Third-Person

rsz_alternate_pov_showcaseI write in third person. It just comes natural to me. I like the ability to get into each of my charater’s heads at some point. Not all at once, mind you. That’s called head-hopping. Something I have been guilty of in the past. I use Shifting Limited? I never heard that phrase before. I just called it Limited, since I was in one head at a time.

Third-Person is an excellent choice to build suspense and create tension. Remember, If the POV character doesn’t know what’s around the corner, you don’t either. If the POV character trusts a person, that you have determined to be dishonest, the tension will build.

What are the different types of third-person narrative? Here’s a refresher for those who have been around the block a few times, and an enlightenment for the newbies.

Omniscient – This narrative is all-knowing, allowing the author to enter the minds of anyone they want. It is the preferred narrative in classic literature.  The works of Charles Dickens would be good examples.

Cinematic – The author describes events as impartially as possible. Consider yourself a fly on the wall. You see everything going on around you, but you can’t hear the character’s thoughts. Ernest Hemingway used this narrative.

Moments of high drama and physical violence, or the necessity to compress time are better served from this more distant perspective.

Limited – The narrative is limited to a single person’s perspective. If the character doesn’t know something, then the reader won’t either. This is the most prevalent approach to writing literature.

Third-Person Limited is much like First-Person with one crucial distinction. You aren’t trapped within the character’s perspective. You can look into the character’s head and know their thoughts and then back away when you would like to mute them.

Shifting Limited Or Multiple Limited – The point of view changes throughout the novel.  To avoid head-hopping, the point of view character should be limited to one per chapter,  scene, or some other easily definable chunk.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Third-Person

Point Of View?

1404775735Have you thought about the point of view you will be using when you write your novel? Whose head will you be in?

You may be wondering what I’m talking about. What is the point of view? To put it simply, it’s the voice with which you tell your story.

There are three commonly used points of view in novels. They all have their pros and cons, but if you’re a newbie, omniscient isn’t the way to go. Even accomplished writers struggle with transitions.

Omniscient/ 3rd person omniscient-

  • He/She
  • God-like. You are all knowing and all seeing. You have the ability to look into everybody’s head at once.
  • This can and usually does result in head-hopping.  If you’re not skillful enough to create a smooth transition from one person’s thoughts to another’s, and odds are you are not, don’t use it.
  • Editors and agents will guess you’re new right away because you don’t know what you’re doing.

3rd person limited

  • He/She
  • Places you in one person’s head at a time.
  • You can transition into other character’s heads, but you should limit viewpoints to one per scene, preferably chapter, ideally novel.
  • If you can limit the point of view to the protagonist, you’ll have a stronger story. Harry Potter and the Hunger Games have one viewpoint, the protagonist.
  • If you’re writing a romance, consider writing it from the female point of view.

1st person-

  • I/Me
  • You’re in one person’s head for the entirety of the novel.
  • It’s how we narrate stories we are sharing with our friends.
  •  Your reader becomes the character and believes everything is real.
  • The reader is drawn into the story much quicker than with other points of view.
  • 1st person forces you to stay in one point of view, which makes it a great choice for new writers.

I didn’t mention 2nd person point of view because it is rarely used in novels. 2nd person is you/your and is commonly used in instructional writing.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Point Of View?

Do Your Homework!

imagesDoes your manuscript have to be perfect?  If you’ve already written a best seller, your agent and editor may cut you some slack. If not, yes, that book better be pretty darn near  perfect, or nobody is going to look at it.  Agents receive hundreds of queries a week. They don’t have time to read everyone.  If your work is full of grammatical and structural errors, that’s all the excuse they need to toss it to the side and move on to the next one.

I sent my first manuscript out to five different agents.  I was very excited and a little anxious to hear what they had to say.  I expected some rejections but not all.  I had put  over a year into that novel.  It was my baby.

Well, two didn’t respond at all, one said no thanks, and another said it wasn’t what they were looking for. The fifth one responded with a rejection, but also included a why. There were numerous grammatical and structural errors, I was head hopping, and the dialogue dragged.

While I was disappointed, I did take her advice to heart and began the process of editing and correcting structural and grammatical errors.  I was one of those people that fell for the myth that it didn’t have to be perfect, they have editors to clean that up for you.

I also took on-line courses on writing dialogue that moves your story forward. I had never really thought about dialogue moving a story forward, but I see it now, and have a pretty good understanding of what the on-line instructors were trying to get across.

As far as the POV goes, I never heard  of ‘head hopping’.  I went to google and typed it in. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but it can be tricky at times and sneak in when you least expect it 🙂

Truth be known, I was ashamed of myself for sending such poor work to an agent.  I never realized how bad it was until I began the arduous process of editing and revising. I definitely didn’t make a good first impression.

Do your homework. When you’re writing your first novel, there is so much you don’t know. You’ll figure that out along the way. It’s a lot more complicated than just putting pen to paper. And you probably thought anybody could do it. 

I hope my blogs help you to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made.

-Jan R

Do Your Homework!

Nobody’s Perfect

imagesWhen you write, you should relax and enjoy the process. Don’t become obsessed with perfection. Nobody’s perfect. Most published novels aren’t perfect.

Since I’ve started writing, I’ve developed a keen eye for errors. They just jump off the page. If you’ve been writing for a while, you probably experience the same thing.

I love historical novels and read them every chance I get. I run into at least 2-3 errors in every novel. It usually is something as simple as using ‘the’ for ‘they’ or leaving off an ‘s’ on a word that should be plural, but because I have a trained eye, I see it, and am pulled out of the story.

Does it ruin the experience for me? Not at all. As a matter of fact, I feel better about my own writing.  Nobody’s perfect, and that’s okay. With that being said, note I only see 2-3 in a 350 page novel, and not one on every other page.

The quest for perfection leads to writer’s block.  It can paralyze an author. It’s great that you aim for perfection. That is what you want, but don’t allow your fear of making a mess keep you from moving forward.

Truth is, your first draft is going to be raw, awkward, and full of errors. That’s why we go back and edit, edit, edit.

Another question to ask yourself, is what is perfection? I’m not talking about  grammatically and structurally sound sentences, I’m talking about every little component that goes into making a great novel.

Did you know that your idea of perfection changes as you gain more and more experience in writing?

When I finished my novel, I went back and corrected all of the grammatical and structural errors and considered it complete and pretty darn near perfect.

I didn’t know the rules for Point Of View. I was head-hopping all over the place. So my work wasn’t perfect, and I was breaking a cardinal rule, which allowed the agent to pick up on the fact that I was an amateur.

I also didn’t know the rules for writing dialogue. Nobody told me your dialogue had to move the story forward. Most people don’t want to stop and smell the daisies. They want the meat, and they want to get to the action. So my work wasn’t perfect.

Keep writing! Your work won’t be perfect on the first go round. So accept that and get over it. It’s okay, you’re not alone. No writer, published or unpublished, writes a perfect first draft. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

I use to say get it done, then get it good. What I mean by that, is write that first draft knowing it’s full of errors. Get your ideas on paper before they fade away. Then go back and begin the refining process.  You want it as near to perfect as possible before querying an agent or self-publishing.

-Jan R

 

 

Nobody’s Perfect

Head Hopping Again? (Revised)

headhoppingI had a segment of my book critiqued today and got dinged on the POV. I couldn’t believe it. The reviewer was correct. I was jumping into the head of several of my main characters throughout the segment.

I know that for whatever reason, this writing 101 concept does not come easy for me. I also know, that if you want a book published, you had better get the POV under control.

I sent my novel to an agent, prematurely I might add, and she was kind enough to reject it with reasons why. I was head hopping. To be honest, I had never heard that term before. Being a novice, untrained in the art of creative writing, I’ve had to learn my way around this world. There’s a lot more to it than being able to string a group of sentences together.

The secret to making your POV work is limiting it to one perspective per scene, chapter, or book. When you start jumping around from one POV character to another in the same scene/paragraph/sentence you have committed a cardinal sin. HEAD HOPPING.

If you are writing in Third Person, which I do,  and Lauren is your POV character, you can’t write–Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but Janie didn’t believe her. I was just in Lauren’s head and Janie’s head. How am I suppose to know what Janie is thinking, if I’m limited to Lauren’s POV? What you could write is –Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but she could tell from her friend’s response, that she didn’t believe her.

Hope this helped somebody.

-Jan R

Head Hopping Again? (Revised)

Set Your Scene!

Peche-Sitzgarnitur_E-1-800x499I had the opportunity to listen to a publisher discuss problems he sees in manuscripts the other day. While he focused on several major components of the novel during his session, I want to talk a little about scenes.

Most of you should have a pretty good understanding about what a scene is and how it fits into the novel. Your story is actually a series of scenes that continue until they reach the climax and finish.

Now there are many ways to mess up a scene, but he called attention to some things I had never really thought about, so I wanted to share them with my readers.

The most obvious mistake is jumping from one scene to the next with nothing in between.  John is in the car driving home from work, and then he miraculously appears in the kitchen having an argument with his wife. What just happened? The writer failed to provide a transition.

While some people add a transition at the end of the previous scene, most transitions are provided at the beginning of the new scene. Within the first few lines actually. I never knew how important those lines were, until I saw the podcast.

So what is the purpose of the first few lines of your scene?

  • They establish the point of view. With in the first few lines, I should know who’s head I’m in.
  • The first few lines should establish the place where the scene occurs. When you open a scene with two people talking, your reader won’t be able to visualize where they are and what’s going on. They could be sitting in John’s living room, or walking the streets of New York City. By forcing your reader to try to figure this out, you are pulling them out of the story.
  • Those first few lines should establish a sense of time. Is it day or night? Maybe he’s nervous because he’s suppose to meet someone in 15 minutes and he is 25 minutes away.

Enough about scenes for today. If you need more information, I have a blog post on the anatomy of a scene, and I would highly recommend a visit to  Randy Ingermanson’s (the snowflake guy) blog.

-Jan R

 

 

Set Your Scene!

POV-Common Mistakes

0e3e1fc513972cdcccbdac6802ebb6acThink of your POV character as your camera. He/She walks through the story giving you a personal glimpse of what’s happening. If your POV character can’t see it, you can’t describe it for your readers. If he can’t hear it, you can’t let your readers hear it. If your POV character doesn’t know it, you can’t tell it. You are bound to your POV character.

Character can’t see it

Suzy stood staring straight ahead. Her ex stood behind her, his arms crossed over his chest, his blue eyes scowling.

  • Problem  Unless she has a mirror in front of her, she can’t see her ex standing behind her. She wouldn’t know his arms were crossed and he was scowling.
  • Fix  Use other senses. She can smell him, she can hear him, and she can imagine what he is doing.

Character can’t hear it

Suzy walked down the dark hall. Several floors down, another set of footsteps echoed in the darkness. Suzy had no idea she was being followed.

  • Problem  For the purpose of this example, we’re assuming she can’t hear two floors down. If she can’t hear it, she can’t describe it. Moreover, if she didn’t suspect it, who is telling the reader this information? It’s not Suzy.
  • Fix  Set the mood that hints at what you want the reader to fear. You can also have your character imagine the worst.

Character doesn’t know that

Suzy’s ex stood behind the door with a gun, waiting for her to enter. As she approached, she had no idea what was waiting on the other side.

  • Problem  To be a true third person, you can’t write what your POV doesn’t know. The POV police refer to this as omniscient voice or author voice.
  • Fix  Your POV can suspect, sense something isn’t right, have a funny feeling, or if her ex is heavy handed with the Old Spice, she may smell him. I think you get the picture.

Other omniscient or author slips

  • Suzy got out of her car and headed for the gym. She never realized she had left her keys in the ignition.
  • Suzy accepted the date. She wouldn’t find out for several months that it was the worst decision she would ever make.
  • Suzy walked by the window and never noticed that someone had left it opened.

I am guilty of committing all of these POV sins. I hope this post helps you as much as it helped me.

-Jan R

POV-Common Mistakes