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Posts tagged with: Point Of View

POV for Beginners, Part 2

Yesterday we began our discussion of POV with a look into Third Person (Limited & Omniscient) and Second Person.  Today I’d like to delve into the one that has been giving me fits as I attempt to master it – First Person.  I recommend you catch yesterday’s blog, but as a quick refresher, point of view is (Cambridge Dictionary):

  1. a person’s opinion or particular way of thinking about something:
  2. (in literature) the voice in which a story is told and its relationship to the events in the story.
  3. (in art) In a painting or photograph, the place where the artist chooses to stand and what this tells you about the subject.

And the primary types of POV are first person (“I wake up” or “I woke up.”), second person (“You woke up.”), and third person (“He woke up.”).  Yesterday we went over the most commonly used in romance (third limited), but today let’s dig into first:

Point-Of-View for Beginners, Part 1

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about point of view (or POV as you will often see it abbreviated).  I was recently asked to write a book in a point of view that is not my usual (first person rather than third) and it has been a challenge, but also made me hyper conscious of the pros and cons of various styles of point of view.   

We’ve had pieces here about deep third POV & challenging POV, but I wanted to take it back to the basics today and look at what kinds of POV there are and how they impact the kind of story we’re telling.  

Let’s Get those Manuscripts Ready

Next week, many romance writers will be convening in Orlando for RWA’s annual conference.  Authors will be pitching their work to editors and agents, and a lucky few will be asked to submit full or partial manuscripts.

And that’s when the panic hits.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have an agent or editor request your work, but there is always that moment, after the conference is over and you’re back home, when you know that the work needs a little “polishing.”

So I thought I would provide a little inspiration for everyone who needs to spiff up that manuscript, by sharing a few editing thoughts using examples of my own, poorly written work.

My goal is to: 1) show that everyone makes the same mistakes, and 2) inspire you to seek out the worst and most egregious examples of crappy writing and fix them. . . before you submit your manuscript for evaluation.  So here goes.  Below you’ll find some examples of the worst writing ever, and how I fixed it.

POINT OF VIEW MISTAKES

I write deep third person, which is sort of like first person but without the I.  That means I’m forever trying to get out of my own way.  Here are a few examples of how I failed by inserting extraneous words and phrases that did nothing but distance the point of view.

 

First Draft: Even across the room she could feel the heat coming off his body in waves. She was not immune, but she damn well wanted to be. Guys like Matthew Lyndon should be locked away to prevent them from breaking too many hearts.

Edited Version: Heat rolled off his body in waves that reached her even across the room.  Damn.  Guys like Matthew Lyndon should be locked away to prevent them from breaking too many hearts.

In this edit, I removed the words “she could feel,” because it was unnecessary.  Here are a few more examples of subtle point of view problems:

 

First Draft: She watched the bartender as he moved down the bar and chatted with a group of guys at the corner.

Edited Version: The bartender moved down the bar and chatted with a group of guys at the corner.

 

First Draft: He ached to talk with her, to share his own story of high school rejection.  But he resisted that temptation.  He understood her trust issues since they mirrored his.

Revised Version:  He ached to talk with her, to share his own story of high school rejection.  But he resisted that temptation because her trust issues mirrored his own.

 

BEWARE THE MIND READER

Sometimes when writing deep third person, my point of view character will know something that make him/her a mind reader, or worse, like she’s mysteriously entered another character’s mind.  Here’s an example:

First Draft (not in Allison’s point of view): The bride looked back toward the window.  Allison wasn’t enjoying the view of the parking lot.

Revised Version: The bride looked back toward the window, which provided a beautiful view…of the parking lot.

By putting in the ellipsis I convey the point of view character’s snark about the ugly view, without sending the reader on a head-bopping journey.

ECHOES

It’s amazing how many times I can inadvertently repeat words in a sentence or paragraph. An event that inevitably leads to truly awful prose.  Some examples:

First Draft:  The situation made him feel powerless. So, after work, he headed directly to the Jaybird Café.  He needed a diversion, and the moment he walked into the bar and saw Courtney sitting at the bar with Ryan Pierce he knew precisely what sort of diversion he needed.

Revised Draft: Matt couldn’t stop the inevitable.  So after work, he headed directly to the Jaybird Café looking for a diversion.  He found it in the person of Courtney Wallace, who was sitting at the bar with Ryan Pierce.   

In this rewrite I fixed two echoes (YIKES!) and the point of view issues.

PASSIVE VOICE AND THE VERB “TO BE”

Like everyone, I sometimes fall into the habit of using passive voice.  I also have horrible paragraphs in which I repeat some version of the verb “to be” a zillion times.  Passive voice and overusing the verb “was” are not the same thing, but they can both lead to awful writing.  Here are some examples:

First draft: The landlord was given written notice of the repairs needed, and given only thirty days to affect them. And now, forty days later, hefty fines and a lien had been placed on the property.

Revised draft: The county notified the landlord of the repairs needed.  Anderson was given thirty days to effect them, but he failed to respond.  Forty days later, the government fined him and placed a lien on the property.

The revision fixes: 1) the echo (given) was removed, 2) Two examples of passive voice were removed, but not the third, and 3) the common spelling error (affect vs. effect) was corrected.

And here’s an example that contains no passive voice, but it overdoes the verbs was and were.

First Draft:  “Matthew was dorky?”  How was that possible.  The guy was movie-star handsome.  All the Lyndons were movie-star handsome.  The Lyndons didn’t do dorky.

Revised Draft: “Matthew was dorky?”  How was that possible?  The Lyndon family produced only movie-star handsome progeny. They didn’t do dorky.

Polishing a manuscripts is part of the job of being a conscientious writer.  And boy, do my first drafts suck!  In fact, I would say that I spend more time editing and polishing my stories than I do in actually writing them. 

Want to help and inspire others?  Share your own editing and manuscript polishing ideas, techniques, and examples in the comments below.

And good luck with those RWA pitches!

Exit, Stage Left!

Red CurtainNo, this post isn’t about the Hanna-Barbera animated  character Snagglepuss. (Yeah, I’m definitely aging myself here.) Instead, it’s about stage direction – you know, those descriptions, tags and ‘beats’ we writers use to move our characters around within the setting we’ve created.

To be even more precise, this post is about UNNECESSARY stage direction.

Too much stage direction can really slow down the pace. Too little stage direction can really confuse your reader. Either can make the reader want to throttle you.  

I’m doing some final revisions on my WIP in part to improve the pace. (ENTHRALL ME currently weighs in at a whopping 128K words, so some judicious pruning is definitely in order.) When writing early drafts, I err on the side of writing too much stage direction rather than too little. This means that later on in the revision process, my manuscript is littered with so much unnecessary walking and sitting and touching and crossing and glancing and noticing that the Pace… Grinds… To… A… Haaaallllltttttt….  

“Duh, we GET it, Tammy. Move on. No, really. MOVE ON.”

Seriously, we don’t have to explicitly write every physical action every character makes in every scene in our books. Readers are more than capable of filling in the mundane details for themselves. 

I write in very deep third-person point of view. Following are examples of some “Well, Duh!” revisions I made to eliminate unnecessary stage direction and pick up the pace:

He let himself stare while she continued the conversation with Thane and Valerian, cataloging her rose petal skin, her lush, pink lips, her foolish green-tipped hair, and the mismatched earrings. Her eyes sparkled with verve, with life. Her impish grin conveyed her energy and delight.

Had he ever been so young?

First of all:  The scene is written from Wyland’s POV; we’re already seeing Tia through his eyes. Using the words “staring” and “cataloging” to explicitly reference the act of seeing is unnecessary, and actually introduces distance in the POV work.

Second: My purple-tinged description of Tia’s many physical charms * wince*  not only slows down the pace, but it diverts the reader’s attention away from the point I wrote the paragraph to make: that Wyland feels old in comparison. This is the wrong place in the manuscript for so much physical description – description I know I wrote better elsewhere.

Third: Wyland is an educated man, but I think I’ve used too many multi-syllable words here. Simplifying the language will pick up the pace.

The revision:

As she talked with Thane and Valerian, she sparkled with life, full of energy and delight.

Had he ever been so young?

Another example:

As he dealt with the cork and poured the wine, he heard a series of electronic clicks and ticks behind him. Fabric rustled, and the whispered sounds made his body hair stand on end. He shifted his shoulders, trying to gain some breathing room in a perfectly-tailored suit coat that suddenly seemed two sizes too small. 

“He heard?” OF COURSE he heard; we’re in his POV. And, OMG, did I actually describe him moving his shoulders? #FAIL

The revision:

As he dealt with the cork and poured the wine, electronic clicks and ticks whispered behind him. Fabric rustled, making his body hair stand on end. His perfectly-tailored suit coat suddenly seemed two sizes too small. 

Sometimes, when revising, a few snips with a cuticle scissors will do the trick. At other times, you need a freaking machete.

On this revision pass, I’m also pruning away a lot of eye, lip, and breath gymnastics. You know what I mean: the blinking, the frowning, the eye-rolling, the raised eyebrows, the tightening and pursing of lips, the sighs, the inhaling and exhaling, that writers sometimes use to convey a character’s emotional reaction…or to avoid using “said” quite so often. 😉  I seriously overuse these supposedly subtle reactions in early drafts, to the degree that reading them later on makes me feel like I’m banging readers over the head with a cast-iron skillet: “SEE? SEE? IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, THIS IS HOW SHE FEELS!” 

A little of this ‘tagging’ goes a long, long way.

In this example, Tia and Wyland are sharing a shower. They don’t have time to make love – he’s late for work – but that doesn’t stop Tia from teasing him: 

The commute from Marine On St. Croix to Chanhassen was a haul and a half under the best of conditions. “Rain check?” Transferring her hands from his body to her own, she started washing her breasts.

His gaze followed, his face taut with arousal. Swearing under his breath, he grabbed the shampoo. “What are your plans for tonight?”

Oof, talk about belaboring the point. Do I really need to explain to the reader that Tia moved her hands from Wyland’s body to her own so she could wash her own breasts? Do I need to interpret Wyland’s emotion for the reader quite so explicitly? In addition to flagrantly violating “show, don’t tell,” my unnecessary stage directions killed the sexual tension dead.

My revision:

The commute from Marine On St. Croix to Chanhassen was a haul and a half under the best of conditions. “Rain check?” She started washing her breasts.

Swearing under his breath, he grabbed the shampoo. “What are your plans for tonight?”

These precise little snips can really add up. I’m about 150 pages into this revision pass, and I’ve already eliminated nearly 4000 words of  unnecessary stage direction from my manuscript.

Revision-wise, one writer’s clarity is another writer’s overkill. As always, YMMV. But when revising for pace, every word counts. We don’t always have to be so literal or “explain-y.” Our job as writers is to not bore our readers with too much stage direction, or to confuse them with too little, but to find that Goldilocks Zone where the story keeps moving, the pages keep turning, and the reader doesn’t say, “Exit, Stage Left!”

Do you have any stage direction, face gymnastics, or pacing pet peeves? Care to share some of your personal “Well, Duh!” or “Exit, Stage Left!” manuscript moments? 

-tammy

Curtain image by Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ruby Reprise: Deep Third, Demonstrated

I have a confession to make. I keep a red pen on my bedside table. Oh, I don’t actually USE it. It’s strictly a prop. When I find the occasional typo, grammar error,  misspelling or the like while I’m reading in bed, I glance at the pen. I imagine picking it up, circling the error, and then moving on.

But I recently read a best-seller that made me seriously consider scrawling bloody deletion marks through dozens of occurrences of “she/he thought.” (The only thing that stopped me? It was a library book – and as the philosopher Mr. Spock once said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.) The usage was correct, per se, but honestly, the author’s stylistic choice drove me bananacakes. “Of course ‘she thought!'” I shrieked after encountering the fourth “she thought” on a single page. “WE’RE IN HER POINT OF VIEW!”

Ahem.

Yeah, I have very strong feelings about POV. Which leads me to recall this post I wrote in Aug. 2011, about writing in deep third point of view.

Enjoy!

***********************************

Dungeon ColchesterI write in deep third person point of view – fathoms deep, dungeon deep third person point of view. A couple of weeks ago, while doing an author chat for a friend’s book club,  someone asked, “Okay, what exactly does that mean?”  (Lesson Infinity +1 in how readers and writers sometimes don’t share vocabulary, or care about the same things.)

It occurred to me that some of our blog readers might not know what this means either, or that maybe our readers might find it interesting to see how one author – me! – achieves her personal, preferred point of view. As always, your mileage may vary.

A couple of (overly-simplistic) definitions to start:

Point of view (POV) – the narrative voice or mode that an author uses to convey what happens in their story.  Examples are first person, second person, and third person.

Third person point of view – a mode in which the narrator conveys the thoughts, feelings or opinions of one or more characters, using ”he/she” rather than “I” language.  Comes in subjective, objective, and omniscient flavors.

I see “deep third person” POV and “third person subjective” POV as being analogous.

As both a romance reader and a romance author, I have a strong preference for deep third person point of view because I want very intimate access to the physical and emotional layers of the story. (Romances are about feelings, right?) The more viscerally I experience a characters’ feelings, reactions, and dilemmas, the more engaged with the story I’ll become.

With the rest of this post, I’d like to demonstrate how I expose that saturated physical and emotional layer using some simple revision techniques.  Consider the following two (quick ‘n dirty) sentences:

Will’s ankle was swollen and he was getting more and more concerned about his diminishing supply of medication. It was almost exhausted, and he knew that unless he found help soon, he would not be able to continue. 

((shrug)) An OK early draft that gets the point across. But it could be stronger. Let’s first omit some extraneous words, and simplify the language:

Will’s ankle was swollen and he was concerned about his medication supply. Unless he found help soon, he wouldn’t be able to continue.

Better. Next, let’s raise the stakes by layering in some specific details:

Will’s ankle was broken and he was out of pain medication. Unless he found help soon, he’d be in real trouble. 

Next, eliminating Will’s name from the narrative when we’re in his point of view brings us closer yet. (Will wouldn’t think of himself as “Will”, right?)

His ankle was broken and he was out of pain medication. Unless he found help soon, he’d be in real trouble. 

Better. I feel there’s less narrative distance than there was in the previous example.  Next, I’ll layer in some additional details for authenticity – namely, swearing. 🙂

His broken ankle throbbed like a mother and he was out of morphine. If he didn’t find help soon, he’d be up shit creek.  

Now we’re in both his head and his body. His ankle hurts – badly – and naming the medication fleshes out characterization. (How does this guy have access to morphine?)

Next, showing a character’s thoughts brings us deeper:

His broken ankle throbbed like a mother and he was out of morphine. “If I don’t find help soon,” he thought, “I’ll be up shit creek.”  

Hmm. Can I show Will thinking, without using the word ”thought” in the narrative? Why, yes, of course I can – by using italics and first person POV to indicate thoughts!

His broken ankle throbbed like a mother and he was out of morphine. If I don’t find help soon, I’ll be up shit creek. 

He’s in pain, he’s out of meds, he’s in trouble, and he knows it. Yet…he’s still looking for help, not waiting for it to come to him, which was a conscious characterization choice on my part. I could easily have written him having a different sort of thought.

And deepest of the deep – 100% interior monologue:

My ankle throbs like a mother, and I’m out of morphine. If I don’t find help soon, I’ll be up shit creek.

I would argue that this last example is slightly less successful than the ones immediately preceding it, but I wanted to take the POV progression to its deepest logical conclusion.  (Note that if you remove the italics, you’re writing in first person POV.)

So in this example, I used simple revision techniques and careful word choice to dive ever deeper into Will, exposing more and more of his physical reactions, his thoughts, and aspects of his character as the examples progress. Through each revision, the two sentences became leaner, meaner, more specific…until Will is exposed, right down to the bone. And I find the unanswered questions raised by these two sentences equally intriguing: Who is this guy? Where is this guy? How did he break his ankle, and how did he get his hands on morphine in the first place?

Which version do you like the best, and why? What do you think happened to Will? (I’ll share the scenario I had in mind later in the day.)

TamaraHogan_TouchMe_200pxPssst. The Kindle version of TOUCH ME, my Underbelly Chronicles novella,TamaraHogan_TemptMe_200px is free today and tomorrow! If you download a copy, I’d appreciate your honest review.

And watch for TEMPT ME, Bailey and Rafe’s full-length book, in October 2013! (Read an excerpt.)

 

 

Season Sense

If you’re thinking this blog is about setting, you’re totally wrong.  Maybe I should’ve changed the title so you wouldn’t have thought so, but after I started brainstorming ideas for a blog it actually fit.

My original idea was to write about two lessons I learned many years ago from my creative writing professor which, yes, would’ve pertained to setting, but then two of my Ruby sisters had also mentioned on our private loop that they planned blogs about the subject. Although I knew we’d approach the subject matter from different angles, I kind of figured our readers would say enough already.  So I’ll save my thoughts on setting for another time.

Anyway, going back to my creative writing classes— since I know you’re all dying to know what they were—the first one was free writing. We all know what that is, right? You just write whatever comes to mind without stopping for a length of time and the writing doesn’t need to follow rhythm or reason. It’s a way of freeing your muse. Thinking about that lesson helped me put a twist on the second lecture, which was setting sense and had to do with experiencing your world, and ‘Wala’  I think I came up with unique tutorial for our awesome followers.

The Latest Comments

  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Ooh! I hope you write some of the them, Autumn. I love a snowy meet cute. 🙂
  • Autumn Jordon: Our first snow left me stuck at work and not able to make it home. Boy did I think of a number of...
  • Autumn Jordon: Love this, D! I really don’t think there could ever be enough romantic comedies. That’s...
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: I love the first snow of the year. It always feels so magical. Happy holidays, Bev!
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Yes! I love just falling into the season headfirst. 🙂

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