The Healer and the Pirate

The Healer and the Pirate is available now on Kindle and Nook, and in print at Lulu and Amazon!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review - Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View

Did you know Southwest Airlines offers wi-fi on some of their flights now? I recently went on vacation and experienced it...I'm not so fond of flying so I thought it was GREAT to wile away the time on the computer, while 30,000 feet in the air.

Really, I'm going somewhere with this.

On both of our flights wi-fi. So, I finished 3 (short) books instead!

One of these books was Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. I downloaded it  for Kindle when it was briefly free. (And interestingly, read it after finishing George MacDonald's The Light Princess, written in the 1800s, and probably the opposite of deep POV.)

The basic idea of this book is to write "closer" to your point-of-view character. As it says very early on (you can see it in the "Look Inside" option on Amazon):

In order to remain firmly inside the (point-of-view character's) head, nothing in a scene can be presented for reader consideration that is outside that character's awareness.

Easier said than done, of course, but this brief book does a good job of defining and offers some techniques that will benefit all fiction writers. There are brief exercises, as well. (Admittedly, I was on an airplane so just typed my answers into my Kindle, instead of writing them out with detail, which may have been more useful.)

Nelson mentions basic things that I learned from other writing groups (you almost never need to use phrases like "he saw", because anything that's presented through a point-of-view character is something the character saw). She also has a lot of things I hadn't thought of. There is a very good explanation of writing your paragraphs in a linear/logical order, which will benefit all writers (even non-fiction).

For me, the main shortcoming is that (if I recall correctly) all the examples are from Nelson's own works. Obviously getting copyright clearance from other authors would have been more difficult, but I would have liked to see how other authors approach the same problems. (And I felt just a tiny bit like I was reading a sales pitch for the books cited!)

Something else this book taught me is that, as a reader, I don't actually want to read deep POV for the majority of the book. Taken out of the context of a book, I actually preferred a few of the "wrong way" examples to the "right way" examples, such as:

Shallow: Joy rocketed through Adrienne.
Deep: A grin the size of the big, blue sky stretched Adrienne's lips. If her feet met the sidewalk, they sure didn't know it.
I see where the second example is "deeper" but it didn't engage me or make me feel like I was in Adrienne's head. I never think of a grin stretching my lips. Maybe I'd feel differently reading it in the context of a book (if she'd EARNED this happiness and I could feel it with her). But standing alone, I'd rather know what happens next then read two sentences describing how she's happy.

For every example I disagreed with, there were probably two where the "deep" version was stronger. Here is a gem, where I thought the Shallow was all right, but the Deep is much better:

Shallow: Despair tugged at Jenny's heart. No one ever believed her.
Deep: Jenny wilted into her chair. What was the point of trying to defend herself?

So although I discovered I actually prefer a touch of narrative distance, I'll definitely try to put some of the tips in here to use.

If you actually WANT to write deep point of view (which is a very popular style nowadays) this should help you quite a lot. Even if you don't, it's worth a read just to get clarification as to what people mean when they say "deep point of view" and to find a few tips that will tighten your writing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ways to Plan a Novel - Part 3

So this is probably one of the more unusual ways to plan a story you'll ever see, and frankly I'm not so sure it'd work for a full-length novel. But I think I like how it's been working for a short story.

Back in the day, I wrote and drew some poorly-drawn comics. Despite my mediocre-to-poor art, I had some followers, and I may revisit them and write them into stories someday. Mostly I like sketching and have no patience for polishing the sketches. Comics were great because once they were drawn, I could tweak the dialogue pretty easily, but the basic plot had to stay the same unless I wanted to redraw (and I didn't). And if I wanted to change the whole plot? Nah; too much work. It's also a visual medium.

Cut to 2012, and I found myself having trouble writing a short story without Maggie. I couldn't get passionate about the characters and had difficulty setting up scenes.

Cut to...

I used to lay out my comic with 2 pages to a sheet of paper, which left more room for dialogue and art (or maybe "art" should be in quotes). As you can see, the sketches are...well...sketchy, though co-workers who spotted me in the lunchroom noticed they weren't words, so that's something. Since the sketches here are in no way ever going to be used as comics, I squeezed 4 pages onto one side of a sheet of paper. Then I wrote out the actions and (revised) dialogue in the story itself.

How is it going, you ask? I'm cautiously optimistic. Right now I've got the whole story typed out and am in the stage of editing what is in effect draft 2.5 or so. Next week I hope to let you know if this method really worked long-term or if it was just a method to get me interested in a project again.

Though I guess the latter isn't the worst thing in the world, now that I think about it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ways to Plan a Novel - Part 2

I've repeatedly alluded to using the Snowflake Method to plan a novel. The problem is I always see possibilities, even when I'm more than halfway through WRITING the novel.

Speaking of possibilities, I was recently struck by an urge to time-travel back to 2003, so I brought out my old DVDs of the short-lived show Tru Calling. The premise is that when Tru Davies (who conveniently works in a morgue) is near a person who had an unnatural death, the person may call for her help. When that happens, the day rewinds and she wakes up when the day started (a la Groundhog Day) and has to try to save the victim. Not every episode is great, but I found it enjoyable.

Rewriting a story and publishing BOTH VERSIONS? Yes, that's my idea of a perfect job. No wonder I like time travel stories so much.

In fairness, I also happened to see my first episodes--the last two of Season 1--when my parents were in Ohio and my grandfather was at death's door himself. So the thought of rewriting life to "fix" the deaths touched me more than it may have otherwise. I guess that's part of the beauty of writing. You never know when your story might hit someone at the exact right moment, when a story that's "just OK" will seem jaw-droppingly amazing to them, or even bless them unexpectedly.

Oh, and speaking of writing, Doris Egan (more famous for Buffy and House) actually blogged about where the show was going before is (already short) second season was cut shorter. Her blog in general is fascinating if you're interested in TV writing at all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Update on Blogger

So those who follow my blog may recall that Blogger recently made me want to throw my computer out the window.

What's odd is that shortly after I did all that complaining, and shortly after I wrote a sternly-worded bug report to Blogger, the "Switch to Old Blogger" option randomly seemed to appear in my settings. I admit, maybe it was a coincidence, and maybe the option was always there (though I really thought Blogger had said "Old Blogger is gone forever and you can never have it back"). Maybe Google has an automatic logarithm to figure out how upset someone is when they submit a bug report--or just looks for words like "revert" and "old version" and then gives that option. Or maybe it's just a blessing that either came when I needed it, or when I opened my eyes to it. Whatever it was, I'm grateful.

Anyway, for now, blogging is fun again! Yes, I know someday Google will switch to new Blogger, but hopefully by then it will be a little more functional!

(EDIT: As I submitted this post, I got a "Conflicting Edits" error, even though I only have one Blogger window open anywhere. Oh, Blogger. Up to your old tricks again, I see!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ways to Plan a Novel - Part 1

I think I've mentioned I don't care for the word "Pantser" (or "Panster") as a term for a writer who has trouble plotting in advance.

Janni Lee Simner (Bones of Faerie) apparently writes five drafts to get to a decent draft! I'm afraid I may be that way as well...I love NaNoWriMo but always end up with something that is completely unsalvageable... I'd be interested to see what would happen if I attempted NaNoWriMo 2 or 3 consecutive years, always writing the same story...

Anyway, for almost all writers, a good portion of writing is rewriting. I know that's true for me!