27 03, 2017

Who’s Telling Your Story?

By |2017-03-22T14:53:27-05:00March 27th, 2017|Guest blogger, Writer's Corner, Writing Craft|0 Comments

A Guest Blog

Today I’d like to introduce a writer friend, who also happens to be a fabulous teacher and excellent editor—Alicia Rasley. She’s going to offer advice on how writers can decide which character’s POV to use.

All fiction books are written from a particular character’s perspective (POV). As readers, you probably aren’t aware of POV specifics, but we writers can struggle with it. That’s why I invited Alicia to help.

Thanks, Judythe, for inviting me to guest blog!

I know I’m not the only writer kind of obsessed with point of view, so I thought I’d talk about one aspect of POV — which character should narrate a particular scene.

Often this is an easy decision, but if you’re having trouble making the scene as dramatic or deep as you want, consider changing the point-of-view character.

Now there is no RIGHT answer to which character point-of-view to choose for any scene. It will vary depending on many factors, including the author’s own natural POV approach and of course the events of the scene.

But here are a few questions to help guide you in the choice. Each of these questions emphasizes a different approach to the scene. One might lead to a more action-oriented scene. Another might lead to an emotionally dramatic scene.

Let’s use as an example a hanging in some foreign land, a public execution of a man (call him Tom), with his wife there near the gallows (call her Sue). Very dramatic scene!

Whose head should we be in?

POV Choice Questions

Which character is there right now at the scene?

It’s often better to go with the eyewitness rather than the one who just hears about it later– the TV cameraman at the execution, not the anchorman back at the studio.

Which character has the most at stake externally?

The one in physical danger maybe? That would probably be Tom, the condemned man, about to be hanged, of course.

Which character has the most at stake internally?

Sue, who is watching the hanging despairingly from the crowd, knowing that her baby (due in three weeks) will never know its daddy?

Who has the most intriguing perspective, or will narrate the event in the most entertaining way?

Maybe the hangman? Or maybe Sue isn’t so despairing… maybe she’s furious at Tom and will be glad when he’s dead? <G>

Who will change the most because of this event?

Maybe the judge who condemned the man, as the hanging draws closer, comes to regret his vengeful decision, and decides that he’s got to save Tom. The judge might be a good POV character because we can participate in this great change.

Who is going to have to make a big decision or take a great action during this scene?

If Sue is going to storm the gallows, seize a sword, and cut Tom down, she might be the best POV character (then again, I’d love to be in Tom’s head as she comes charging up the steps and aiming that sword towards his neck… <G>).

Whose goal drives the scene?

Maybe Tom has decided to make a great emotional speech and rally the onlookers to riot and save him. He’s the one with the goal– good POV choice.

Whose got a secret and do you want the reader to know?

If Tom is actually an undercover superhero who can burn the noose rope with his x-ray eyes and fly away, but wants first to implicate the judge who condemned him, so he stands there patiently waiting for the hangman… it depends on whether I want the reader to know what he’s planning or his secret powers.

Yes, I want the reader to know, so I put the scene in his POV, and concentrate on how hard he has to work to keep the secret secret.

Or no, I don’t want the reader to know: I want the reader to gradually suspect, along with – or before– Sue and/or the judge, that there’s something a bit off about this guy and the way he keeps aiming his intense gaze up at the rope…. that might mean staying OUT of his POV.

Who is telling all already through dialogue and action?

If Sue is being completely open and upfront about what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling, why bother to go into her head? The judge or Tom might be a better candidate for our “mind-reading” then.

You can see that this is not a checklist– any one of these is sufficient to make a choice, and some are obviously mutually exclusive.

But you can also see how many different ways there are to analyze the choice, and it all boils down to:

What effect do you want to have on the reader in this scene?

And whose POV will best create that effect?

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Bio: Alicia Rasley would rather write about writing than… well, write. Nonetheless, she has written many novels, including a best-selling family saga and a contemporary mystery novel.

She also wrote a handbook on the fictional element of point of view: The Power of Point of View. She teaches writing at a state university and in workshops around the country and online.

Her website has articles and posts about the craft of writing. Sign up for a writing newsletter and get 13 Prime Principles of Plot and other free plotting articles!

20 03, 2017

44 Words That Can Weasel into Writing

By |2017-03-03T08:18:06-06:00March 20th, 2017|Make Me Think Monday, Writing Craft|0 Comments

Writing’s hard work. Ask any writer. Good writing is harder. Sometimes weasel words can slip in.

Weasel words are “favorite” words that pop up when a writer is being lazy or rushing.

I first heard the term in a workshop with Margie Lawson. She expanded weasel words to include phrases, overused word, throw-away words, clichés and opinion words that might draw a reader from the story.

Her solution is to keep a personal weasel word list for every manuscript and when you do the edits, remove the weasels.

Grammarly created this infographic of frequently overused words to help writers eradicate such words. Margie and I would call it a weasel word list.

44 Overused Words & Phrases To Be Aware Of (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

24 10, 2016

21 Grammar Rules and Writing Mistakes

By |2016-10-01T14:36:48-05:00October 24th, 2016|Make Me Think Monday, writing, Writing Craft|2 Comments

Grammarcheck.net recently posted this infographic of 21 frequently ignored (or unknown) grammar rules and writing mistakes that everyone who writes should know.

How many do you know? How many do you ignore?

I’m with them on all but the serial comma and semicolon. I only use a serial comma for clarity in my writing. And, I think the semicolon is too formal for my voice. I only add it when my copy editor insists.

Bye Grammar Mistakes! 21 Rules to Remember (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

13 03, 2013

One Word Wednesday – EMOTION

By |2013-03-13T06:47:29-05:00March 13th, 2013|one word Wednesday, writing, Writing Craft|1 Comment

The chief goal of a writer is to engage the reader. How do we do that?

EMOTION

We dig deep within ourselves and find what motivated us and inject that emotion into our characters.

I like the way Hemingway said it here:

SOURCE: tumblr_md88wbST7l1rnvzfwo1_500

SOURCE: tumblr_md88wbST7l1rnvzfwo1_500

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It isn’t!

If you’re having a hard time getting EMOTION on the page, check out these resources:

1. Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
This book should be on every writer’s resource shelf. The pages of Iglesias’ book are loaded with tips and techniques.

2. The Emotional Thesaurus
Another “bible” for writers. These authors have compiled a fabulous resource with specific examples for adding gestures to convey emotion.

3. The Bookshelf Muse
A must read blog with great tips for adding emotion to the page.

Now go do what Hemingway says, “Find what gave you emotion,” then give that emotion to your character so your reader feels what you felt.

1 10, 2012

I Missed National Punctuation Day. Did you?

By |2021-10-18T10:07:37-05:00October 1st, 2012|Monday Motivations, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Craft|0 Comments

Last Monday, September 24th was National Punctuation Day. Thanks, Steve Laube and Janice Heck for sharing on your blogs and putting me in the know about this yearly celebration.

I’m a week late this year, but next year I’ll be on time to celebrate the day Jeff Rubin established as the “celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semi-colons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis” in 2004.

Enjoy this Victor Borge skit with Phonetic Punctuation. It’s hilarious any day of the year.

On a more serious note, if you have as much trouble with punctuation and grammar as I do, I recommend:

Nitty-Gritty Grammar
A humorous guide to correct grammar.

Or for the serious student: The Elements of Style

Click on either to read more and/or add to your writer resource shelf. I’m guessing many have the Strunk and White. It’s been around as long as Victor Borge.

 

YOUR TURN
What’s the worst grammatical/punctuation error you’ve made or seen?

24 09, 2012

Debunking Must Dos for aspiring writers

By |2012-09-24T14:30:30-05:00September 24th, 2012|Monday Motivations, writing, Writing Craft|8 Comments

When I started writing for publication, I repeatedly heard three “absolute must dos.”

Years later and many published works, I have my own opinion about those MUSTs.

#1 Write what you know.
First, imo, writing what you know is easy lazy writing. I’ve done it, you’ve done. Who hasn’t?

BUT, we live in the technology age. These days you can research anything without leaving home.

Or looking at it another way, we write fiction. We can make it up!

It’s been my experience, as long as my reader can suspend their disbelief and buy into my story I don’t have to be an expert about what I’m writing.

I will qualify my opinion by saying that IF you write about what you know and what interests you, your story is more likely to come alive for your reader. Good Sound research can produce an engaging story too.

So, don’t limit yourself to what you know. Explore. Be adventurous. Be creative. Research.

#2 Don’t write to market.
Indie publishing has blown this MUST out of the water.

On the other hand, if you write to the traditional publishing market, you might want to AVOID market trends.

By the time a manuscript is ready for what is currently trending, that trend may have died. Big Six publishers take too long from contract to reality in a bookstore. Do you really want to spend weeks, months, even years writing a book that won’t sell?

BUT if you’re considering indie publishing or e-publishing, I suggest you keep your eye on the marketplace. Publishers’ Marketplace offers deal news which is an indicator of what’s coming out.

Subscribe to the free lunch edition of Publishers’ Market place or spring for a paid subscription to the Marketplace. Check regularly to see what’s trending.

Then if you need a story idea, you’ll have plenty of ideas. You might find one that appeals to you and will likely be most saleable.

#3 Write the best book you can.
This one is absolutely, positively TRUE.

What sells a book or an article or a paper is CONTENT.

Agents and editors reject mediocre or unsellable submissions. Reviewers and readers will post bad reviews. So write the best, most creative, most marketable manuscript or article you can. ALWAYS!

I wish I could promise that you follow these MUSTs you’ll find success. I can’t.

There are two other elements.

Only one of my early advisors – New York Times bestseller JoAnn Ross — was honest enough to share this illusive element of writing success.

Good Luck Graphic #43

Thank you, JoAnn

The other key element and critical MUST is

So I end by wishing you luck because every author – aspiring or established – needs a boatload of LUCK and this perserverance quote from my website writers’ resource page:

You do not know what the next effort will bring because the future is not based on the past. That feeling of wanting to give up is based solely on the past, which really doesn’t matter anymore. What matters now is where you’re headed, not where you’ve been. And when you view it from that perspective, giving up is simply not an option.” ~~~R. Marston

YOUR TURN:
What’s on your list of MUSTs for aspiring writers?

17 09, 2012

Texas talk, colloquialisms, and weasel words – in my writing?

By |2012-09-17T10:53:11-05:00September 17th, 2012|Writing Craft|12 Comments

I wish I could say NO WAY!

Can’t.

When I shared a recent chapter with my critique partners, one of them questioned this sentence, “He found himself in deep water.”

  Not understanding that my POV character’s internal thought meant he found himself in trouble, she thought I had put him in a swimming pool and forgot to put that detail on the page.

Frequently what’s playing in my head fails to come across on the page in early drafts. Thank heaven for CPs who call me when that happens.

Not this time, though. This time I was using Texas talk.

She’d never heard the expression “in deep water” used that way. Her stumbling over the phrase led to a discussion of colloquial language and how words, phrases, and even clichés vary from one geographical area to another.

In Texas, we have a whole slew of vocabulary that has folks scratching their heads. I just used one—slew, meaning a whole bunch. We’re always y’all-ing and gonna and fixin’ when we talk. Non-Texans do sometimes need an interpreter.

 Some more phrases:

come hell or high waterproceeding, regardless of the problems, obstacles, etc.

conniptionsget upset and raise a ruckus

hissy fit – kin to a conniption a state of extreme agitation and not a pretty thing to see

hot as tin toilet seat – in Texas we know that’s HOT

screaming bloody murder or banshee scream – not a pleasant sound at all

bone tired – yep, been there

slow as molasses – visualize black syrup oozing out of the jar

keep your pants on – meaning not what you think, but to be patient!

When I’m being lazy with my writing or rushing, Texas terms and phrases naturally flow into my first drafts. 

I also have favorite words that pop up. Words like: had, that, could, was, felt, knew, thought, saw, walked, come. Margie Lawson  calls these “weasel words.”

 I learned in Margie’s deep editing class, The EDITS System, to keep a WEASEL WORD CHART listing colloquial phrases, overused word, throw-away words, clichés, and opinion words.

 Unfortunately, my chart populates too easily. I’m my own worst copy editor. that’s why I always pay a professional before my books are published. The words I overuse stand out like sore thumbs to others.  (Sorry, Margie had to use a cliché to prove my point.)

 During the revision stages, the chart helps eliminate such weasel words and phrases using my word processor’s search and replace function.  

BUT characterization can need slang and colloquial regional dialogue. Texan talk has a function if the protagonist is a Texan or the setting is Texas.

Are you working on a Texas setting or character? Here’s a great resource: http://www.rice.edu/armadillo/Texas/talk.html

Other times, overuse in novel narrative becomes a stumbling block, pulling readers from the story.

 When that happens, the reader does what no writer wants a reader to do—QUITS reading!

 If colloquialisms are your writer’s voice, I caution you to be sure your reader can understand what you’re saying. Always remember what I learned in a Susan Wiggs workshop.

In the battle of words, the story reigns.

 Our word choices should always move the story forward.

In case you’re wondering what I did about my CP’s question, I decided the reader could discern the meaning from the rest of the scene and left the phrase “deep water” in the manuscript.

 How about you…

Do colloquialisms, local slang and weasel words slip into your novels?

Are you guilty of using expressions you grew up with that might confuse a reader? Care to share some and explain their local meaning?

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