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Posts tagged with: Winnie Griggs

Three Perspectives on Your Writing

Hello, everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog on the RSS and I’m happy to be back. Late 2016/early 2017 was rough for me, but I made it. Right? That’s the perspective you must take sometimes when you drive through the rain.

Hey, I’m going to talk about perspective today. This month I’ll be doing a workshop at RWA with Winnie Griggs called Through the Lens which will deal with POV. In talking about POV with Winnie (as we fervently scribbled notes on what exactly we needed to cover), Winnie said, “I’d like to tackle perspective.” To which I said, “That will be good. Like what do you mean?” She went on to talk about two areas of perspective, to which I added a third. So let’s look at those:

Writer’s Perspective – This is the lens the writer uses in writing her/his stories. This includes world views, cultural mores, beliefs, region, etc. Essentially, who you are comes out in your writing. And it’s not necessarily your voice. Voice can be learned (to a degree). Say, I want to write funny, vampy, comedy but I’m a more serious kinda gal. Well, I can learn to apply a tone/mood to my writing and create a voice that is light, fun, and comedic. But who I am as a person will come through in the way I write characters, the way they handle situations, even the verbiage used in telling the story. This definitely shades voice. I mean, who you are, what you believe, your social conscience, your values, etc, will often leak into your story. Is this bad? Not really. It makes your storytelling individualistic. But it can have a negative effect if you use your story as a platform. How many times have you read a story and felt preached at? Raise your hand.

Now, put it down.

Hands holding a digital SLR camera with zoom digital lens. BW

LOL. See? We’ve all read something where we thought, “Is she trying to get something across here?”

In my opinion (yeah, I know you’re not supposed to write that because it’s understood) in commercial fiction, you want to be VERY careful doing this. If you don’t mind alienating half of your audience, by all means, write on with the intent of making your point. Just know before you go…uh, there.

Character’s Perspective – This is the lens the writer uses in portraying a character. It’s pretty much the most important of the perspectives because it’s the heart of your story. A good story is only as good as its characters? True? I think so. Creating believable, multi-dimensional characters is, well, a must. But your characters have to have different perspectives, right? They can’t all think and operate the same. So it makes sense that you do some legwork when it comes to character perspective. First, you have to know your characters. For many writers, that doesn’t occur until they are well into writing the book (I’m raising my hand here). Other writers carefully prepare background information on their characters. They analyze, question (hello, character interview), mull and muse over who their characters are before they even write the first word in Chapter One. There’s no right or wrong…as long as you intentionally make sure you have given your characters fleshed-out perspective. Some things to consider:

  • background – family history, events that have molded your character
  • origin – where your character is from says a lot about him/her
  • tragedy/events/nonevents
  • relationships
  • profession
  • personality
  • goals, motivations, conflicts (I ALWAYS do this chart after chapter three – it’s my spirit guide)

Once you consider a character’s perspective (essentially all the parts that make your character your character), you can more easily navigate your story and create authenticity in your characters’ actions and thoughts.

Reader’s Perspective – Ah, here’s the thing you can’t control – the way your reader reacts to your story. This has been the biggest hurdle for me as a people pleaser. I want people to like my book and my characters. But the thing is, you can’t control what the reader brings to the table. You can’t anticipate his or her perspective. He or she may have triggers that your book pulls inside them. Your characters may have a name, profession, hair color that they don’t like. The reader’s personal experiences color their perspective when they read your book. They can’t help it. It’s who they are, and you darn sure ain’t changing that. So you will have people who will say absurd things about your writing. You will have people misunderstand your intent. You will have people cast aspersions on your character based on how you write a fictional character. Crazy, right? I mean, according to one reviewer I wrote a misogynist man so bad that I (the writer) must be a man…or not understand men at all. And let me tell you, friends, I’m surrounded by testosterone (It’s me and my mama against a force of Southern redneck men). But to this reviewer, I didn’t get men. Or at least, I didn’t get her version of what a man should be. 

On the other hand, I’ve had readers bring their perspective and totally “get” my characters because they’ve lived through whatever my characters are going through. One of the best things you can get is a note from a reader who identified so much with your character that he/she LOVES the book. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to say “thank you” for writing a character who says that or does this or goes through this, all because the reader could relate to the character. They felt they were validated because a character I wrote “was them.”

One thing I would like to note regards writing with unbarred authenticity. Writing “real” characters means oftentimes including the realness (or ugliness) of life. This leaves an author open to being accused of misogyny, racism, “slut shaming” or intolerance. If you’re dealing with sensitive topics like race, religion, politics, etc, it would be wise to get some beta reads or hire a sensitivity reader as suggested by Lizzie Shane in this post. At least be aware that readers bring a vast array of beliefs with them. You have to decide whether you ignore those sensibilities and write your characters completely flawed, or whether you temper your character’s actions, thoughts or speech to reflect a more tolerant leaning. 

Just prepare yourself for readers bringing their own baggage to your story. Have luggage tags ready 🙂 

Now you have three perspectives to consider as you write. Some you can control; others you can’t. So I’m interested in your thoughts about perspective. Do you think about your character’s perspectives? Do you find you bleed yourself into your character’s too much? Have some good stories about readers who hated your stories because of a character’s (or your) perspective didn’t match up with theirs?

Using Subtext with Winnie Griggs

A few months back, the sisters were talking about subtext and how to apply it to our writing. That struck a note with me because my chaptermate and fellow Harlequin writer Winnie Griggs had just presented a workshop on subtext, so I invited her to come talk subtext and how writers can put this tool in our toolbox to work for us. Take it away, Winnie 🙂

Let’s start off by discussing what subtext is and what it does for your story.  Subtext is an impression or conclusion conveyed by the author to the reader through inference rather than explicit communication.

Linda Segar, in the book Creating Unforgettable Characters, describes it this way:

“Subtext is what the character is really saying beneath and between the lines. Often characters don’t understand themselves. They’re often not direct and don’t say what they mean. We might say that subtext is all about underlying drives and meanings that are not apparent to the character, but that are apparent to the audience or reader.”

 A story without subtext feels flat and clichéd.  If every character says exactly what they mean, and they display all of their emotions openly,  we wouldn’t have a very interesting story.  It’s when they try to hide something from the others around them that things get interesting.

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