Where Are You Going

Guest Blogger: Bluffton student KATIE DRIGGERS

We are super excited to announce that this week’s guest blogger is Bluffton University student Katie Driggers. Her writing exercise focuses on point of view, and uses the story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (Joyce Carole Oates) as a jumping-off point for practicing going deeper into your character’s emotional stance.

Please give “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” a read before trying your hand at this one- the story is a classic, and it’ll help you get started on revising some of your own work!

And here’s Katie!

The story “Where are you going? Where have you been?” written by Joyce Carol Oates has several lines that depict the point of view of Connie, the main character of the story. Connie is a fifteen year old girl, who seems to be a bit naive to the world and inevitably, falls victim to a sexual predator. Arnold meets Connie at a restaurant during their first encounter. Arnold promises to find Connie and make her “his girl.”
Arnold Friend is true to his word, and finds Connie as well as where she lives. Friend drives to Connie’s house with another man, Ellie, and shows up right after her parents and sister leave to go to a family barbecue. Connie has decided to stay home due to the bad relationship she appears to have with her family. We are able to see Connie’s perspective when she is standing in her kitchen, while the antagonist, Arnold Friend, corners her via the back porch. Oates describes Connie’s terror:

“She was panting. The kitchen looked like a place she had never seen before, some room she had run inside but that wasn’t good enough, wasn’t going to help her. The kitchen window had never had a curtain, after three years, and there were dishes in the sink for her to do-probably-and if you ran your hand across the table you’d probably find something sticky there,” (Oates 201).

How can you put yourself in a character’s shoes and capture emotion? For this exercise, we will use Oates’ scene with Arnold Friend and Connie as a jumping-off point for our writing prompts examining different points of view.

Prompt one: 
Retell the event with your own words and what you believe would reflect your actions toward the occurrence. Visualize yourself in Connie’s position.  What would be your own point of view?  Take into consideration Connie’s age and personality.  Try to think about the characterization of Connie, and why this element makes the scene so effective.

Prompt two:
Imagine that the point of view in this scene between Arnold Friend and Connie is Ellie, who is sitting in the car during the encounter.  What would be different about the scene and how it is perceived?  You may even be able to create a personality for Ellie, since the reader is given a very vague description about his character traits.  However, remember that Ellie is a comrade of Arnold Friend, and probably wants the situation to turn out in his favor.

Prompt three: 
Now, tell the occurrence from the perspective of Arnold Friend.  What does Connie’s behavior look like?  What does Arnold’s behavior look like?  Has he done this to other girls?  How many?  Is Arnold’s experience with Connie similar or different from his past experiences with these other girls?  We are given insight into Arnold’s demeanor.  Draw off of Oates’ description of Arnold’s actions to build point of view.

Prompt Four: 
How does the setting play into the point of view of this story?  Oates describes Connie’s surroundings (i.e. her kitchen) when Arnold Friend is trying to coerce her into coming out of the house without him going in after her.  For example, how does the line “If you ran your hand across the table you’d probably find something sticky there,” (Oates 201) add to Connie’s panic and her moment of sickly realization of what is happening?

Prompt Five: 
Skip ahead in the story, and assume that Connie has gone with Arnold.  What happens when Connie’s family comes home and Connie is nowhere to be found?  How does Connie’s mother react?  Her father?  Her sister?  Recall each character’s attitude toward Connie in order to get an idea of what a particular character might say and do.  Remember, Connie never tells anyone about her previous experience with Arnold Friend.

Now, try this exercise in one of your own stories, shifting point of view within a scene or section of the story - you might be surprised what you discover about your own characters!


Katie Driggers