Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reflections: POV - Epistolary Novel

Hi, folks. I'm just back from the SCBWI Houston Annual Conference and I will say that I had a fun time and learned beaucoups of stuff. Good times for sure. I'm enjoying connecting with Texas SCBWI. Big shout out for illustrator among other things Dan Yaccarino. He stirred up all kinds of want in me to follow my passion and do my best work.

I've been busy, busy this weekend and am going to finish up my reflections with a couple of quick thoughts about POV and the epistolary novel, better known as a novel in letters. The epistolary novel is generally written in first person POV and introduces a way to to create multiple first person POVs with letters from alternating characters, this is know as polylogic. A book of letters from one point of view is monologic.

I've written a novel in letters and have critiqued several novels in letters and I have learned a thing or two about this format. First person POV in letter form inherently draws the writer to tell what is happening to the main character. The writer must work hard to salt his letters with dialogue and description. Scenes must be framed with narration, and then these encased scenes must read like shelf-ready novels but it also must read like a letter. This little trick takes some practice.

I hope that you have been moved to explore this form in some way. Give it a shout.

My doodle for the week. I call this one "blowing bubbles."

If you decide to write a book in letters, remember your work is cut out for you.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reflections: Point of View -- Third Person Omniscient

Hi folks, Before I dive into my POV chat, I have got mention the EGGS. I call my writing projects eggs and I've had a wobble and one hatched!

First the wobble, my YA comedy called PLUMB CRAZY is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Here is the link for a free downloadable excerpt for your Kindle. Give it a read and like it or review it! Now for the hatching, my e-picture book THE BIG FUZZY COAT was published by MeeGenius! You can purchase it for your IPad, (Fire, etc.) at their site: here is the LINK. I appreciate your support.

Now some POV tidbits. Third Person Omniscient POV is what I call the "the all-seeing eye" POV. In this kind of storytelling the author can go into any head and see anything. You use the third person pronouns for this POV and you can reveal anything you want at any time -- the present, the future or the Past. This is BIG canvas POV.

So what do I think about this POV. It's best used for wide epics and it's out of favor right now. This POV takes some master writing skills to pull off. You must be able shift from character to character effortlessly and your transitions have to be flawless as you pass off the the POV to the next character. Another issue is you shift to a different (but related) plot and on top of all that you often jump to a new setting. You must work hard to keep your reader in the fictive dream. Third person omniscient is not a beginner project POV!

That all said. I like third person omniscient and think it might actually work for YA books at times. It may be an area to explore. The right author and with the right story could create something mindblowing and for the ages. A masterpiece is out there lurking. It will be a big story about something that changed us forever -- think 9-11, and it will be told in third person omniscient. I feel it in my story bones.

If you want more POV advice, my author friend Chris Eboch is covering POV at her blog "Write Like a Pro!" Consider checking it out.

I will be back next week with more of the writer magic.

I'm going to put the beautiful cover of my e-book THE BIG FUZZY COAT for the doodle this week.

Here is the quote for the week:

It's easy to be omniscient when you've done it all before. ― Audrey Niffenegger

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reflections: Third Person Limited

Hi folks, I'm continuing the POV series for the month of March. This week, I'm going tackle Third Person Limited POV. In this POV all the characters are referred to as "he", "she", "it" and "they." Up front, I like to write in this POV. I always feel like I'm out of the straight-jacket of first person and can get on with telling my story. Here is the way I think about Third Person Limited. Imagine a little camera flying around; this camera is buzzing around your main character. This camera can only see what the character sees. Your camera can also see the thoughts of the main character too, but no one else. Third person is a way to sneak around first person in my opinion, kind of like watching a movie of one person's story but not through their eyes.

One advantage of using third person limited POV is you put some distance between your reader and your main character. This space creates room for more action and scenery. It's like your reader is peering into the arena instead of being in the arena. This POV is the one oral storytellers cut their teeth on. I think writers come from all kinds of backgrounds and traditions. I'm a Southerner and my family held me spellbound for years with their embellished tales of down-home life. I really believe that's why I connect with third person limited POV. "Down by the creek, a long time ago, some bad stuff went down."

You can create that sense of "once upon a time" with the third person limited which is tough to create with first person. You also get the bonus of more wiggle room with the descriptive language. In first person, you can't snap out crunchy descriptive words that aren't in the head of your main character. You also get to spend more time focused on the action of a story if you are about a plot driven wild ride. Finally, third person POV lends itself well to epic storytelling. If you've got a really BIG story to share, the subjective POV will help you cast out that big net.

Think about this stuff as you choose your perfect POV for your story. I will be back with more POV reflections next week...

This week's doodle: "Kid"

There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reflections: POV First Person

Hi, folks, I'm continuing my Point of View reflections this week. I'm tackling first person POV. First person is a popular viewpoint for children's novels. It is a extremely popular viewpoint for YA novels, especially contemporary novels. You are writing a book, and are wondering whether to write it in first person. The following guidance will help you understand some of the advantages and disadvantages of this POV choice.

First Person POV is what I call "the first person shooter" POV. First person shooter is a term that comes from video games. If you are playing this type of game, you are looking down the barrel of your gun -- you are the shooter. For writing, you write everything from: "I". Interior thoughts, dialogue and description (every dang word in the book) all come from the head of the main character: I bought the bongos. and "My bongos are sweet," I said. This is the most intimate form of storytelling, and FYI it also lends itself well to present tense. For example: I buy the bongos. First person creates a deep, visceral experience for readers.

First person POV comes with many advantages. Your reader feels like she actually becomes the character and experiences the journey with your main character. Your reader will wholly identify with internal journey of your main character. And more, your readers will deeply feel the pain and heartache, the joy and triumph of your main character. All this brings a connection -- first person POV peels back the lid that separates us all and gives readers the opportunity to fully know someone else, especially powerful for young people who are hungering for the complex connections of adulthood. Beyond connection, it's the POV of secrets. The reader knows with the main character what isn't being said and this can create "fault line" tension throughout a piece. First Person POV is also a great POV to hide things from readers because your reader can only know what your character knows. Hence the POV lends itself well to mysteries.

So what could be the downside of this? First Person POV is very limited. You have to be comfortable inhabiting the skin of another character. Whatever you think will not be on the page, what your main character thinks will be there. You have to love that character with all your soul to "sell" it for so many pages. You have to know your character and how they will respond in every situation. One false step and you lose your reader. There is no "voice forgiveness" in first person. Every word must be colored by your main character. You must know every color. Your main character has to be someone that your reader is willing to travel with. This requires complex manipulation from the writer, especially if your main character is not a classic "hero" but is really "a pain in the backside". How do you get readers to stay with "a pain in the backside"? Yes, that is a hard, not impossible, but hard.

First person POV can rub the "storyteller' writer the wrong way because this sort of writer has a powerful "narrator voice' that is not off putting to readers. In fact, readers connect with it. In first person, you don't get a separate 'narrator voice', your character inhabits the book (not you), so the narrator is the main character (period). For some writers this is actually is a problem, for others this is the best thing that could have ever happened to them. First person can feel like a straight-jacket when writing it. You are not allowed to know anything but what your main character can know. Some writers find this stifling. Others find it freeing.

So how do you find if first person is for you? Here's the honest truth. Try it. Remember the million word rule. You have to write a million words in first person to be an expert. That's a good rule of thumb. Consider this when trying the First Person POV, is the the story you want to tell being told? If your answer is yes, keep with it. If it is no. Try something else.

I hope my thoughts on POV help you on your journey to writing master works. Come back next week for more reflections on POV. Seize the day.

This week's doodle is "Landscape 3":

This week's quote for the week is called:

“I would so hate to be a first-person character! Always on your guard, always having people read your thoughts!”

― Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Reflection: Point of View

In March, I always do a series of reflections about the writerly life. This month I'm going to reflect the whole month on one of the most elusive elements of story to me and that is point of view (POV).

POV is the "head" the story is told from. First person POV is told from "I". It's intimate. The next one is Second Person POV; this is told from "you". It's the "leading the reader around by the nose" POV and in fiction almost no reader wants this, so use it very sparingly if at all. Non-fiction readers like to led around by the nose, so knock yourself out, nonfiction writer. Third person is the "he, she, and they" point of view. This one comes in multiple flavors and I will get back to its complexities later on in the month. It's the most versatile POV. Epistolary POV is another POV floating around out there. This one is a hard sell because the POV is written in letter form -- "Dear John, I'm freaked out...". It's certainly related to first person POV and since I have written in this POV I am going reflect on it too as the month rolls out.

POV has been something I've struggled with. It's embarrassing how many submissions I've sent out to have a note come back to me -- "will you try this in first person" or "first person isn't working for me". It took me a long time to figure out what was going wrong with my writing in terms of POV. This problem rested in my lack of confidence. I mean it. POV is the heart of the suspension of disbelief and if you have any of this in you: "I'm not sure anyone will love this book, I'm not sure I love this book, I'm just not sure this story will stand out in the crowd, etc." You are in real trouble. Doubt will kill your POV. You must have seas of confidence within you to pull off your POV, whatever the choice.

So what can you do? First put in your 10,000 hours of practice -- the recommended amount to truly become an expert at something. Second, really know what your character wants and who they are. Third, I learned this in kindergarten btw, be yourself. No one ever comes out and says this but it's true, no two writers approach POV the same way. You will do something unique with POV that no other writer has ever brought to the page before. Doesn't that just put a warm glow in your heart? You must reveal your story your way, and after you've practiced and practiced, you will stretch your POV wings and bring to full life the characters that dwell so richly in your soul. It makes me cry because now I really want to read your book.

Come back next week for more POV reflections.

Here is this week's doodle: "Sheep Doodle"

Here is the quote for the week:

There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe