Writing Exercise: The Reluctant I

The 3 A.M. Epiphany” offers a wealth of writing exercises. Author Brian Kitely writes This book is a collection of fiction exercise instructions whose main goal is to teach writers how to let their fiction find itself.” [1. Introduction, 1.] The first series of exercises address various Points of View. He makes a compelling case for dropping the omniscient third person P.O.V. While I agree this may make sense for some types of fiction, the big money makers, mysteries and romance, almost always use omniscient third. Rather than dispense with it, I prefer to use it when it is the most effective way to tell the story.

The Reluctant I

I have chosen to share with you my draft for The Reluctant I. The point of this exercise,” Kitely writes, is to imagine a narrator who is less interested in himself than what he is observing. You can make your narrator someone who sees an interesting event in which [s]he is not necessarily a participant. Or you can make him self-effacing, yet a major participant in the events related.” [2. Exercise 1. 1.] Write for 500 words. Please share you feedback with me. I would love to hear it.


The old radio blared out a British sounding voice. Johnny stood up so fast he hit his head on a rafter. The voice continued, muddled as though the man was speaking through the water at the bottom of a toilet bowl. There’s no plugs up here!” Johnny almost shouted. He even picked up the radio and found the plug but it still kept talking. But what is he saying?” I don’t know. It’s not like this piece of junk has a subtitles switch.” Johnny’s parents watched art-house movies and forced Johnny to watch them. A lot of the times they smoke marijuana and watch the movies and fall asleep half way through. They talk like they watch the whole thing. But they almost never do.” The British voice said I find it hard to describe adequately the horrible things I’ve seen and heard.” Whoa. The hair on my neck just stood up.”   The radio stopped speaking, or maybe the British guy just stopped talking. Just as quickly as it had started it stopped. It’s not like Johnny unplugged the radio, because it was never plugged in to begin with or even dropped on the floor to stop the voice. Though that would have interrupted everything. The crashing sounds. No. His voice faded out. Like when a villain falls to their death and their voices get smaller and quieter. Have you ever heard this radio before?” When Papap was alive, he never played it. He had a different radio then, more modern. Like the 80s kind your Jerry has.” Johnny rolled his eyes and turned his head away and worked his jaw hard. Jerry was his step-dad, and they didn’t get along. Ever, really. Jerry even tried to have Johnny institutionalized because Johnny wears dresses a lot. Jerry got close to having his way but then he came one night - I saw this for myself - and his face was destroyed. Both eyes starting to swell shut and a torn lip and ripped shirt. You’re not fucking leaving you little cunt,” he yelled at Johnny while Johnny’s mother - a waste of human being for sure - started crying with oh baby what happened to you” and Jerry pushed her away and stomped off to his recreation room (said using air quotes for emphasis) to kill his pain with drugs. Hey, you know what I found out,” Johnny told me at school a week later. My dad’s father paid some guys to beat the shit out of Jerry and said if he put me in the looney bin they’d cut his balls off and sew them shut in his mouth!” Johnny choked he laughed so hard. Johnny’s dad had died in a car crash when he was three, and Johnny never spoke about a grandfather before. So I don’t know who Johnny was really talking about. But whoever did what they did, it kept Johnny out of shock treatments.