Writing Craft

The Wrong Point-of-View

Last week we identified Point-of-View (POV). This week, let’s consider some common POV misteps.

What’s My Line?: When POV/voice doesn’t fit the character.

Here’s an example. The POV character is male and a construction worker. So is the following appropriate for his POV?

She walked toward him, wearing a white organza dress with a white dimity underskirt. Both were hand-embroidered with yellow sprigs and her matching yellow satin sash was tied into a swag at her left hip.

Yeah, not so much. Not unless he’s on one of those Style channel design shows. Make sure your character’s voice matches who and what he is.

I’m Gettin’ Dizzy: Head hopping.

This one drives me nutty. The rule of thumb? Stick with one POV per chapter or scene. Hopping heads at will ends up being confusing and frustrating for the reader. And the last thing you want to do is give said reader a reason to put your book down–or throw it. Now, I know head hopping tends to be more common in romances, which jump from the hero to heroine. But even in those cases I’d urge writers to stick to one POV per scene.

Here’s an example of head hopping:

Sarah knew Charles was angry. She could see it in his eyes, his stance, the way his fingers opened and closed. Tense. White knuckled.

He turned away from her, wondering how she’d gotten to him. She was making him crazy.

Sarah wanted to stop him, but she couldn’t. All she could do was watch him walk away.

Where’s the jump? Yup, when we get inside his head and have him wondering. Stick with one POV per scene or chapter. Your readers will thank you. So, for that matter, will your editor.

To See the Impossible Scene: Things POV character can’t see or know

I see this most often with descriptions. Writers want to sneak in physical descriptions of their characters, but end up doing so in ways one normally wouldn’t think. For example, this is from the Third Person POV character in the scene:

She pushed back her sumptuous, curly hair, a glint in her eyes.

Looks good to you? Well, try this trick to see if you’ve gone outside of POV. Put the section into first person:

I pushed back my sumptuous, curly hair, a glint in my eyes.

Yeaaahhh…not so great now. Unless your charcter is a narcissist, having her describe her own hair this way doesn’t work. And unless she’s staring into a mirror (please don’t use that old ploy) she sure can’t see there’s a glint in her own eyes.

So, to recap:

  • POV is the eyes through which you’re seeing a scene. Also called character voice.
  • There are three types of POV: Omniscient, First Person, Third Person
  • Omniscient POV is where you’re not in any particular head. This POV lets you tell and know all, but lacks intimacy.
  • First Person is where you’re in one character’s head, and speaks in terms of I. This POV is immediate, emotive, and intimate, but can be limiting and difficult to write.
  • Third Person can be in a limited number of heads, and speaks in terms of he/she.

Last but not least, here’s an exercise for you to try, if you’re so inclined. Write one of the following scenes from all three POV angles:

  • Someone sitting by a loved one’s bedside, waiting with that person as s/he prepares to meet the Lord.
  • Someone waiting for a letter bearing the answer to an important question.
  • Someone driving a car who just manages to avoid a collision with a semi.
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Out of Their Minds: The basics of point-of-view

Ever been reading a novel, cooking along with the character, when you realize you’re not seeing things through that character’s eyes any longer? Somewhere along the way, something shifted and you’re inside a different character’s head. Jarring, huh? Probably jolted you out of the story, if only for a few seconds while you figured out what happened.

That, my friends, is what you want to avoid at all costs: Bumping your reader out of the story. Because once they’re out, any number of things can pull them away before they get back in.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at Point of view. First, what is POV (point of view)? Anyone? Yes! That’s exactly right. (Hey, I’m a novelist too, remember? If I want to hear my imaginary class answering me, I can.”) Point of view is the “eyes” through which we’re seeing the story.

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Three Questions About Agents

In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:

How do I find a literary agent?

1)      First and foremost, visit the Agency web sites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.

2)      Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.

3)      If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.

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The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread?

Guest Post by Teddi Deppner

Today debuts our first guest post. I first met Teddi at the Mt. Hermon Writers Conference while she sat through my Major Morning Track, listening patiently to 8 1/2 hours of lecture over four days. She has recently been asking some penetrating questions about technology and the publishing industry so I invited her to create a post and express those thoughts for your discussion.

Teddi Deppner has published hundreds of websites over the last 15+ years in her work as a professional web designer, marketer and consultant. Recently, she has launched on a quest to map out simple, effective strategies to share with creative people using the Internet and social media for their business. Find her latest projects at www.TeddiDeppner.com.

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Thanks to Steve for the opportunity to share some thoughts with his audience. This post, intended primarily to open a lively discussion, was sparked by an article by Craig Mod about “Post-Artifact Book Publishing”.

Craig’s essay presents the idea that books have traditionally been artifacts: the concrete, physical products of an author. He diagrams the process and participants in the creation, publishing and distribution of this artifact and how things are changing now that books have become more than static artifacts.

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RWA 2011 – Bright Lights Big Stories

by Lynette Eason

Today we are pleased to have a guest post from Lynette Eason, author of the bestselling “Women of Justice” series published by Revell. She also won the 2011 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award for romantic suspense. Last week Lynette was at the RWA (Romance Writers of America) convention and we asked her to share her experience.

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“Bright Lights Big Stories” was the theme of the RWA conference this year. My very FIRST RWA conference. What an experience!

The conference was held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. My hotel room was on the twenty-first floor. My husband came with me and we had a corner king room. It was HUGE. And so comfy. I could have just stood at the window looking down at all of the excitement on Broadway the entire week, but I knew there were other fun things to experience.

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True Words

Several months ago someone challenged me to read an article by Marilyn McEntyre entitled “Letting Words Do Their Work.” Because I respected the editor who made the recommendation, I hopped right on over the the link.

It’s not easy reading. Nor is it a “quick read.” But I’ll tell you what it is:

Powerful truth. If you’re a writer, speaker, agent, reader, or simply one who loves–truly loves–words, you’ve got to read this article. A few salient points that resonated:

“It is hard to tell the truth these days, because the varieties of untruth are so many, so pervasive, and so well disguised.”

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Book of the Month – July 2011

by Steve Laube

Small Message, Big Impact by Terri L. Sjodin is this month’s “Book of the Month.” I recommend that every veteran and aspiring writer read this book and glean from it.

The key to this book is in the subtitle: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect to Work for You. Sjodin defines the elevator speech as:  “A brief presentation that introduces a product, service, philosophy, or an idea.  The name suggests the notion that the message should be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride, up to about three minutes.  Its general purpose is to intrigue and inspire a listener to want to hear more of the presenter’s complete proposition in the near future.”

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The Care and Feeding of … WORDS!

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
Pearl Strachan

“By words the mind is winged.”
Aristophanes

“The turn of a sentence has decided the fate of many a friendship, and, for aught that we know, the fate of many a kingdom.”
Jeremy Bentham

Amazing, isn’t it? Something so small as words can have such huge impact.

The right word in any circumstance can bring peace, comfort, laughter, tears. It can elicit emotion, stir action, deliver forgiveness, change lives. For generations, words have moved and motivated. Writers, steeped in the wonder of words, have poured their hearts out on stark paper, only to have those pages come to life in ways they never imagined, and to have their words live on in the hearts and minds of readers long after they’ve been read.

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Letting Go of Your Babies

One of the worst mistakes writers can make is being too possessive of their words. They fight for each adjective, adverb, and conversation tag.

My early writing suffered from too many words. I once wrote an artist didn’t “really” understand the difficulties of making a living in his profession. The editor kindly cut all instances of “really,” “just,” “so,” “very,” and other weak words experienced editors call “weasel” words.

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Print: A Thing of the Past?

by Karen Ball

Remember the musical Oklahoma? Gordon MacRae singing to, of all people, Rod Steiger: “Poor Jud is daid, poor Jud Fry is daid…”

Well, the way folks have been talking lately, I’m waiting for the new musical, “Digital World,” where a Gordon MacRae-esque editor will stand next to a book and sing out, “Poor print is daid, poor print books is daid, they’re lookin’ oh, so tattered and passé…”

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