn’t tremble or waver.

“Oh, right.” Sharon said, sarcasm dripping. “Like you weren’t always trying to beat me to the highest grade, or the best score. The only thing you didn’t try to beat me at was cheer, and that was just because you were too big and clumsy.” Debbie looked back at her and Sharon turned away to face the bar, as though about to order a drink.

“You treated me badly then, Sharon”, she said to me, “and if I let you, you’d treat me badly now. You’re a bitter, angry woman. I may never get why you resent me, but you did and your cronies egged you on in your mission to make me feel small.” Debbie turned and started walking back toward Lisa, who’d been joined by Corinne during the exchange.

“Did you get what you were looking for?” Lisa asked.

Debbie ’s brow wrinkled a little. She looked like she was thinking it over. “Yes. I think I did.” She replied thoughtfully. “She wouldn’t admit how she’d treated me, but as it turns out, I didn’t want that after all.” Debbie smiled, all the way to her eyes this time, which crinkled at the corners and twinkled with satisfaction. “I wasn’t intimidated anymore. I just don’t recognize her power over me anymore.” She sat back and looked at Corinne. “How have YOU been all these years?”

The glittery group in the corner looked over at the table of friends, sitting closely together sharing their stories. Lori and Kara stepped back from Sharon, just a few inches and looked around at the room awkwardly.

“Kara,” Lori looked away from Sharon, “Do you want to come to the Ladies Room with me?”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “First Person v. Objective POV – Class Exercise

  1. I really like the way you handle the nuances in this, and make each of the characters real. I like the repetition in each section of things like the nails and the physical appearance. Great work!

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