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Tag Archives: Point of View in Fiction

Keeping track of everything in your story

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

If you start to revise before you’ve reached the end, you’re likely to begin dawdling with the revisions and putting off the difficult task of writing.

–          Pearl S. Buck

Currently I’m rewriting the prequel novel to four linked short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. I’m expanding and complicating the plot and telling the story from four points of view. The original novel had only one POV – the first person singular – Dana. Yes it is the fraternal twins again and my own head has been going back and forth from the points of view of Dana, her twin Bast, her son David, and a suspect who isn’t named. I am following the rules of one character’s POV per scene or chapter.

However, all this to-ing and fro-ing makes it more difficult to keep track of timelines, who is doing what and the biggie – consistency in story line, in character’s actions, etc. To lower the muddle factor, I started a new file called “Follow-up List.” Every time something occurs that requires checking/changing for consistency, timeline – even research, it goes on the list. Right now timeline, consistency and keeping all the police constables sorted out are the big factors.

Why am I doing this? Besides the obvious, if you constantly stop writing to do research or sort out characters and timeline, you lose your creative flow. Mind you, I am going back for a few things if they are interfering with moving the plot along from where I am working. But the research can wait – some of it is just re-checking facts I’m not sure I got right. Or some detail such as a name change, can be fixed by using the Find and Replace Word features – preferably at the end of your writing session.

Another action I take (and I’ve mentioned it in an earlier post) is refusing to stall over a word that doesn’t seem quite right or is repetitious. Stopping to look it up in the Thesaurus, even if online, also breaks the creative flow. For example, as I wrote this blog post, I spelled Thesaurus incorrectly but did not correct it immediately. Here Word underlined it in red so I could go back and change it. For repetitious words or words not quite right, you just need to put (word) or (repetition) in brackets after the offending word and return to it later in your rewrite or in my case, another rewrite to fine-tune the rewrite I’m doing now. One final suggestion – format your manuscript before you start writing. Or if your situation is similar to mine – a rewrite of a novel originally written 10 or 11 years ago, where the formatting was different, you can leave it until you are finished. Stopping to fix paragraph formatting stops the creative flow.

And how is my massive rewrite going? Nearly finished the first big rewrite. If all goes well I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the day tomorrow. Afterwards, I want to let it sit for a few days and then go through my follow-up list and well, follow it.

Meantime, I’m doing plenty of PR for my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point. Tonight I’m doing a sort of performance reading of a short story excerpt as part of the Periodical Writers Association of Canada’s Talent Night. Sometime between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. I’ll be onstage at the Free Times Cafe in downtown Toronto. If you are in the Toronto area perhaps you can drop in. Check out http://www.freetimescafe.com/ for more information, including location, or go to my website http://www.samcraw.com under Beyond the Tripping Point where I’m posting upcoming readings, etc. as I get them. All my links are either on this book page or at the top of my website home page you will find the usual social media icons.

And if you click on the book icon at the top of this post, when you get to amazon.com, please read my bio and click on the Like Icon. Thanks.

Keep the creative flow going.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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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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Point of View: whose story is it anyway?

Cover of Sharon’s short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point. Book Launch Nov. 4, 2012 at The Rivoli, Toronto, Ontario,Canada

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure

– Samuel Johnson

We writers often get into a kerfuffle about the point(s) of view in our story – short or novel. Maybe it’s because we get so caught up in the plot and characters we do a version of not seeing the forest for the trees. So in one paragraph Suzie and Bert may be talking but Suzie’s thoughts are incorporated with her dialogue and in the next Bert’s thoughts are included with his dialogue. Oops. That’s two points of view in one scene. I call it “jumping heads” (but it’s not nasty like lice).

The reader can definitely get confused with this setup (Picture the reader jumping back and forth from Suzie to Bert; hence the term “jumping heads”).

Often this problem has its roots in the author not being clear just whose story it is?

Let’s look at a brief excerpt from my short story “Gone Missing” from my mystery collection Beyond the Tripping Point. This story features the fraternal twin private investigators, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture. In the beginning, they are in their office talking to a new client.

“The police can’t find her, Ms Bowman,” Robin Morgrave says to me.

Rosemary Morgrave’s gone missing and I’m putting on the brave smile for her twin brother. Robin sits on the other side of the desk in the third floor office of The Attic Agency. Only my twin brother, Bast, nodding, stops me from losing it. Ever since David my seven-year-old son was abducted last August I’ve been living in Panicville. Sure, we got David back, but how much of him returned? He follows Bast around like an investigator-in-training. His brown eyes stare right through my soul. I wish he’d just say how he feels. But since his return, David hasn’t opened his mouth except to swallow liquids and food. He doesn’t even cry. (Copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford.Excerpted from “Gone Missing” from Beyond the Tripping Point 2012 Blue Denim Press)

This sets the point of view for this story. Although it might appear to be Robin Morgrave’s story from the beginning dialogue, the second paragraph clearly lets us know that it is Dana’s story – because behind dealing with Robin’s case, Dana is still dealing with the fallout from her own son’s kidnapping and how that affects finding Rosemary. That will be following throughout the story. So, the Point of View is with Dana. You can also see that you don’t necessarily have to start the story with something said about, some narrative about, or something said by the POV character. You can weave it in – as long as it stays in that character’s POV and comes across as such.

So, how do you decide whose point of view to tell your story from? You ask yourself “whose story is it?” which can help… somewhat. There are exceptions, such as Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which is not told from The Great Gatsby’s point of view but from his friend. However, the story is basically about Gatsby. It can get tricky.

There is a way to get around this “whose story is it” when the novel is really more than one character’s story or the story is about something such as catching a serial killer. The latter may involve a couple of police officers, the victim or victims, and even the serial killer. Here you are allowed to use multiple points of view. But there are guidelines. The rule of thumb is each chapter or each scene (if you have more than one scene in a chapter) must be from the point of view of one character only. When you start another chapter you can change the point of view. You just leave a double space to show scene changes.

Short stories are usually told from one point of view, but again there are exceptions. However, it is best to keep it to two points of view maximum as a short story has limited space in which to tell your story. Again, you can use the scene change set-up to go from one character’s point of view to another character’s. You can also segue from one character to another – once – in a scene, not a constant flipping back and forth. This latter is more difficult to do.

My short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point keep to one character’s point of view – sometimes in first person and sometimes in third person. We’ll cover that aspect in a future post. Now, in the rewrite of a prequel novel (to “Gone Missing,” “Saving Grace” and the other two linked stories in Beyond the Tripping Point) I use multiple points of view. You can probably guess from the beginning of “Gone Missing” above what the novel is about. But because it’s a novel with police officers, two private investigators, a little boy and others, I’m focusing on the bigger picture of the story line and how it affects not only Dana, but other key players. My technique here is to put the character’s name at the top of the scene/chapter for point of view – mainly because I put Dana in the first person and everyone else in third person. And yes, I use the scene change technique.

In another post we will also look at some tricks to “get inside” the non POV characters without jumping heads and staying with the POV character.

What is my story now? I’m busy doing pre-book launch PR for Beyond the Tripping Point. That includes an interview appearance on a podcast TV show. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in front of a video camera (or behind one) so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll report in the next blog.

For information on my book launch (it’s November 4, 2012) go to http://www.bluedenimpress.com and click on “Toronto.”

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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