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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Point of View – Part 4 – The “God” POV

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

Easy reading is damn hard writing.

–          Nathaniel Hawthorne

The omniscient point of view is sometimes called the “God point of view” because it is the point of view that is see all, hear all and know all. Here, besides various characters’ POV you get the narrator jumping in. The narrator or “God” can do things like give background of a setting or other information that none of the characters would know. The omniscient POV also lets the author step back a little from getting too close to his or her characters, although the latter isn’t obligatory. The author may get close to his protagonist and antagonist.

Just to muddy the omniscient waters more, the rule of one character’s POV per scene (or per chapter if chapters aren’t divided into scenes) still applies, although some proponents of the omniscient POV disagree and say you can be in all characters’ heads at once.  “God” maybe is able to be everywhere at once, but your reader can’t with one exception – that narrator or “God” can work in those setting details – you know the type where one character drives into a town he has never visited and more than just what he can see and know is narrated (town’s history, for example).

When to Use Omniscient POV

You can best get your message across and further your plot by revealing many characters’ thoughts, and feelings.

When your story can’t be told from one person’s point of view because of actions occurring in the plot.

When your story needs information that none of the characters would have knowledge of.

In novels that cover several time periods and that have several characters.

In a nutshell, the author knows all/sees all understands all of what each character thinks, imagines, knows, feels.

It’s complicated.

What Isn’t Omniscient POV

First let’s cover what isn’t omniscient POV, but uses a technique not too common – mixing up first person and third person. Mystery writer Bill Pronzini does this in his “Nameless” detective novels. His earlier novels were told from the first person only and Nameless was just that. In later novels, Pronzini has three POV characters – Nameless (who has a first name now) and two other private investigators in the agency. Nameless is told from the first POV and the other two are in the third person. He sticks to the one character’s POV per chapter and puts the name of the third person POV at the beginning of the chapter. Nameless chapters don’t get this subheading because readers should be able to tell from the first person usage who the character is. Pronzini does this very well.

Omniscient POV in Short Stories

Omniscient, per se, isn’t usually used in short stories, although a variation of it can be used. You can have your narrator come in at the beginning with information about the story, the characters, the setting, etc. but at some point you have to focus on one character’s point of view. Because short stories are supposed to be well, short, you probably shouldn’t use more than two points of view, but no jumping heads – one character’s POV per scene. Otherwise you have the inside of the reader’s head jerking back and forth and getting confused. You do not want your reader to be confused – confused readers give up reading a story (or a novel).

Omniscient POV in Novels.

I use a variation of omniscient POV in my prequel mystery novel which I am writing now. I say “variation” because I put one character, Dana Bowman, in the first person and other main characters’ POV in the third person. I name the POV character at the beginning of the chapter or scene, but unlike Bill Pronzini I do put “Dana” for the first person POV character. However, for obvious reasons, I put nothing at the beginning of chapters with the POV of a maybe suspect.

Dana is put in the first person because she is the character I want the reader to get closest to. She always wears her emotions on her sleeve. Her fraternal twin Bast Overture is in third person for two reasons. He is not so forthcoming in his feelings, even in his own mind, and I want to show the reader this. The other main characters I get close to in varying degrees, but none as close as Dana.

As for the narrator jumping in to do the scene descriptions, etc. I’m still working on that or if I want it strictly from specific characters point of view. I’m leaning towards the latter and there is a technique in that which I’ll cover in a future post.

Meantime, read the beginning of my short story “No Breaks,” and see if you can figure out the Point of View and why? Is it third person limited or is it omniscient?

It’s a scummy Saturday morning and Highway 11 resembles fast food parking hell. If you’re making your last ditch scramble for your reserved spot in the Muskokas, try an alternate route.”

“Yeah, what alternate? Highway 400 is worse.” Millie Browne yells back at the radio announcer. She clicks off the radio.

Most of these Saturday drivers probably have air-conditioned cars. Millie isn’t blessed with air-conditioning. She isn’t blessed. She can’t even remember whether she was baptized as an infant, but today she’s going to remedy that.

Today, on this heat-infested highway, Millie desires only one thing: an even break in life. To obtain this end she plans to jump in the lake. She’s not sure which Muskoka lake but she doesn’t care. It won’t be Baptism by fire, but Millie figures the cold water will clear her head and bring some control back into her life.

Control is Millie’s keyword. She’s organized her life every day from senior year in high school. Her diaries (the truth) speak in contrast to her calendar (the plan).

Not so Jessica Myers, age 30, sitting beside Millie and thumbing on her BlackBerry… (excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press)

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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POV – First person or third person – Part 3

Cover of Sharon’s book Beyond the Tripping Point

My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel–it is, before all, to make you see.

– Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

So you want to get inside one person’s head (or at least one person at a time) in your story. Should you go for first person singular or third person singular?

Let’s look at how these can work.

First Person Point of View – the story is told from one character’s point of view, using “I,” “me,” “my” and “our.” The character could be a major player who is active in the novel, or the observer, as in F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  Or an observer/major player, such as Archie in the Nero Wolfe mystery novels.

Anything that happens in the story must be what the character can see, hear, touch, feel, think, imagine or read. He or she can say what he sees about other characters but can reveal only his own feelings. He could imagine what the other character feels, but this must be clear. You can get around some of what sounds like restrictions by using emails, Facebook pages, Twitter – as long as it is either what the  I POV character is doing or reading. To help keep on track, picture a video camera inside this first person narrator’s head.

My short story “16 Dorsey St.” from Beyond the Tripping Point is told using emails between two sisters, Elsa and Sylvia .with newspaper clips thrown in. The POV remains with Elsa even with Sylvia’s replies. Elsa is reading them from her computer. Here’s a short example.

E-mail from Elsa to Sylvia

3/3/1997 9.07 P.M.

Subject: Newspaper story

Sylvia, something disturbing happened. The “someone” at the door was today’s newspaper and I don’t get the paper delivered. An article on the front page of section two was circled in red. I’ve scanned it and am attaching it so you can read it.

Love,

Elsa

Attachment to e-mail:

CRIME FLASHBACK—MURDER ANNIVERSARY TODAY

Today is the anniversary of one of Toronto’s most baffling murder cases. Fifty years ago, a 23-year-old woman was strangled. Lois Harkner was a honey blonde beauty, a lady who would never hurt anyone. Yet someone wanted her dead.

Harkner was found lying beside her dressing table…

(Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press 2012)

When to use First Person POV

To move the plot forward, your readers need to know the main character’s inner thoughts.

You can reveal your main character best by telling the story from main character’s POV.

Revealing the conflict works best by showing the readers only the main character’s thoughts.

You want your readers to get up close and personal with your main character.

Third Person Point of View – the story is told from the narrator as “he/she” – you can use people’s names. Here the narrator is further from the story than the first person POV. In Third Person the story is told from that one character’s POV with only what he can observe, hear, etc.

Here’s the beginning of my short story “No Breaks” I combine what Millie hears on the radio with Millie’s inner thoughts.

“It’s a scummy Saturday morning and Highway 11 resembles fast food parking hell. If you’re making your last ditch scramble for your reserved spot in the Muskokas, try an alternate route.”

“Yeah, what alternate? Highway 400 is worse.” Millie Browne yells back at the radio announcer. She clicks off the radio.

Most of these Saturday drivers probably have air-conditioned cars. Millie isn’t blessed with air-conditioning. She isn’t blessed. She can’t even remember whether she was baptized as an infant, but today she’s going to remedy that.

(Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press, 2012)

When to Use Third Person POV

First person POV won’t work because you need to have your narrator more distanced to report your main character’s thoughts and actions. Also use third person if first person gets in the way of showing your main character’s weaknesses. This latter is not always necessary, as some characters seem to be able to get around their egos to show and comment on their weaknesses. For example self-effacing humour, inner thoughts where they present their view as correct but they word it so you can read their weakness between the lines.

Narrator’s objectivity strengthens the main character or the story’s message.

In next week’s post we’ll go into using the omniscient Point of View as that can be complex and confusing.

Meantime, check out my short story collection and maybe purchase a copy. It is now available as an e-book. Click on the book cover above.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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POV Part 2 – Getting inside other characters

cover of Sharon A.’s short story collection. Click on it to get to amazon.com

Action, reaction, motivation, emotion, all have to come from the characters. Writing a love scene requires the same elements from the writer as any other.

–          Nora Roberts

Back in October we learned the cardinal rule of Point of View in fiction – do not switch character POV mid-scene or mid chapter if the chapter has only one scene. So, how do you get the POV of other characters out there without “jumping heads?”

In the previous post we discussed how, when and why to actually change the POV. But what if you want to let your reader know how Sam feels and thinks without getting inside his head?

You know the old axiom about good writing – show, not tell.

That’s how you do it.

In “The Couch,” the first story in my mystery short story collect Beyond the Tripping Point, the Point of View is that of the main character, the young private investigator, C.U. Fly. Fly has a big thing for the secretary, Annie Everglades, but the story never gets inside Annie’s head. Here’s a brief excerpt from near the story’s beginning:

“Give it up, C.U.,” she said when she found me staring at her long legs. She pushed back her wire-framed glasses and gave me an icy grey glare. “C.U. Fly, you may be a private investigator, but I am not your client.” Then she turned to her laptop and her fingers began to zip over the keys. “Your talent is listening, not looking. Go bug a client.”(Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

Annie’s reaction to C.U.’s unwanted advances is obvious. This is shown by her dialogue – she gives C.U some boundaries and explains the PI’s functions. There is also a bit about what C.U. is doing at the time. For the latter, notice the use of the word “me.” We also get Annie’s actions – pushing back her glasses and giving C.U. a cold stare. Then she dismisses Fly and gets back to her job.

So dialogue and actions show the reader how Annie feels towards C.U. and we didn’t get inside her head.

Here’s another excerpt from the same story.

“C.U., get your paws off my back,” she said as the three of us occupied space on the couch. At her voice, Brutus leaped over me and settled in Annie’s lap.

“Fine,” I said. “You’re in charge of dog sitting services.”

She gave me one of her frosty stares. I smiled and pretended my heart stayed at normal medical settings. I had no control over my legs and arms, so staggered up, shook myself into my denim jacket and padded down the stairs..”(Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

Here we have a combination of dialogue between the two characters, action, but also how the POV character, C.U. Fly feels (pretending the heart stays normal) and how Fly reacts (smiles, staggers up off the couch, puts on a denim jacket and leaves). Fly’s reactions show the reader the relationship between the two characters – they are operating from different perspectives but we also learn how Fly sees Annie and feels about her.

In summary, you can reveal what is going on with other characters in your story by:

  1. Dialogue between the POV character and the other character.
  2. Action – between the POV character and the other character or just the other character.
  3. And tying in with the above – reaction of the POV character to the other character.
  4. POV character’s feelings and beliefs about the other character.

We’ll cover using third person POV and multiples in future postings.

For now, here is my current upcoming event with my book Beyond the Tripping Point:

Tonight, November 15, 2012 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. I am on a panel with other recently published Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch members, Chris Canniff and Bianca Lakoseljac. The three of us will share the ups and downs of getting from first draft to published book. Location is the Northern District branch of the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. More details at http://www.canauthorstoronto.org/events.html Those in the Toronto area, please stop by.

And to purchase a copy of my book – now in e-book form as well as print,  for Kindle (and also a link to the print copy. just click on the book cover at the top of this post. For Kobo, click on the book cover below.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Beyond the Tripping Point link to Kobo

 

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Lessons learned from the actual book launch

Sharon A. Crawford reads at the book launch of Beyond the Tripping Point

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

~ Joseph Pulitzer

The book launch for my debut short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point has happened.and I’m still going around in overwhelm. First off it went well – we filled the backroom of The Rivoli and everyone had a good time. The Rivoli want my publisher and his authors and the entertainment (Sunny and Shane) back next year. So, my publisher is happy.

But I learned a few things from the experience and I’m passing them along for anyone out there organizing and experiencing their first book launch. Some of the points also are pertinent for doing public reading.

First I’d like to state that I was in a state of shock and operated on automatic pilot throughout the three hours. Not from nervousness, not from the time change overnight to eastern standard time, and not even my always time-strapped life. It was a phone call from a friend earlier that morning. And if you want to find out about that you will have to read my other blog’s post this week at http://www.onlychildwrites.wordpress.com

Now on to lessons learned.

When you are on stage at a club or pub, the lights may be too good – you can see what you are reading but you can’t see beyond the lights into the audience. You have a bright-light blockage. I like to connect to my audience when I read.

The next day (and thank you Shane for waiting until the next day) the editor at my publisher’s said I had read too long with the second and last reading. For one story, I had attempted to combine reading story excerpts with filling in a few storyline gaps. My editor said he saw a few people fidgeting. (I blame this one on being in shock/autopilot as I did the practice for this at home after the phone call). However, I am taking my editor’s advice for next readings. So time yourself to the second when you practice and when onstage reading, check your watch at the beginning and glance at it a few minutes later.

Mingle more with your guests. I did a lot of mingling, going around to tables chatting with my guests during the first part of the meet and greet and signing books. Then I sat down with my son and his girlfriend to talk to them. But I invited some friends to the table and also got up a few times to talk to others. I stayed put after that, except to go onstage to read. My police consultant came up to the table just before the music started so we didn’t have time to say much. I can’t carry on a conversation over performances on stage and don’t like to talk when authors are reading. After all the readings, friends and colleagues came up to say “hello” and for me to sign their copy of my book. But I wished I could have talked to them all more. I didn’t even see my cousins from out of town until afterwards – I joined them then. My son said that now I know how it is with him when one of his bands has a CD launch. I know that people do come in late and have to leave early and that can’t be helped. One of my friends later told me she would have liked a longer mingling session.

And connected to my other blog’s post – don’t try to arrange transportation, including car pools, for anyone coming to the launch. Just give them the location and directions there.

It also helps if you get enough sleep, which I hadn’t and still haven’t lately.

Besides the photo at the top, you can go to  http://www.flickr.com/photos/writershane/sets/72157631935084560/ In the audience photo, the fellow who looks like he is napping is my son. I’m not there because I’m on stage.

And if you click on my book photo below, it takes you to Amazon.

Next week back to more of the ins and outs of writing fiction with brief information about my upcoming readings, etc.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Cover of Beyond the Tripping Point

 

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Lessons learned from a Book Promo Frenzy

Sharon A. Crawford holding up copy of Beyond the Tripping Point

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.

Tennessee Williams

With the windy and rainy remnants of Hurricane Sandy hitting Toronto, I wasn’t sure I would even make it to the TV taping. Didn’t get enough sleep the night before. But Sandy’s winds died down Tuesday morning and I showed up for the Internet TV interview about my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point.

And if you are thinking, “I’m just writing my book so why would I be interested in doing interviews?”  Besides thinking ahead for the PR aspect (self-publishing or traditional publishing, you have to do PR), interviews (in front of a camera or not) can provide a good experience for you to focus on what your book is about, how you came to write it and who your characters are. I’ll cover just the highlights of my interview because once the interview is edited it should be online.

The studio is on the fourth floor of an old five-story building in downtown Toronto. The elevator didn’t look too promising so I took the stairs, went around a corner and opened the door to the studio. Everything is one room and the atmosphere is a combination of professional, friendly and helpful. I signed in, met the host and co-host, handed them a copy of my book and after their beginning preamble, I was introduced.

I wasn’t really nervous, probably because I do public speaking, readings, teach writing workshops and run a writing critique group. And I had prepared – just a brief list of what to expect from the channel’s previous podcasts, but mostly I had done practice runs in my head and verbally (Confession: I sometimes talk to myself). In the back of my mind was the editor at Blue Denim Press’s warning to try to stay on topic as the host sometimes wanders off topic.

In the 20 minutes we covered a lot of territory, including my background as a journalist, book editor and fiction writer, as well as some of the quirky characters in the story. I talked about the fraternal twin private investigators, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture in the four linked stories and the control freak protagonist in “No Breaks.” For the latter I delved into how that story came into existence – based on a true experience when a friend and I were driving up Highway 11 and her brakes failed. She was driving and knew enough to use her parking brake; we also went in and out of gas stations trying to find a bay so the brakes could be fixed. That’s where the true story ends. In “No Breaks” (the word has a double-meaning, hence the spelling), the story is told from the point-of-view (had to get POV in here somewhere) of the protagonist, Millie, who is not attractive, lost her job a few months previously, and has decided when they get up to the cottage owned by her friend, Jessica’s grandmother, she is going to jump in the lake. Things don’t go as planned and Millie, for once, goes over her tripping point and spontaneously commits a crime.

The co-host seemed to connect with my book’s characters. And the host had fun playing with some of the items I had brought along – items appearing in or used by some of the characters in Beyond the Tripping Point – an oversized magnifying glass (Great Aunt Doris in “Digging Up the Dirt”), a toy-size steam engine that sometimes starts “whoo-whoing” (“Porcelain Doll”),and a toy ambulance (“Missing in Action”). I even had a chance to read about a page and a half of one story, “The Body in the Trunk” and I could see to read from my book. In answer to a question about upcoming readings, etc. I plugged my book launch this Sunday, Nov. 4 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern Standard time) at The Rivoli in downtown Toronto.

How the interview actually turned out will be seen once the edited version is up on the station’s website. It is live-streamed when being taped but the recorded version isn’t up yet, so I’m feeling a bit apprehensive. Did I curse the taping? My editor says it takes a few days for it to get edited and up.

So, back to an author with a book in-the-works being interviewed. You can do like I did years ago (back in the grey ages) in the writing courses I took. The instructor had us pair up and interview each other. For your practice interview, get someone (but not a close friend or family member – they know you too well) to interview you. If the person is in the interview biz, all the better – they can come up with pertinent questions about you and your book. You can do some prep beforehand like I did with the brief list and head/talk-to-myself practices. But the best bet is to know your book – plot and characters – and why you wrote/are writing it. You’ve been living with your book so it should be in your head. You may feel nervous but take a deep breath and go with the flow. You might even want to video record it (and perhaps put it on You Tube and connect it to your website or blog).

At any rate, the interview experience can bring you closer to your book’s characters and plot – and maybe even help you sort out any inconsistencies in plot and character. Consider it a learning experience for the real deal when you publish your book.

Meantime, check http://www.thatchannel.com later on for my interview on The Liquid Lunch. Hopefully it will be up there soon.

If you are in the Toronto area, come to my book launch at The Rivoli Nov. 4. More details at http://www.bluedenimpress.com  – click on “Toronto. Or go to http://www.amazon.com for copies of my book. O better still, click on the book cover image below.

Now please excuse me while I send out some book launch reminders and drop off a copy of Beyond the Tripping Point for review at a Toronto newspaper office.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon’s book Beyond the Tripping Point up close

 

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