Wit 'n Wisdom of Janice LaQuiere

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Diving into deep POV

I'm a bit late in posting. Recently, I've been working on rewriting the prologue for Swan's Song, which I'll post when I'm finished. Until then, I'll address some of my comments I made in my critique, specifically point-of-view (POV) issues.

A fiction writer needs to have a good grasp on POV to create an intimate relationship between the reader and the characters. The purpose of POV is not only for clarity and understanding, but also to make the reader one with the POV character.

Today, it suits my purposes to talk only about 3rd person POV.

In 3rd person POV a scene is written from the perspective of only one character—the POV character. This helps draw the reader into the story and creates an intimacy between the narrator and the reader.

3rd person POV is written in narration in a style similar to omniscient, but like 1st person POV it focuses on a single person per scene—the POV character. The information relayed in the story is based only on what the POV character can see, feel, hear, smell, think, know, etc.

In the Swan's Song prologue, John is our POV character.

--He knows that his wife died a month ago.

--He feels the wool blanket catches on his rough fingers. Whenever he breathes a sharp pain stabs his ribs.

--Cedar smoke irritates his nostrils. His arms ache from holding his daughter. Pain cuts through his heart at the thought of giving his child away.

--He watches the woman approach him. These are all things John can know as our POV character.

However, he can't know the woman's thoughts, or her experience that might form her reaction to him. He can't know that her shoes are pinching her feet, unless there's an outward indication of this. Another thing he can't know is the look in his own eyes—since they're impossible for John to see.

She'll be here soon. There's so little time. Oh, my chest hurts. A cough shook him to his bones and he leaned against the wall for balance. Several minutes passed before he could move.

Comment: Since we're in John's POV this can be turned into narrative while still keeping the effect of it being in his thoughts.

In the example above, you'll notice that my first comment refers to John's internal monologue (thoughts). However, because this scene is entirely in John's POV it's not necessary to stress his thoughts by writing them in the first person. Even incorporated into the narrative, the reader will understand that these are John's thoughts. The italics also interrupt the flow of the passage. It distracts the reader.

He motioned to the cradle in the corner and the look in his eyes begged the woman...

Comment: If we are in John's POV he wouldn't be thinking about the look in his eyes.

As previously stated, our POV character, John would focus on what he's thinking or feeling, not on the look in his own eyes.

The doctor bent over the patient feeling his rapid pulse.

Comment: Put this in John's POV. Example: The doctor's finger squeezed his wrist.

This third illustration also indicates that I've stepped out of John's POV. By referring to John as "the patient" I'm distancing the reader from the story and describing it as if the narrator is a witness instead of a participant.

Other resources:
Seeing is Believing – Gail Gaymer Martin
What Point of View – Callum Shakespeare
First Person or Third – Tara K. Harper

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Critique!!!

As I mentioned before, though I'd written for several years, I knew that something was missing from my stories. But what? My friends said I had a good plot, the story was exciting, and I had a good handle on the grammar. Even after reading books and magazines I couldn't decipher what my writing lacked.

The Internet was booming, and finally I turned to it to try and find writing help. For the first time I became familiar with writer's groups, and I took the chance and submitted a chapter for critiquing. My manuscript was returned with cryptic comments about back story, flash backs, and point-of-view, none of which I understood. I only knew that I wasn't a fiction writer.

I still had the desire to write, even if I couldn't fulfill my desire to write novels. So I put my fiction aside and decided to focus on devotionals and short-stories. I joined writer's groups and a critique groups. Gradually, I learned the definition of the puzzling remarks the critiquer made, and how to implement her suggestions in my story.

Recently, I've started critiquing one of my older stories. I'm posting the prologue here, in order for others to have an idea of what a critique is. In future posts I'll be discussing some of the problems that were spotted in the prologue.

(This critique is a MS Word document. The Swan's Song

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Writing - The Birth of a Passion

I grew up reading. After learning about Sue, Tom and Pepper in the Ginn Basic Readers at the age of 4, I was hooked to books. However, the closest I ventured to writing stories was when my cousin Jennifer and I glued together pieces of scrap paper and started writing our own versions of the Little Golden Books to try and beef up the business at our Kool-Aid stand. Unfortunately, our self-publishing venture went about as flat as an open can of store-brand coke.

Fast forward 10 years. Having been influenced by the likes of Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden, Jennifer and I again set out to write our own action/adventure series. Our heroines had just discovered an ominous plot and were undergoing extensive self-defense training when my hand cramped up. My blue-lined notepaper would forever carry the beginning of our unfinished story, but in the process of our two excursions into the land of literary accomplishment I got bit by the writing bug.

Not long afterwards, I peddled my bicycle up to a neighborhood garage sale. After I shunned the costume jewelry and the beat-up appliances, the older lady hosting the sale walked up to me carrying her stack of Writer's Digests. I had an aura, she said. She knew I'd be a writer and wanted to give me her collection. Wow! I’m not into auras. I didn't know if should change my deodorant or walk around with a veil over my face like Moses. I did, however, accept the magazines and carried them home to be read and re-read.

A few months later we purchased a computer and my dreams of becoming a writer began. I stared at the blank blue screen of WordPerfect and tapped out Chapter One.

The lone horse and rider trotted slowly across the Wyoming prairie. The setting sun sank deeper beyond the crest of the earth, tinting the horizon with beautiful hues of orange, crimson, violet and yellow, and casting a gilded edge of gold on the clouds that were scattered about it. The tall, prairie grasses waved gingerly in the cool late April breeze.

For Love of Life was the first of my novels. During the next several years I finished six westerns, wrote several essays and short stories, and won a few essay contests. Like any great journey, I learned a lot on the way. However, my dream of having a published novel remained elusive. I knew my writing lacked something, but what? Grammar? Plot? Character development? My lack of knowledge choked my inspiration.

Over the course of the next several posts I'm going to answer some of the questions I had early in my writing career. I hope to explain fiction techniques, such as:
Point-of-view (POV)
Active writing vs. Passive writing

I'll also explore the how-to's and whys behind publishing lingo that left me befuddled. Such as:
Studying the market?
Who is your audience?
Comparing similar books?
Researching publishers?
Creating a platform?
Getting a referral?

In short, I hope to drag you along with me into the world of writing, until you're no longer a stranger looking in, but an insider with the confidence to pursue your dreams.

I don't promise to have all the answers, since I'm still on the journey, but if I can mark the trail and make the map clearer for the next novice, I'll consider this blog a success.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Photos from Detroit - Super Bowl

The five towers of Renaissance Center is a prominent feature of the Detroit skyline. Built in 1976 by Henry Ford II and the Ford Motor Company, it is now owned by the GM Corporation.

Entrance to the Renaissance Center. Flanked by security, Emmett Smith is signing autographs just inside the doors.

Driving down Jefferson.

"Radio Row" is set up on the ground floor of the RenCen. You can look down from balcony an watch NFL TV interview football players, as well as see the setups from various radio stations across the country.


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