Tag Archives: Narrative mode

Rule #12 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever – Point of View

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #12

12: Fix your Point Of View (POV). Make it clear whose head you’re in as early as possible. And stay there for the duration of the scene. Unless you’re already a highly successful published novelist, in which case you can do what you like. The reality is that although most readers aren’t necessarily clued up on the finer points of POV, they know what’s confusing and what isn’t.

This is something that I really needed to teach myself to do. I’ve even written quite a few stories recently in one POV to keep myself from hopping.

A few years ago I wrote a novel with about a dozen points of view.  A beta reader suggested I read a BEST SELLING novel that switched points of view a lot so I could get a feel of how to do it seamlessly.  You know what happened? I couldn’t even read the book.  About half-way-through, I abandoned it because the head-hopping drove me crazy.  But wait – that was a best-selling novel????

Yes, it was… so a lot of people liked it.  I didn’t. (This was a romance novel by the way… it hopped between the two main characters)

The experience struck me enough though to go through my book like a viper ensuring that every scene had a SINGLE point of view.  I don’t want to give anyone the flip-flop experience that this novel had given to me.

It’s really not that hard.  Start a scene in someone’s head, and then pay attention to staying there.  Do you need to express the feelings of another character?  Fine.  But do it by showing what your POV character observes.

This POV advice is one I stoutly agree with.

Pick your POV and stay there.  If you need to change, start a new chapter and stay inside the news character’s head for a while.

Your writing will shine with this little added attention.  Harder? Yes, sometimes it is, but the end result is sooooo worth it.

How do you feel about head hopping? Are you guilty?

swish swivel squiggle

Click here to tweet: Watch your Point of View. Rule #12 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever from @jennifermeaton 

_JenniFer____EatoN

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I need some help with something. Got a minute?

I’ve run into a conundrum.  It’s kind of a good conundrum – betas are loving Fire in the Woods… until they get to one point.

I partly expected the responses:

“This is confusing, but if no one else says anything, ignore me.” And “This is distracting.  Is there another way to do this?”

So, this is my problem.  Fire in the Woods is told in “First Person” (the “I” Point of view)

There is a large sequence where people around my main character are speaking another language, and she can’t understand them.  To keep the continuity of the story, I wrote the whole sequence in English.  Then I went back and translated it.

I figured there would be some people who wanted to know what they were saying, so I subtitled it.  I also figured people who wanted to stay in Jess’s confused POV would not even glance at the subtitles.  So far, this seems to be backfiring.

So, this is my question:  How should I handle this scene? I don’t want to keep saying over and over “they spoke in their weird language” or something like that, but I obviously can’t leave in all the foreign dialect.

Have you ever seen something like this done well in a published work?  Have you read a passage where characters are speaking another language, and the POV character doesn’t understand them?

I have an idea what to do, but before I do a lot of work and screw things up, I’d like to see an example of someone doing it WELL.

Any suggestions?

_JenniFer____EatoN

Stupid things your Beta Readers Find: Letting Your Villain Off The Hook Too Easily.

This is one of those “type things out to clear my head” posts.

I’ve written before that if one person makes a comment, consider it.  If two people make the same comment, seriously consider it.  If several more people make the same comment, revise.

I’m wavering on this one, though.

When I request beta reads, I ask for people to express the emotion they feel in each chapter.  A few people have said that my villain gets off the hook too easily.

Now, are they expressing an emotional response, or do they think that’s an error on my part?  That is what I am trying to figure out.  Even after questioning them, I am still not quite sure.

For one thing, they all would have squawked at my first seven or so drafts, where he completely got away with it.   I’m at least happy with my decision for him to get caught.

I can’t have him die a horrible death though, because then he can’t come back with a vengeance to really screw with Magellan’s head in another book.

I guess the visceral reaction of people is that if someone kills almost a hundred people with no remorse, he should get no less than that in the end.  The problem is that my villain is just too much fun.  Everyone has said that he makes their skin crawl, but they love it.  He is a great character, and I want him to come out and play again.

I think the problem might lie in the fact that you see him get caught, and you see the initial “punishment”, but you don’t get to see the aftermath… but if I do go and show the reader that aftermath, it will get red-lined because that is not intrinsic to the main-plotline for a POV character to be there to see it.

I don’t really have to show you the aftermath… I can show you the emotional response of the aftermath from another character’s POV.  I can intertwine that into the main plotline as the characters move into the final scene.

That’s it!  I got it!  I knew talking to you guys would help. You are all so smart!

Gotta go!  The idea is bursting out of my head, and I need to write it down before it disappears!

Lesson Twenty Seven from a Manuscrupt Red-Line: Fluidity in Action-The Art of a Good Fight Scene

An example of a poorly written action scene:

Jason punched Eric in the face.  Eric fell to the floor.  Eric groaned and rolled over.  Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  Eric popped up, and Eric swung at Jason, but missed.  Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  Eric crumpled to the floor.

(Yes, I totally made this paragraph up.)

The publisher’s comment on a similar (but not as poorly written) sceneThis is a very stilted fight scene. It reads action, next action, next action, next action without the fluidity that’s needed for a fight scene.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I have to admit, when I read the action passages in the Gold Mine Manuscript, I had the same comment.  The author was satisfied with the speed of the scenes though, and only made moderate changes.  Not being an expert, I backed off and figured it was just a “style choice”.  Guess not.

This fits in very well with my recent post on “Art of the Conflict”.  This scene is not about dialog, but this is definitely a conflict.  This one needs something inserted to break up the action, rather than action inserted to break up the dialog.

Now, I am not going to put a lot of time into this, since the scene is totally fake.  But let me add a little “art” to make it “flow”.  Fluidity is what they asked for.  Okay, here it goes…

Jason grunted as his fist swung toward Eric’s face.  Eric tried to dodge, but instead felt the sting of the older boy’s ring cutting into his jaw.  He fell to the floor with a muffled thump, and groaned as he rolled over.

Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  “I told you to stay down.”

Eric pushed up onto his knees.  “Why, so you can just pummel me?”  He popped up and swung at Jason, but missed.

Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  There was no time for Eric to react.  His head creaked back, and his jaw rattled as he crumpled to the floor.

Better, huh?  Not perfect by a long shot, but not bad for three minute flash fiction.  Can you feel the difference?  The staccato choppy “This happened-That happened” feel is gone, and the scene “flows”.

Of course, this is a first draft.  In editing, I would have to remove the “ing” word and the telly “felt”.  I would also insert a little emotion when Eric realized he missed, but this is definitely better by far than the first.  The art draws you into the scene.  You experience it, rather than just watching it.

The art of the conflict… If you don’t have it, go get it.

If you want to see a great published example, pick up a copy of  THRONE by Phillip Tucker and open up anywhere in the last hundred pages or so.

I hope this helps to make it more clear!

Lesson Twenty-Four from a Manuscript Red Line: Remembering where your characters are

Do you pay attention to where your characters are in a scene?  Are you sure?  I thought I was sure too.  Guess what?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

The publisher who red-lined the Gold Mine Manuscript pointed out a scene where the two main characters were running side by side away from some danger.  All of the sudden, one of them shouted from behind the other one.  The comment from the publisher was:  “They were together, but you didn’t say he jumped ahead. How then did she get behind?”

I read over this the first time I looked at the red-line, because it seemed like another “duh” comment.  However,  just a few weeks ago one of my betas pointed out that both my characters were standing right next to each other, and then all of the sudden Jerric walked up to Magellan from the other side of the room.  Why would he walk up if he was already at his side?

Similarly, I recently re-wrote a scene where someone was seated the entire time.  In the end, he falls off the chair.  I changed it so he stands up early in the scene, but after leaving it for a month, and then looking at the scene again, I noticed that my “standing” character still fell off the chair.  Was he standing on the chair?  Of course not!

The point of all this is to pay attention to where your character is, and make sure it is consistent throughout the scene.  If not, show us the movement.  If you don’t, you can unintentionally make your scene comical.

Lesson Twenty from a Manuscript Red Line: Don’t make things so easy

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

In the Gold Mine Manuscript, there is a point where the MC is thrust into the magical world.  He has been there for a few days, and suddenly he is faced with an animal that can speak to him through their minds.

In concept, this is fine.  However, the publisher red-lined that the MC was “too accepting” of this.  The MC just jumped in and said “okay, no problem” – well, he didn’t say it that way, but he jumped right on board.

The publisher said that it would be okay for the characters who were born into this world to be fine with this, but the MC should not accept so easily.  A few paragraphs later, the MC also tells his friend  that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and that he’s harmless… they red-lined that too.

Think of it this way… if you ran into a guy in the street, and just started talking to him for a few minutes, would you be willing to risk your life, and your best friend’s life in trusting this person, or would you be a little wary?  Now make this person a really large mythical animal.  Getting nervous yet?

Be careful that you don’t put your own knowledge into your character’s heads before that knowledge is learned.  You as the author know there is nothing to fear, but to make it realistic, your character’s “trust” needs to be earned to a degree.  Let relationships develop so they seem more natural and believable.  Don’t take the easy way out to move your story ahead more quickly.

Think over your novel.  Have you done anything like this?

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Sixteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Cutting down your Point of View Characters

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also look at “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Lesson Fifteen discussed the necessity of cutting POV switching to a bare minimum… but how do you do this?

My suggestion?  Make a list of all your POV characters.  I’ve been doing this as I’ve been editing.  Once you have the list, decide which are really major characters, and which are just there for information.  Here’s my list, and my judgement calls on each character.

1.       Magellan – Main Character – No brainer.  He needs to stay.

2.       The High King  Hmmm.  I think I need him.  Without his POV too much of the explanation of the world is gone.  Only delete if absolutely necessary

3.       Stephen – The villain– Not budging.  I need to get into his twisted homicidal brain.

4.       Castillia – The Goddess – I’ll have to chop some stuff I love, but I think she can go. Magellan is in most scenes, so I can use his POV.

5.       Instructor Candor – The only one who really knows what’s going on in the story– Cut only as a last resort

6.       Prince Harris – Main Plot line character – He has to stay.  No budging

7.       Tome – Minor character – Delete most of his POV.  See if I can get away with the one small section that contrasts with Prince Harris at the end of the book.  I can delete that if I must, but I like the contrast of rich and famous compared to poor pauper.

8.       Jerric – Delete POV.  Easy to use other characters.

9.       Minthius – Minor character – Delete and rewrite in the King’s POV since they are in the same scenes.

10.    Dacailin’s Son – Ha!  I can’t even remember his name!  He only had a small POV for information only. Delete.

11.    Matt – Could probably remove his POV, but at the end, it has to be there.  Fight for this one.  If I lose his revelation at the end, I think it confuses the novel.

12.    Harris’s Mother  – Informational only – Giving a sentimentally weepy okay to delete.  I can explain the horrors of the Stanton Castle through Steven’s POV (Although with less emotion.  Ugh)

13.    Red – Transition character for Harris – Delete (**sob**) No need to get into her head since we will never see her again in this novel.  Delete the scenes in her POV entirety.  Erghhh!!!!!! (Her first two scenes with Harris will stay-they’re in his POV)

14.    Matt’s parents – Only one scene – Delete and let Matt overhear it

15.    Meagan – Girl Power – She only has a small POV section at the end of the novel as everything gets sewn up.  She’s the girl, though.  I know I might be asked to get into her head more.  Right now I am avoiding it by using Magellan, Stephen and the King in most of the novel.  Might be able to get away with leaving it like it is.  (I can be hopeful, can’t I?)

Wow—That’s 15 points of view!  I didn’t even realize it.  I never even considered that this may be a problem.

So, here are the stats after I broke them down:

Necessary POV:

1.       Magellan (MC)

2.       Stephen (Villain)

3.       Prince Harris (Main Plot Line Catalyst)

4.       Meagan (Girl Power)

POV that I’d like to keep

1.       Instructor Candor

2.       King

3.       Matt

POV that I can remove

1.       Castillia

2.       Tome

3.       Jerric

4.       Minthius

5.       Dacailin’s Son

6.       Harris’s Mother **weep**

7.       Red **painful**

8.       Matt’s parents **possible loss of sentimentality try to keep sentiment in the re-write**

So, I have four POVs that need to be there.

Eight POV’s can easily be eliminated. (Not that it won’t be work) The characters will still be there, but the scenes will be told from someone else’s perspective.

I’m left with three more POV’s that I really want.

The King is intrinsic to the beginning of the story, and the end.  No other POV characters appear in his scenes.

Matt is intrinsic to the end of the novel.  He is “alone” in the Pre-climax scene where a revelation happens for the reader.

Candor moves the story forward in the middle.  He is the only character that does not lose his memory for most of the novel.  I might be able to remove him.  I’d just rather not.

POV characters that will remain:

1.       Magellan (MC/Protag)

2.       Stephen (Villain)

3.       Prince Harris (Main Plot Line Catalyst)

4.       King (Overall Story Driver)

5.       Meagan (Girl Power) **One POV scene at the end only if I can
get away with it**

6.      Matt (The “best friend” – Only in the third act)

So, this is what I’m going to cut it down to.  I am hoping that this will fly, and they do not ask for more cuts once this gets into the hands of a publisher.  Each of these characters have a big enough role that I think a reader can identify with them in their POV.  The main POVs will be Magellan, Stephen, Harris, and the King.  Matt and Meagan’s POV will be near the end.  (Which I know is a “no no”, but I am going to try to bend the rules a bit)

For all intents and purposes there will only be 4 POV’s in the first 350 pages.  Matt pops up around Page 350, and we pop into Meagan’s head in the tie up chapters at the end.

Hopefully, by removing the ones that were obviously there just as info-dumps, I will be able to slip in a few extra without it being noticeable.  (Yeah, I know.  Wishful thinking, but I can try.)

Good Luck!

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Fifteen from a Manuscript Red Line: How Many POV’s Can You Have?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

At one point in the red-lining of the manuscript, the publisher stopped, and wrote a full page explaining the importance of careful Point of View switching.   I’m glad you’re on a computer… It means you’re probably already sitting down.  A lot of you might not like this much.  I know I didn’t.

The publisher counted nine different POVs in the Gold Mine Manuscript.  They said the problem with this is the reader can’t get deep into one character.  They realized the author was going to different POVs to give background, but they said that they could not relate to these new characters, because they hadn’t learned enough about them to understand their motives.  It makes it very difficult to feel anything for any specific character.

They cautioned against switching to POVs that are not intrinsic to the story just to give background, conflict, or added tension.

The publisher recommended **Gack** editing it to three points of view, one of them being the female character, who had not been a strong POV character in the original.

THAT’S REMOVING 6 POINTS OF VIEW!

Now, I must say that I’ve read a partial revise of the gold mine manuscript.  Do not be daunted.  I’ve seen that this can be done.  If a scene in an “unnecessary  POV” has important information in it, you just need to get creative and find a  way for the POV characters to be there, or overhear what happened.  It’s possible.  You just need to broaden the scope of your thinking.

In my next post, I will show you the tool I used to break down my POV characters… and yes, I needed a tool.  I was surprised with how many POV’s I had!

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Five from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Let’s keep it in the past

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

I suppose this doesn’t work for those of you who are trying to write your novel in the present tense.  If you are, personally I have to ask you to stop.  Yes, okay, it is a style thing, but I just can’t get into it.  I’ve read a few passages in present tense, and I always end up feeling tense (as in irate).  To me, past tense is the way to go.  (Of course, maybe I just haven’t read a good one)  Anyway, for those of us writing in the conventional fashion…

This publisher noted that present tense words are okay in dialog only.  In narration, they should be cut.

Now, in the gold mine manuscript, the present tense word was “almost” used as narration.  It was “sort of” an inner thought.  The POV character looked at a big mess, and was thinking about cleaning it up, and the narration said “he’d have to tackle it today.”  Now, I think the problem is that it was set off as narration, not as a complete inner thought.  If it was in italics, like the POV character was actually saying it in his head, it may have been okay (again, this is my opinion here).   But since this writer’s style is to have most of the character’s inner thoughts as narration instead of italic thought, this publisher found the use of “present tense” words to be a problem.

So, in a nutshell… if the narration says:  He’d have to take care of things today.  This is no good.

However, if the same character says out loud, or as an inner thought: “I’ll have to take care of this today.”  That is fine.

That’s a pretty simple one, but it might be one many overlook if they have their inner thoughts as narration.  This can be overcome simply be making your inner though more concrete, and putting them in italics so it is very clear that this is an inner-thought, and not the narration.

Amendment:  Guess what?   I just found one of these in my own manuscript!  In the MC’s POV, the narration says:  – It isn’t cold, like it is here.— Now, this isn’t past tense, but the “here” sounds weird because it is in the narration.  I need to change this into an italic thought, or change the wording to be slightly more detached.  One or the other.  It is basically the same principle.

Happy editing!