Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Point of View (POV) and Transparent Narrative


2010
05.07

Before you read this post, be sure to enter my contest if you haven’t already!

Now for the goods. I normally try to keep my posts short and snappy, but this one has to be long. Sorry 🙁 But if you hang in there, it’ll be worth it!

I was catching up on my daily blogs when I read a great post by Kristin Nelson about POV’s and which is best. I share her view that it depends on the piece, but I have more to add.

There are tons of POV’s to choose from. Really, tons! What? You think there are only two? Okay, time for a run down. For brevity (aka laziness), I am only going to cover the few that mostly pertain to fiction (not to mention that I covered them all, we’d be here all day):

  • First Person – Narrative told from the view point of a character. In this POV, the writer can only know what the character knows, and nothing more. It is very easy to *slip POV in this method, but this method also makes *transparent narrative easier to obtain.
  • Third Person Subjective – Narrative told from an outsiders view. Instead of “I said,” or “I did,” it’s “Chris said,” or “Chris did.” The “subjective” part means that it sticks to one person, and almost always that one person is the main character. When sticking to one person only, and never revealing anything more than the one character knows, it can be referred to as “Third Person Limited.” This POV also make *POV slips easy, and like first person, is an easier road to *transparent narrative.
  • Third Person Objective – Third person, like the last (“Chris said,” etc), but is not attached to any one person. In fact, the narrative may not jump into anyone’s head. No inner monologue, no inside view of emotion. Think of it like a camera that follows the story. It can only report what it sees, and nothing more. This makes for difficult *transparency, and as long as you remember to only report what you see, you are less likely to make a *POV slip.
  • Third Person Omniscient – Once again, third person narrative. This time, the narrator knows everything. And I mean everything everything. Consider it the “God” perspective. You can jump into anyone’s thoughts, motives or emotions. It is impossible to *slip POV, and *transparent narrative is moderately achievable.

Those are only a few of the points of view. There are several others (Second Person, Alternating, etc), but these are the most common in fiction today.

Within those confines, there is tense: past or present. I will discuss this further in a later post, but for now, know that my opinion is present tense is almost never a good choice. I would say never, but I add the “almost” because  Suzanne Collins has made me realize it can be done, and done well! (My friend Roh does a pretty good job too, but I still like her past tense writing better 😉 )

Okay, now on to my preferences. For me, there is only really two options: Third Person Limited (past) and First Person (past). Third Person Omniscient isn’t used as often any more (although it used to be the “bees knees”), and any version of the above in present is also a rarity.

I had asterisked (what a weird word!) a few terms above: POV slip and transparent narrative.

Transparent Narrative is what happens when your reader stops reading and starts seeing. They no longer read word by word, sentence by sentence, or paragraph by paragraph. Rather, they mindlessly flip pages, absorbing the story into their heads, unaware of the outside world and are completely immersed in the movie that is playing in their minds eye. This one thing, above all else, should be the goal of every writer. I know that I made comments about how POV affects transparency, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Every thing else… I mean everything (character, plot, motivation, word craft, voice, pacing and rhythm, etc etc etc) will determine how transparent your story is. Once again, watch for a post about transparent narrative coming up.

POV Slips are major no-no’s. First, we need to identify the three types. The first type if slipping from either Third to First (or Second to Third, or First to Second, etc etc). The second type is actually a tense slip. Since tense (past, past past [more on “past past” at a later date], present, and even future) is part of the POV, is you slip that tense, you are committing a POV slip. Lastly, the third type of slip is when you break the rules of the POV, and get in characters head that you shouldn’t be in. These slips range from obvious (narrating inner monologue of a character other than the one you are attached to), to sly little devils (stating a characters feeling or motivation during action, other than the one you are attached to).

To illustrate obvious and not-so-obvious slips, consid For this example, Chris (me) is the main character. Ryan is not. I will be using Third Person Limited Past for my examples. :

Chris thought that Ryan’s joke was absurd. Ryan, however, thought that Chris was an imbecile and too stupid to understand his humor.

Obvious slip. Chris shouldn’t know what Ryan is thinking, therefore the narrator has slipped.

Chris threw a rock at Ryan’s head. Ryan dodged quickly, then frustratedly threw his rock at Chris.

Did you catch it? “Frustratedly” is an emotion that Ryan felt. The narrator shouldn’t know that. He could say that Ryan grunted, or cursed, or anything else that Ryan might have done to SHOW that he was frustrated, but the narrator cannot say he WAS frustrated, he can only assume, in which case, it MUST be clear. (Not to mention, that is a pretty gross adverb to use anyway!)

Chris through a rock at Ryan’s head. Ryan dodged, and apparently frustrated, he threw one back.

Still poor narrative, but at least it isn’t a slip. We can tell that the character is making an assumption, and therefore is not reading Ryan’s mind.  Please note that these modifiers (frustratedly, quickly, etc) are NOT something I would normally use, but they work for the purpose of the example.

Ok, that was long and detailed! Did you remember all of it? If not, here are the takeaway points:

  • Know, at minimum, what POV you are writing in and stick to it.
  • Choose the POV that works best for your piece, while considering the in’s and out’s and each POV.
  • Strive for transparency!
  • Unless you are willing to walk a difficult and lonely road, stick to past tense.
  • Enter my contest if you haven’t yet!

Thanks for hanging in there, my dear readers! I’ll post up the winners soon, then I will dive into the promises I made you.

Rad contest and a Rad blog


2010
04.27

Yes. I said rad. I know, my “nerd” is showing, but you’ll live.

I found this blog while motorcycling across the blogosphere desert, and instantly loved it. Mariah has fun posts all the time, and for some reason, they keep me inspired to write.

She is having a super cool (see, I can say other things besides “rad”) contest. She’s giving away lots of cool stuff, including a pre-order of Mockingjay! Woo hoo! Check it out!

Show vs Tell! Woo hoo!


2010
04.21

Showing versus telling has been the issue of the week. I have been going back and forth in a healthy debate between two friends and writers, Ryan Wilson and Toff (check out Ryan’s post to catch up on the details).

I am going to hash out what I think telling is, and you, the reader, may watch, laugh, make fun, and eventually, agree.  🙂

See, most often show vs. tell is applied to either action or emotion. Rarely is it brought up for description. Why? Why should description get off so easy? Dialog and monologue get a free ride, because the character is actually thinking or speaking the exact text that is written, so it is out of the picture all together. Description, however, should not get away free and clear.

Look at the following example:

“He was tall.”

vs.

“He ducked through the doorway as he entered the room.”

Most would say the first is not telling. Why? Because it is description (in Ryan’s case, it is telling because it is ambiguous). I say it is telling, because the narrator is just telling the reader a fact. To show, is to have action (a point that Toff will kill me later for saying). If there is not action — even invisible action (say, blood pumping) — then you are not watching (which I would assume if you are “showing,” then I need to be “watching”).

If you just tell me, I didn’t see anything.

Let’s look at another example:

“She has blonde hair.”

vs.

“She pulled her blonde hair behind one ear and continued to study.”

In the first sentence, nothing “happens,” so there is nothing to watch (hence, nothing is being shown). In the second sentence, there is something to watch, so we are being shown.

Lastly, a more difficult example:

“I tripped over a man. He was bloody from head to toe.”

vs.

“I tripped over a man who was bloody from head to toe.”

While iffy, the second is not telling. Here’s why.

“I                    kicked         a man.              He                     was                       bloody from head to toe.”

Subject     predicate      object.            Subject      (linking verb)       prepositional phrase (as an adverb)

“I                    kicked        a man      who was bloody from head to toe.”

Subject     predicate      object      prepositional phrase (as an adverb)

In the second sentence, there is action covering the whole sentence. Big difference. That brings me to my first rule of telling: a sentence that has a linking verb, with no other verbs, is telling.

I realize that my English skills are… questionable. If anything here is incorrect (as far as how I broke apart the sentence), please let me know. Additionally, I would love to hear your opinion on the matter. Post up and let’s see what happens!

*P.S. I am quite aware that my opinion is just that, and as I learn, I may decide that this is completely bogus, and my friends are correct.

The Name of the Game… er… Novel


2010
03.26

How many of you have ever browsed through a book store and picked up a book just because of its name? Come on, be honest! I’ll be the first to admit that I have, so now that the ice is broken, free yourself and admit it.

Similar to picking up a book based on a super awesome cover, as Natalie Whipple discussed, people will (whether you like it or not) pick up a book because of a catchy title. That may not be the only reason people pick up books, but it surely is one of them.

So what should you name your novel? Whatever you want. Chances are the publisher will change it anyway. That is not to say that you shouldn’t give it a title, though. In fact, if you already have a great title, you have a chance of keeping it, but don’t be upset if it gets changed.

Additionally, a great title might make a slush reader give it a solid look. If readers are picking up books based on titles, you can bet that good title will stand out in a slush pile as well. Here are some random examples of groovy titles that I made up on the fly:

The Untimely Divorce of Josephine Williams

Beyond Death’s Grasp

On the Fringe of Existence

Beneath His Feet

The Shaman of South Central

In History We Trust

Don’t some of these just grab you by the brain stem, forcing your hungry eyes to take in more? I hope so, otherwise this post turned out to be lame.

So how do you come up with a great title? I can’t help you there. 🙁  My method isn’t really a method: I think, then it happens. Almost instantly. If it doesn’t happen instantly, I put it on the “back burner” in my head, and a week later it will just pop in. I wish I could tell you more, but there’s nothing more to tell.

So, if the title of your current manuscript is, “Work in Progress,” I challenge you to come up with something great. You would be surprised how a good title will inspire you to keep writing.

Rejection is a good thing… honest!


2010
03.19

I may sound a little optimistic here, but look what treasure I found in my email today.

Thank you for your submission to SUPER AWESOME MAGAZINE.  Unfortunately, it’s not what we’re looking for at the moment.  Thank you for sharing, and best of luck in the future.

-The Editors
(Chris-  I’d like to commend you for the pacing of the first few pages.  It’s quite eloquent.  Keep working. -SUPER AWESOME EDITOR)
Obviously I changed the name of the magazine and the editor, but other than that, this is totally real! Woo hoo!
While this email makes it easier to see rejections as a good thing, this isn’t a new revelation. Getting published is a numbers game. Sure, you have to actually know how to write, and it has to be interesting, but all things being equal, it’s all about how often you submit.
Every rejection you get is one step closer to being accepted. Start thinking of it this way, and you will actually get excited to see rejections. I know it sounds strange, but seriously, you will.
And, you also need to realize that it isn’t just you. EVERYONE gets rejected. I know someone will comment or email me to prove me wrong, but 99% of the worlds published authors have been rejected… several times. Even the greats like Stephen King, Michael Crichton, insert your favorite author here.
Next time you get a rejection I want you to jump up and down, sing, dance, and email everyone you know. You know why? Because it means you and the best of the best have something in common. 😉

That versus Who


2010
03.18

I was IM’ing with a buddy of mine today when he asked me to proof read a blog post before he published it. I obliged, and found practically no errors (not a surprise, the man is a genius).

Anyway, later in he day, he teased me about missing several instances of the word “that” when it should have been “who.” Example:

“I know a guy that once at a McDonlad’s Cheeseburger in one bite.”

versus

“I know a guy who once at a McDonlad’s Cheeseburger in one bite.”

This sparked a little debate between us. Oh, don’t worry; it was a fun debate… we have them all the time (in fact, we have practically started a list of debates that we can pull from whenever bored). You see, I am not a believer. I don’t think that using “who” when the object is a person is a must.

His point was that there are several (probably in the thousands) of websites that prove that point. Go ahead, google it. To his credit, it is the popular consensus. I, however, do not always believe the popular consensus. This is the perfect example.

I think that you can use either. “That” has been used in literature, instead of “who,” for YEARS. In fact, Websters Dictionary AND American Heritage Dictionary BOTH openly reject the idea that you must use “who” when the object is a person. I found a handful of other websites to back up my point as well, and that brings me to the real point of this little post…

If it isn’t a 100%, undisputed, without a doubt grammar rule, don’t try to nitpick it. Why? Because someone like me, who debates just for the sake of it, will find a legitimate source (like a dictionary) to prove you wrong. Ha!

Now, while I discourage you from nitpicking grammar when there is no “absolute,” I will NEVER discourage you from sharing your opinion with other writers. Just make sure that you disclose it as your “opinion.”

Official Disclaimer: I only took the side of “that” because it was a fun debate. I do think you can do it either way, but I don’t think those who believe that you have to use “who” are unintelligent. I hold no grudges toward those THAT (lol) choose to use “who” instead of “that”. And, for the record, Ryan (the person I debated with) may use it however he wants, and I will still think he is an excellent writer. 🙂

Cheater Post


2010
03.16

I am tired. Still. I have been neglectful of my blog. Still. I am going to cheat here, and instead of writing an awesome post, I will merely point out an awesome post.

My friend, R. Garrett Wilson, has started a WONDERFUL series of posts on Character Development. This is EXACTLY the type of thing I would like to do… when I have time. For now, check out his posts, and prepare to be amazed. Seriously. You should probably sit down, so when your mind is blown, you won’t fall over 😉

Conference detox….


2010
02.23

So the conference was AMAZING! I have so much to write about that I couldn’t possibly write ONE post to sum it all up. Instead, I will be writing several over the next month to catch you all up on what happened.

I will start off with this post and bring up something that is bugging me… post-conference detox.

See, a writers conference is to writers what Disneyland is to children: a magical wonderland that completely engulfs your life, altering your perception of reality momentarily, and you NEVER want to go home. Ok, so I have a wife and kids, but I still would rather have had them come to me!

This leaves you with an inevitable problem. The conference won’t last forever, and you have to be thrust back in to reality as soon as it is over. That is where I am now.

It is hard to do anything but write (and play with my kids). I want to read about writing, talk about writing, and soon, I will even be Podcasting about writing (look for more to come!)

Alas, writing is not paying my bills (at least not yet, and even if I “make it”, it STILL might not), so work I must. Until I win the lotto, write a best seller, or my wife decides that I would make a great stay-at-home Dad, writing will have to be second chair to work 🙁

Double Deal Monday!


2010
02.09

Society For Animals in Distress LogoI didn’t want to post this until I had something to show, but I actually was published again! This time, it was a true story for a no-kill animal shelter newsletter. The shelter, Society for Animals in Distress, is in Canada, but had posted in Absolute Write’s forums looking for help. I gladly responded to the call, having just adopted a new doggie myself.

Luckily, they really liked my story! Unfortunately for me, though, I was uber busy at the time and never got further than my first draft. I also missed the deadline, but decided to send what I had the next day anyway (unedited — gross!). The story was touching enough that they took it anyway, and here it is for your reading enjoyment!

Jan Newsletter 2010 V1.0.9

Dallas 2I have removed some of the newsletter per their instructions, but left their intro, header, and my story. Oh, and in case you are wondering what Dallas looks like, this is him 😉

Dallas 1

Sheal, my contact there, had also asked me to mention that their organization SAD, could really use your *ahem* TAX DEDUCTABLE *ahem* donations. They are in crunch time, and are in danger of closing their doors (and gassing tons of cute doggies).  In case you somehow missed one of the several other links, you can get to their site here.

In a sad turn of events, we had to get rid of Dallas 🙁 My wife became pregnant with twins (yeah!!!!!!!!), and the dogs were too much. Not only would they still jump at her sometimes (kicking her in the tummy, no bueno!), but the smell was making her throw up regularly. On top of that, their constant upkeep was too hard on her (those twins are really sucking the life out of her… literally!), so we found a GREAT home for Dallas and our other dog, Dakota. We know they will make their owners very happy!

Thanks again to Society for Animals in Distress for running my story!

Ok, now I am officially published!


2010
02.08

Digital Dragon Magazine, February Issue Cover

Digital Dragon Magazine released their February issue, so now I can prove I am not full of beans (well, not all of the time anyway).

The flash piece I submitted was originally a blog contest put on by Natalie Whipple, author and owner of the blog Between Fact and Fiction. I didn’t win the contest (poor me), but I DID get it published (hooray)!

Natalie had sketched a totally awesome picture, and asked us, the readers, to write a short piece about what “might” be happening. Click here to “ooh” and “ah” over her awesome sketch.

So thanks, Natalie, for forcing–er, inspiring me to write this piece, and thanks Digital Dragon, for letting me share my work!