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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

31 10, 2016

Fiction Interrupters – Is your writing interrupting your reader?

By |2016-10-01T14:06:23-05:00October 31st, 2016|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Our story worlds become tangible to us as writers. A video plays in our head as we write. We see the setting; we feel the emotions. Our characters become genuine people moving in an authentic world we’ve created.

readerWhile our story worlds are real to us, the reader enters a story world as a visitor exploring what we’ve created.

Interruptions can happen. The telephone rings, a text comes in, or the doorbell rings. Distractions we choose to ignore or respond to.

If a reader is truly engrossed, they will return to the story world just as we return to our writing.

Not so if the writing itself causes the distractions. Then readers turn from explorers into critics or worse yet, quit reading.

Beth Hill (The Editor’s Blog) says “Interruptions from inside the story world become a part of that world and influence our [readers’] reactions to it.” She offers a list of fiction interrupters that writers should avoid.

These are the  interrupters that jar me as a reader.

Dialogue
  • Characters who speak like fictional characters rather than real people. Actors in old movies from the 40s and 50s used pseudo acting voices. Actors today don’t. Neither should our characters’ voices be false.
  • Unnecessary character dialogue, i.e. characters sharing already known information or dialogue used simply as fill
Plot
  • Contrived plot lines
  • Deus ex machina endings or endings that don’t follow the story lines
  • Leaving some story issues unresolved
Characterization
  • Characters who act in a ways not compatible with their established worldview or the story era
  • Lack of character motivation for unexpected actions
  • Too-stupid-to live characters who do senseless things or act in ways simply so the plot works out a certain way
Writing Craft
  • Failure to include setting references of time and place. Readers need to be grounded – who, what, when, where – at the beginning of chapters and scenes.
  • Bad grammar, incorrect facts, inconsistent spelling, poor punctuation, preaching or teaching
  • Lyrical or poetical writing that doesn’t match the story’s style, i.e. purple prose.
  • Poor sentence structure or confusing words

You can find Ms. Hill’s blog about reader interruptions here.  Her list is longer than mine, but neither list contains everything that can distract a reader from a story.

What pulls you from a story when you’re reading?