Life in Poetry reading, writing, reflecting

Life in Poetry reading, writing, reflecting
April showers bring May flowers

Wednesday, 6 March 2019


It's the Insecure Writers Support Group day. Every first Wednesday of the month. Post your answer to the question of the month. Share with other insecure writers, comment on their posts, and spread the word. If you would like to join click on the landing page

The question for the 6th of March is

 Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

Good Morning, fellow members.

Unfortunately I don't have much experience with novels, as I am writing my first novel.
My narrator is 3rd person omniscient and he/she is writing from the point of view of the two main characters, each with their own voice, and their own story as they don't evolve in the same setting. Different countries and they do not know each other. I suppose they are both the heroes of their own adventures.

In my short stories, my narrator is mostly 3rd person omniscient and writes from the point of view of the main character, usually, a hero. Sometimes the point of view can shift from one character to another, but in a short story, rarely...It's to short to be able to pull it off !

In my poems, the perspective is often mine. So I suppose I consider myself the hero but maybe I'm the villain sometimes. Then you could argue that there are no heroes or villains in poetry ! No, in narrative poems there are plenty. In Paradise Lost, Satan is the villain and Milton writes long passages from his point of view. In Keats' La Belle Dame sans Merci, the narrator is interviewing the knight, so the the poem is written from the knight's perspective who is not really a hero, more a victim of the Belle Dame, the clear villain.
Some of my poetry include narrative poems and in these cases, I like to write more from the perspective of a witness than the hero or villain. It enables the narrative to unfold more objectively.

Sorry I'm going off on a tangent here....
Today, as the question refers mostly to novels, I am feeling insecure about my novel in progress. It is not in progress as I am stalling ! I think about it a lot in my head but I am not writing. I started it in 2007 and wrote two chapters from the perspective of one of the characters. Then I wrote the third chapter in February 2013, adding to it in May 2014 but this third chapter is not finished. So what have I been doing ? Writing short stories and poetry, going to writing workshops, taking creative writing and poetry courses. 

In my novel's notebook, I have amassed research.
What is the novel about ? It's a two-fold Bildungsroman of sorts with one omniscient narrator and two characters, two stories and two point of views. Ambitious ? Yes, and you bet I'm feeling insecure about that. Has the novel any villains? I don't know, I haven't outlined my character list yet.

The research is on setting and occupations of the two main characters. 

Bartholomé is a 24 year-old Cameroonese from Douala who teaches Mathematics at the University of Yaoundé. His father lives in Douala and is the Head Receptionist of the Novotel there. His mother is from the English-speaking Bamiléké area. Bartholomé is fascinated by Mathematics. It is a subject which appears to fulfill all his intellectual needs. His Grandfather suddenly dies and he takes a trip up North to Maroua for his funeral. so my research hinges on Cameroon, country and history; advanced mathematics; Muslim traditions in North Cameroon; the Fang, Bamiléké and Fulani cultures and languages.
I spent a year in Equatorial Guinea, a hispanic country between Cameroon and Gabon and travelled between the three countries. So I already have quite a lot of books, my photographs and diaries. I have contacts still living in Cameroon, Cameroonese, and some Cameroonese friends living in France. I have kept up with the country's history, politics, news and culture over the years even if I haven't been back since 1989. This story starts in 1988.
I studied advanced mathematics until I was 20 and also have a friend who is an American researcher and has travelled the world.
I am not feeling too insecure about this story because I think I possess a sound foundation of knowledge.

The second story is the tricky part. Mathilda is an African-American who lives in New York City and studies the history of "Black" ( no offence ) music and how it has merged with other American music to create new genres. For her research, she will travel to the South Eastern States and there start to question her own family roots.
My research on this second story englobes New York City; African American music; the South Eastern States; studying at University in NYC, living in New York; the history of African-American who migrated/fled from the slave States to the North Eastern coast; literature and arts beyond music.
There again, I do know quite a lot. I lived in New York in my childhood, in Staten Island, and visited many times since 1971; the last time in 2013. I keep up with history, politics, the news, literature, music and culture from all over the States. But I know nothing about the University system in NYC nor even if you can study the history of African-American music in New York. So I 'm feeling very insecure about this.
I know quite a lot about the South Eastern States, having travelled there several times. I have my books, photographs and diaries. I went to a Gospel Church service on my birthday in 2008 and am still in contact with the parish. But I'm uneasy about the fact that my own family history in no way intersects with that of my character's. I'm afraid that I will not be able to grasp my character's point of view in an authentic manner. I've read the main African-American authors of the 19th century and a few who wrote in the first half of the 20th century but not many since so I need to close that enormous gap. I've read a lot about the civil rights movement and witnessed the incidents that made the news, through TV and magazines, in the States and Europe. I visited several museums in Georgia and Alabama, recording names and dates in order to be able to reconstruct an authentic, though fictional, family tree for Mathilda.
As a European, I'm concerned that I won't be able to write convincingly about racism in the United States from the Point of View of my African-American character. I recently read Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things and according to the reviews, realise that Mrs Picoult didn't really pull off a 'believable Ruth', the African-American nurse, heroine of the novel, despite 'rigorous research and good intentions'. The racial problematic seemed well captured but what do I know ? Anyone read this book ? What do you think ?

Sorry I strayed from the question but I'm far from being able to answer it from experience.
Thank you for reading to the end. If you still have some energy, please feel free to comment, discuss, argue... And I'll be sure to reply.

Have a nice IWSG Day.

a little something to end my post.


  1. Wow, you pack a lot into that post! You are off to a great start. I found, through trial and error, that, 1. You should just write. Get the story down. 2. Don't fall in love with your research! You're going to use possibly one tenth of everything you now know. 3. Write write write! The answers, the characters, the people will come to you the more you let them out of your head and on to the page. This novel sounds amazing. Let your characters do the talking and listen to what they have to say. They will give you the genuine-ness that you are searching for. And, have a group of beta readers at the ready to read it for you and give you feedback once you get your first working draft done. Bonne Chance, and can't wait to hear how it turns out!
    By the way, my husband is from Blagnac! Occitanie lives!!!

    1. Hello Lisa. So nice to meet you. A French husband eh ! Just like my mother ! Does he still have family in Toulouse ? Do you ever travel to France ?
      Thank you for your encouraging comments. You are right, I have to keep my hand at writing the story, sailing with the flow, but the planning and research notebooks are I think essential if I wish to reach a destination !
      Happy IWSG day.

    2. Hello Susan! Yes, we travel to France whenever we can. My father in law and his wife, and my brother in law all still live there. My husband's mother just recently moved back to the States, and isn't sure she made the right decision. :( I personally LOVE the research part of writing. I think I'd make a good professional researcher for other, if I had time, LOL.

    3. Yes, when I write I learn new words, new expressions, a lot about the world and also myself !

    4. Coming back to your comment from AtoZ 2020. I agree, that getting the writing going liberates all the juices and the story. As my first Writing Workshop tutor said to me in 2005, when I first decided to write this novel : “ The idea won’t let you go and the characters will take you places, then you’ll know that the novel absolutely has to be written. “ Combined with your comment, very sound advice. Hope you are safe and your family in Blanca also. Take care.

  2. I write short stories mostly, but have written (started) two separate novels since last November. I think collectively I have 70,000 words. For a short (story) writer this is huge. :)

    1. How wonderful T.Powell. Keep going. Do the two novels feed each other ? Or are they completely unrelated ? What sort of short fiction do you write ?
      Have a smashing weekend.

  3. I think it's great that you're aware that it may be hard for you to capture the voice and experience of a character who's so different from yourself. As much as you can immerse yourself in another culture, you'll still be viewing it as an outsider. I loved this perspective from a women's fiction author who has written about different racial experiences than her own: Maybe you'll enjoy it, too!

    1. Thank you Michelle for your encouragements. I will be sure to read the article in southern writers magazine and I expect it will be very helpful for my research.
      Have a pleasant weekend.

  4. I absolutely believe in getting the research stage and the character outlining and background/setting details done first. I like to keep a different notebook for each story. And, in there, I start to make notes on all these things. Only when I have these things done (& any research sorted)do I progress to writing. So, I think you're doing the right thing and there's no need to rush it. Let yourself marinate on it slowly. One of my teachers, Joy Cowley, (one of our most prolific children's authors), said she takes three to four years to write each book. She "baits her hook and waits for the story ideas to come. Carry on fishing, Susan, and just know, you will get there! :)

  5. Thank you Yvette for your kind comments. I read your article on ‘how to write a story’ on your website and totally agree on the process. So I will continue,patiently , fishing. All the while keeping my creative juices flowing with poetry, short stories, drawing, photography and my writing workshops in French. Have a lovely weekend.


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