Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Laura Ingalls Wilder”

Leading Ladies of Fiction Faves

English: "How dare I, Mrs Reed? How dare ...

English: “How dare I, Mrs Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve noticed the books that hit my fave list share a commonality: spunky female protagonists

Lizzie Bennet: right smart with her retorts, and loves her trots about the countryside

Jane Eyre: determined and no one is going to door mat her anytime soon

Scout Finch: gotta love a girl who reaches for her overalls in times of stress

Katniss Everdeen: archer supreme, survivor, yet has compassion

Mattie (True Grit): can talk her way into and out of most anything; didn’t let an encounter with a rattler get her down

Hattie (Hattie Big Sky): took on Montana homesteading by herself!

Little Sister (Laddie): I’m pretty sure she and Scout are kindred spirits

Laura Ingalls Wilder: “stout as a Welsh pony”–that’s high praise

Antonia (My Antonia): sassy survivalist of the prairie

These ladies come from different time periods, different backgrounds, and different families, yet they all share the qualities of pluck.  Pluck never goes out of style, at least not in novels.

Got any favorites from the list?  Maybe you can share your own

The Morphing of the Omni Narrator

Right now we are toughing out poetry with my freshmen. *sigh* “We study poetry because oral storytelling came before the written language came into existence, plus many of the elements we study in poetry exist in fiction–you know, like imagery, diction, syntax, metaphors, analogies–so get to know poetry and you’ll understand and enjoy fiction that much more.”  And the question? (Jeopardy music, please)

Why do we study poetry?

Returning to the anticipated second quarter…(quick, quick, I’m losing them)

Once I get to short stories in the curriculum it’s pretty easy sailing, since my students are versed in plot, characters, setting, and such. Theme sometimes throws them; however, point-of-view gets them pondering. For instance, trying to explain the omniscient narrator is tricky these days. Back when, I used to say, “The Omniscient narrator is a lot like God–you know, everywhere and knowing everything about everybody.” I’m getting less comfortable about using that analogy in such a forthright manner.  I still believe it’s a valid analogy, yet don’t want to offend any of my students.  Let alone get the ACLU or other NSA types coming after me.

Cover of "The Long Winter"

Cover of The Long Winter

Another problem with trying to explain the omniscient narrator is that the old-fashioned version of the narrator filling into the details has changed into something quite different. For instance, I recently reread The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (don’t snicker, it’s a great read, besides it’s for research–really) and Wilder includes in the story what’s happening to the town’s people and to Almanzo and Cap who are all caught up in a grueling blizzard, in an inclusive fluid manner.  I rarely come across this type of narrative style today. As Bob Dylan once said, “Times they are achanging.”

In the last few years I have noticed a trend where the omni narrative is now designated as separate chapters.  This at first proved quite annoying because the point-of-view kept changing. One chapter would be one character, the next a completely different one.  I felt like I was juggling characters to the point of wanting to run an Excel sheet to keep it all straight.

The last few novels I’ve read have run this narrative style, and every new book I’m pulling from my suggestion list and review newspapers seem to be pandering this new style. I keep checking them out though.  I’m either getting used to this new kaleidoscopic style of story-telling or I’m so starved to read I’m willing to put up with it.

Here are some examples of recent titles with the switch-hit character changing technique. Enjoyable reads all, but fret and nuisance, doesn’t anyone write in the old-time omni narrative style anymore?



















Any thoughts, Book Boosters?

Of Pioneers

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I don’t know when I first became interested in pioneer stories.  No doubt Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie books had some influence.  There is something about establishing one’s mark upon the landscape, the taming of the wilderness, the making of a home and creating a legacy that is so very appealing.  As a child I have fond memories of my family’s little cabin in the woods, the weekend getaway we built together. Helping my father hack down sticker bushes to clear the building site, learning how to shingle the roof, chopping wood, digging up clams for chowder, all those getting-my-hands-dirty-and-blistered chores created in me the sense of being able to accomplish something–being able to be self-sufficient and capable. Although I have no hankering to travel back to those days of the pioneers, I do admire them and recently read Bound for Idaho:The 1864 Trail Journal of Julius Merrill.

Researching for my own pioneer novel I am always on the lookout for new material.  I thought this would be yet another boring account along the lines of “Walked today.  Another long day” type of journals, Merrill’s writing and accounts were fascinating.  Really, they were.  While it may not be like reading a novel, it did manage to transport me a bit.  At least it disspelled some of those John Wayne wagon train movie images instilled by the Saturday television matinees my dad and I were so fond of watching.  Merrill’s writing proved there were humorous moments among the hardships of traveling the endless miles.

Bound for Idaho: The 1864 Trail Journal of Julius Merrillpage 44: June 14th (Fort Kearny toFort Laramie)

We saw nothing having animal life except a skunk.  He was saluted with a shot from Carey’s rifle (an old Irish blunderbuss), whereupon he looked around to Carey with an inquistive glance as if to know where the noise came, evidently caring but little for half an ounce of lead.  Revolvers in hand, we gave chase and succeeded in getting another shot but not the skunk.

Running after, and shooting at skunks, may not seem funny, yet the dignified, stiff language combined with my mental play-by-play brought a smile to my reading.  Merrill’s descriptive writing shows it wasn’t all circling up in wagons and shooting it out with hostiles.  I’ll be able to liven up my own writing by remembering to insert the fun moments along with the adventures and stress-filled daily life of living the pioneer life.

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