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Rewriting, reviewing, revising – or ruining

Thai Dragon, rewriting, revising, reviewing
Thai Dragon

Rewriting can be fun, as well as tedious. In my blog on POV, I described how I was rewriting a novel by changing at least one point of view character from third to first. As I have progressed with the rewriting, I am content with having the second protagonist remain in third person but I am pondering whether I should rewrite the antagonist in first.

By rewriting one chapter in the third person limited, and again in first, I hoped to be better able to reach a conclusion. However, the first person for the antagonist doesn’t feel right. It is stronger, I believe, from the rewritten third. Have a read, and see what you think.

This is the first paragraph and a half of the original third person view.

The man in Bangkok, known as Big Chin although only five feet three inches, was at dinner, eating alone as he preferred, an empty but used plate in front of him. He was a fourth-generation Brit raised in Liverpool’s Chinatown pretending to be native Chinese fresh from the crush of Beijing.

Big Chin adored Western food and sipped English sarsaparilla from a crystal goblet. A dozen black ceramic dishes covered the table and he ate a little from each of them.  He swilled the Sprite around his mouth before swallowing, then perused the remaining dishes; beef, pork, chicken.

Below is an extract from the rewritten third person.

The rumour was strong. A British woman: name, Sabrina Tarrant; occupation, bar owner; status, unmarried: killed Joe and tossed him in the Gulf. That takes balls.

Rooney couldn’t confirm he heard a woman in Feeney’s apartment. Me, I think you can tell a woman’s pitch especially through the thin walls in those buildings. Rooney was lying to me.

A pain stabbed Big Chin’s chest and he rubbed at it with the heel of his hand. His butler handed him the seltzer, and he chewed on two of them while pondering what to do with Rooney.

Because of his ineptitude, ten-million-baht is missing. My ten-million-baht.

Another stab in the chest. He waved away the indigestion pills, and gazed at a dozen black dishes covering the table. The same foods every day although he didn’t eat everything on it, he liked to have the choice. After sipping sarsaparilla letting the flavoured bubbles tingle in his mouth, he raised the crystal goblet to the light, and admired the refractions.

My competitors whisper, and my business associates. Complain I fake being something I’m not, putting on airs and graces. Such a cliché. Jealous men. What is wrong with appreciating luxury and fine things, that’s what I want to know? They believe me to be a native fresh from the crush of Beijing when I am a fourth generation Brit raised in Liverpool’s Chinatown. Fools. But it suits me to let them continue with their belief.

Hmm, chicken or pork? Beef, I think. Count to thirty, Thaddeus Chin. Mama’s voice rang in my head every time I ate. Good mastication prevents digestive problems. She would be appalled at the amount of food wasted, as is my wife, Paula. They would have gotten along, I think.

Assorted vegetable dishes including cauliflower cheese, mange-tout, truffles, burnt onions, green salad, mixed salad, without dressing as specified, circled the meats. Potatoes – duchesse, croquette and scalloped sat in front of green tureens holding rice and pasta. The tureens separated from the rest of the food because he never touched peasant fare. They served as a reminder to his employees of their status. Three of them stood to attention behind him but he noted their reflections in the polished armoire. Fidgeting even at ease.

With Joe dead, Big Chin expected a rush of pleasure. It happened for ten seconds until Rooney told him his money had disappeared. Paula had massaged his shoulders until the rage disappeared.

It is an interesting exercise. This is a close third person, so the character’s perspective is intermingled with the narration. The third person narrator is also the character, and the narration is from the character’s perspective too. 

As a writer, I step inside the head of the character to write his thoughts and dialogue, and out again to narrate. I tried to distinguish the two elements but not sure if it is necessary as the pronoun should be sufficient.

At a recent workshop, Sean O’Reilly (writer and University lecturer) spoke about point of view, and this is what I understood by his lecture.

I like the new version. Anyone reading the extract have an opinion?

What have I learned so far?

  1. Changing point of view means rewriting because altering the pronoun only does not work.
  2. Drafting an outline, character and plot arc for the chapter provides the main points to cover.
  3. Start rewriting from the outline, and not from the text.
  4. I have more to learn, and more changes to make.

Merry Christmas!

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