Friday, April 27, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The more senses you reference, the more vividly a scene is drawn in the reader's mind.
Right now, I'm sitting in a restaurant, waiting for my lunch.
That's a description, but it doesn't tell you much. Is it a fine dining establishment, or a greasy spoon? Is it packed full of people or am I the only patron? Is my table full of food, or do I only have a water goblet?
Let's evoke a couple of senses and see.
I'm sitting in a four-top booth, my mother across from me, and my netbook on the table. The seat bottom of the benches is made of vinyl, and the backs of the kind of cloth that belongs on my grandfather's reclining chair. On the wall to my left is a huge, framed jersey signed by one of my favourite hockey players: Sidney Crosby, number 87 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. My glass of water is filled with so much ice that it tastes more like winter than water. As soon as the waitress brought over the condiment caddy, my mouth began to water in anticipation of my sweet potato fries topped with ketchup and the marvelous zing of malt vinegar.
That's better, isn't it? The hockey poster and booth description (sight) give you a better idea of the place. And since I described the water and the caddy (taste), you know I'm going to have fries but they aren't in front of me yet. I used sight and taste so far. Let's use a few more senses.
The table is so sticky, I've set my netbook on top of my napkin, for my computer's own safety. I'm not sure whether the grain in the dark wood table or the countless scratches from previous patrons is the culprit, but every time I hit the space bar, the netbook wobbles a little. The song playing on the radio is a classic from the late eighties, reminding me more of my high school days that I feel comfortable with today. I've had too much reminiscing for one morning as it is, what with prepping for Thursday's funeral and all.
Now you know even more. The table is uneven and sticky (touch) and the restaurant is playing a hit track from the 1980s (sound) in the background.
The people in the booth behind my mother ordered some pasta dishes, and all I've been able to smell since their food arrived is parmesan and garlic. Somehow, my grilled cheese didn't taste nearly as flavourful in the presence of the Italian double-whammy. If only I could smell the chocolate cake the waitress just delivered to the booth behind me. I know the calories would blow my diet into oblivion, but I do soooo love my chocolate.
Does that give you a better idea of my lunch? Who I'm with, where I am, what I ate, and how I'm feeling?
Do it now:
Grab your handy notebook/laptop/tablet/napkin and describe where you're sitting right now. Try to invoke all five senses. Feel free to share your description in the comments section.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Fifteen SF writers share their ideas on how to reverse climate change.
Including an idea from SWG member Suzanne Church. (yay, me!)
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Writers need human contact. We spend a great deal of time alone with our computers, so once in a while we need to get out of the house and interact with other writers and the people who read our work. Why go?
- To network (to meet editors, agents, and writers)
- To "build your brand" (this is how we create a readership)
- To learn (panels can be great sources of hints, tips, dangers, and must-know-publishing info)
- To read your work so new people are exposed to your style/voice
- To meet other writers (to plot noodle, start a writers' group, etc)
- To motivate your writing (I always dive back into writing with a passion after a con)
For any convention, you purchase a "membership" which gives you the right to attend the con, the annual general meeting, and to nominate/vote for affiliated awards. The earlier you purchase the membership, the cheaper the price. Memberships are never refundable, but if you find out you can't make the con, you can usually sell your membership to someone else who wants to attend.
Different types of cons will provide different experiences. I'm going to talk about a few of the main ones for the genres I write in: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.
World Con (WC)
What: the major annual convention for Science Fiction
Where: different location each year, this year (2012) it's in Chicago, IL
When: the summer, not any specific weekend, this year (2012) it's Labor Day Aug 30 to Sep 3
Who: SF/F writers, agents, editors, artists, readers, fans, costumers etc
Awards: the Hugos
WorldCon is "the" convention to attend each year. Many, many genre people attend, so if you're serious about your work, just beginning to write, or somewhere in between, you should attend at least one WorldCon to see what genre cons are all about, and to begin to network. I don't go every year, but I try to attend when they're close enough to get to by car. All of the "major players" tend to go to WorldCon, so you're likely to find panels with editors from the big three magazines (Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF) as well as editors from the big publishers (Ace, Baen, Daw, Del Rey, Harper Voyager, Orbit, Spectra, Tor) and the small ones (CZP, EDGE, Night Shade, Pyr). They usually have a masquerade contest and one of the big highlights is the Hugo Awards presentation. WC is a mixture of fun and business so it's a nice mix if you've never been to a con. It's also a mix of media and lit, so you'll certainly find panels about movies and TV shows if that's an area of interest.
World Fantasy Con (WFC)
What: the major annual convention for Fantasy Fiction
Where: different location each year, this year (2012) it's in Toronto, ON
When: close to Halloween, this year (2012) it's Nov 1 to 4
Who: F/H writers, agents, editors, and artists almost exclusively (ie no fans or costumers)
Awards: the World Fantasy Awards
World Fantasy Con is the most "professional" of all of the genre cons. A great deal of business takes place at WFC. If you have a contract with a publisher, chances are they will be organizing a dinner for their stable of writers attending the con. As a networking opportunity, you cannot beat WFC. I try to attend every year, though at times the location will limit my ability to afford to attend. If you're looking to meet the greatest number of agents, editors, and writers, go to WFC. Be prepared to attend the parties, many of which go late into the night, as these provide the best opportunities to meet and greet. Because WFC is so important, they have a limited number of memberships available (usually 1,000) so it's not too large but it packs a big punch.
World Horror Con (WHC)
What: the major annual convention for Horror Fiction
Where: different location each year, this year (2012) it was in Salt Lake City, UT
When: the spring, this year (2012) it was Mar 29 to Apr 1
Who: H/F writers, agents, editors, and artists almost exclusively (a few fans, a few costumers)
Awards: Though WHC does not have its own official awards, sometimes the Bram Stoker Awards banquet is held the same weekend at the con. The Stokers are organized and administrated by HWA: the Horror Writers Association and are sometimes held separately from WHC.
World Horror Con is a mixture of WC and WFC. From a business perspective, most of the horror publishers, editors, agents, and writers attend, so it's a great networking opportunity. From a "fun" perspective, I find WHC is the most fun of all of the professional conventions. I can't put my finger on why exactly. Suffice it to say, Horror writers are more fun. :) I don't attend every year, but I try to go whenever my budget allows.
Big Media Cons like Dragon*Con, ComiCon, and FanExpo/Festival of Fear
What: media conventions that showcase television, movies, and fiction in SF/F/H
Where: Dragon*Con is in Atlanta, GA, ComiCon is in San Diego, CA, and FanExpo/Festival of Fear is in Toronto, ON (though there's also one in Vancouver)
When: Dragon*Con is over the Labor Day weekend (Aug 31 to Sep 3, 2012), ComiCon is mid July (Jul 12-15, 2012), and FanExpo/Festival of Fear is mid-to-late summer (Aug 23-26, 2012)
Who: actors from all manner of genre movies and TV shows and their fans, artists (comic book, graphic novel, cover art), SF/F/H writers, agents, and editors, costumers, gamers, podcasters, did I mention fans?
These conventions are huge! Dragon*Con had 75,000 people last year and ComiCon over 100,000. If you plan on attending you MUST plan ahead. I have to book my room in early October for the following year's Dragon*Con and the rooms usually sell out the day they go on sale within an hour. I'm not kidding! A large proportion of the people attending will wear costumes, so you might want to consider bringing one so you don't feel left out. These media cons are not as business focused, so you're much less likely to network much, except with other fans. But I cannot begin to explain how much fun I have at Dragon*Con. I attend pretty much every year, and consider it the one weekend where I let my hair down, allow myself the luxury of being a "fan," and have fun! On the business side of things, there are plenty of writing-related panels and many authors attend, but often, WC is the same weekend, so most of the players will be there instead of Dragon*Con.
What: the annual convention for Canadian English Writers of Speculative Fiction
(Note, Boréal is the equivalent con for Canadian Francophone Writers of Speculative Fiction)
Where: different location each year, this year (2012) it's in Calgary, AB
When: any time from about June onward, this year (2012) it's Aug 10 to 12
Who: SF/F/H writers, agents, editors, and artists, fans, etc. Though we aren't exclusively Canadian, as we have many guests from all over the world, Canadians probably make up the majority of attendees
Awards: the Aurora Awards
This convention tends to be a local convention, but with a national slant. Generally, local cons throughout Canada will compete for the opportunity to "win" the CanVention designation. Since we are such a large country, the CanVention organizers try to alternate West/East every other year to give authors a chance to attend closer to home. So CanVention is more a designated site for the Aurora Awards than its own, distinct convention. Which leads me to the next type of con...
Your local convention.
What: the small, approachable speculative fiction/genre convention closest to where you live
Where: different locations all over the world
When: usually about the same time of year each year
Who: SF/F/H writers, agents, editors, and artists, plus fans, costumers, and the occasional film/TV star
Awards: depends on the convention
Usually, there's a con not far from where you live. For me, Ad Astra is my local con, so I attend every year, and catch up with all of my writer-friends. Some have small awards ceremonies, some don't. Some are strictly for writing, some have masquerades, comics, and celebrities. You can usually learn about these cons at your local genre book store, or the library, or through social media like Facebook. Your local con should become a "must-attend" con, since it provides the absolute best opportunity to network with local writers who can become your peer group, your writers' group, or simply someone close by to meet for coffee and plot noodle your latest work-in-progress.
At this point, if you're new to the notion of conventions, you're probably feeling overwhelmed. Trust me, the people who attend these cons are the nicest, most open and personable people you will ever meet, and you might suddenly find yourself in a room full of peers you never knew existed. From huge media cons to small and intimate local cons, there's a weekend suited to your needs.
Do it now:
Buy a membership to the con that seems right for you. Chances are, you'll thank me for introducing you to the experience.
Check out the appearances page on my website to find me at this year's roster of cons. As the dates get closer, I will post my schedule online.
In the artist/illustration category,
Costi Gurgu is nominated for his cover of Nina Munteanu's novel, "Outer Diverse."
Check out Costi's Artwork
In the short fiction category,
Suzanne Church (yours truly) is nominated for her story, "The Needle's Eye," published in Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live, Edited by Michael Kelly and published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.
Read Suzanne's story for consideration
Check out the full listing of all nominees in all categories
Note: I'm also pleased to see that ChiZine Publications has multiple nominations this year!
To vote for the Aurora Awards, you must be a Canadian Citizen or Landed Immigrant and be a member of CSFFA. Go to the CSFFA Website to join/vote.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Ad Astra 2012 – The Titanic of Conventions
If someone had entered the lobby of this year’s Ad Astra, Toronto’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, and shouted, “Iceburg! Right ahead!” I’d know exactly what he meant. Conventions are, at best nightmares to organize and run. As a relatively sane person, I’d never volunteer to run one. That said, however, something broke at this convention. Passengers and crew, guests and organizers fought valiantly against the flood of poor planning, and while the ship may not have sunk, it had certainly foundered.
Day 1 - Friday the 13th
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. The first day is always crazy with people arriving, dealers setting up, old friends meeting, regular hotel guests wondering what the heck all the fuss is about and hotel staff pretending not to see the scantily clad costumers and Steampunk girls strutting around in corsets and fishnets.
Trust me, it’s the same at every con.
But that disorganization needs some anchor to bring everything together and start the con gears rolling. That element was missing, and never really appeared during the course of the weekend.
In a nutshell, after attending the opening ceremonies, where the con committee essentially apologized in advance, the highlight of Friday was helping fellow Stop Watch Gang member Suzanne Church carry party stuff to her room. Her short story, The Needle’s Eye, is nominated for an Aurora and she decided to hold a party Saturday night.
Meanwhile, I had volunteered to take part in the Murder on the Titanic game meant for Saturday and was supposed to look for a certain gentlemen to give me the info needed to participate. This search soon took on quest-like proportions involving missing persons and even Excalibur. Eventually I learned that the gentleman in question was nowhere to be found and so my commitment to the affair waned.
Day 2 - Saturday the 14th
A brand new day. Out with the old and in with the new.
Finding the rooms was difficult because nothing jived with the panel schedule. Rooms weren’t clearly marked, or plaques just not obvious enough. When I did find a room, it was usually crowded because the ‘salon’ rooms were too small. Needless to say, I wandered a lot until my panel on E-readers which I moderated and was a full room, so that was very cool.
More wandering, another reading with Suzanne Church, Swg’er Brad Carson, and Marcy Italiano, and we gathered for dinner at Frankie Tomatto’s which was surprisingly good, especially for Ian Keeling who essentially forgave the world for any faults done to him because the dessert buffet had grape ice cream.
After that it was killing time until room parties. I attended two: GOH Peter Halasz held a World Fantasy Convention promo party serving some of his wicked Merlot, and of course Suzanne Church’s party. Chizine also had a party going, but by then I was tired and as I had a panel and a reading the next day, I headed for home.
God, I’m just getting old.
Day 3 – Sunday the 15th
Woke up tired. Went to the con tired. Moderated a panel on live critique groups which, although lightly attended went very well. When you get a compliment from an audience member, you know you did good.
My reading was a bust, but then unless you are someone of note, they usually are. Just as well. By then all I wanted was to go home, so after stopping in the dealer’s room to buy gifts for the family, I did just that--and napped the rest of the afternoon.
But all was not bad. Every con has its moments. Despite its northerly locale, the hotel had plenty of reasonably priced eateries within walking distance. Parking was free. While generally confused by what was going on, the hotel staff were courteous.
The committee managed to attract enough dealers that tables filled some three or four rooms, and stretched across both upper and lower lever levels.
I met and shook hands with Christopher Ward, one of the original VJ’s when Much Music first started up. He also co-wrote the musical monster hit Black Velvet and was ther to interview his friend, GOH, Leslie Livingstone who is herself a part of the television and movie world. Later, I had a beer with her and she was everything a great GOH and nice human being should be.
I finally met future SWGer Pippa Wysong, who will make a perfect fit among our dysfunctional group of soon to be literary superstars.
Saw some ultra-cool Lego models:
I met some new people which is always my goal, and on the whole, I think I made a good impression without making an ass of myself...I think.
As an observer, I would say the Steampunkers had a good time of it. You can judge how well a gathering has gone by the melancholy nature of the guests come Sunday. Costumes packed, room paid for, they sit quietly in the lobby, perhaps nursing a hangover, until it’s time to go home and be normal again. They’ll be back, I’m sure.
There were also gamers, people who come here specifically to play board games, and those rooms look filled. I can only guess if they had a good time.
But can the same be said for the literary fans? The hotel location is definitely a factor. While paying for parking is a concern at downtown hotels, does free parking justify alienating or inconveniencing those who rely on the TTC?
I’ll be back, because for better or worse, loud or sedate, as long as I write genre fiction I’m a member of this community, and attending cons is not just promoting yourself, it is supporting an event that is for fandom. It’s fun, but it’s also part of the job and a responsibility.
That responsibility does not extend to fandom. When they lay their 40 bucks down for a con, they move into a new category, that of paying customer and they expect a show. You don’t provide, and they will not come back. 2012 was not a great con by far, but hopefully it was a learning experience which will make next year all the better.
My heart will go on.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The key, with ANY choice for POV is to be consistent. Your reader will enjoy reading your book if every sentence of narrative and every clip of dialogue is infused with details and insights into your character. When you describe a room, describe it using your POV character's personality. What is important to them? How are they feeling at that point in the novel? What do they know? What do they hate? The answers to all of these questions (and more) must come through in the words you choose. The deeper you delve into your POV character, the more your reader will engage with them.
As an example, I am going to describe the same Tim Hortons from the four different points of view: 1st, 2nd, 3rd tight, and 3rd omni.
(For you non-Canadian readers, Tim Hortons is a Canadian donut shop chain that represents a quintessentially Canadian perspective. We take our Tims very seriously! Think the "local" pub for Brits, but with coffee and tea instead of beer.)
EX 1: First person protag, a high school student who works at Tims.
The line stretched around the corner again. My stomach clenched. Dad could be such a grizzly before his caffeinization and now fifteen adults stood in my line, caught in antagonistic states of Saturday-droopy. I had one more chance to prove myself to Andy, or he would fire me for sure. After passing another three-coffee order over the counter, I saw Jessica's smiling face at the end of the line. I smiled back, gave my current customer a glee-rific, "Have a great day," and punched in the next order with steady hands. Andy seemed pleased because he nodded at me, then headed into the prep area to do whatever managers do back there.
Notice a few things here:
-the protag's gender: Female. From this one paragraph it's not clear (yet) whether the protag is male or female, as I don't actually name her -- I planned to do so using dialogue between her and Jessica in the next paragraph. (Feel free to include your personal guess in the comment section.)
-the protag's feeling: Nervous! From the pressure of the crowd and fear of failing in front of her manager. (This is my author-hint that she's new at the job and/or low on self-esteem)
-the protag's frames of reference: Parents and BFF's (Notice my mention of her Dad and the appearance of Jessica at the critical moment. Teens tend to look at the world from these two frames.) Also, all of the people in the line are simply "adults" as anyone over about eighteen falls into this category.
-the protag's dialogue (in this case, internal): Teens don't generally talk like adults. They make up words, and use slang. Some have a darker, more critical/antagonistic view of society and others can be over-the-top cheerful, at least on the outside. (Notice how I made up the teen-speak words, "caffeinization" and "glee-rific")
Generally, if you're going to use 1st POV, try to work the character's name in, as soon as possible. If you take too long to do so, you risk the reader making their own gender decision. If it's wrong, they will be rather unhappy with you, dear author, and might stop reading your story.
EX 2: Second person, a mother who has just lost her son in a car accident.
Sometimes you stand in line and all you can think about is your turn. When will they pour you your magic cup of coffee? You pray the caffeine will wake you from the stupor, but in your heart, you know it won't. Because your son isn't sleeping in, or unpacking boxes in the prep area, or meeting his girlfriend here before practice. The other people in the line have their own worries, about the price of gas or what to buy at the grocery store for dinner, as if these are problems at all. As a mother, you understand the difference between a problem and a nuisance. So you stare at your feet and count to ten again, and wait for your heart to restart. No matter how long the line, no matter how cheerful or slow the kid is behind the counter, you don't want to cry here, in this too-bright room, surrounded by the smells of normalcy and the judgement of strangers.
Notice a few things here:
-the protag's gender: Female. Like 1st POV, it's important to establish the gender as soon as possible in a 2nd POV story. Since this character is painfully aware of her recently-destroyed role of "mother," she identifies herself as a mom, first and foremost. (Notice how I squeezed her child's gender in there, too)
-the protag's feeling: Grief! She feels her loss in every sentence, because at this raw moment in her life, her grief seeps into every aspect of every day.
-the protag's frames of reference: Strangers and kids (Notice how all of the people in the line are strangers to her. The only "kid" she notices is the one behind the counter, probably because she is close in age to the protag's lost son) She also sees her son in every role of the others in the story, one minute he's working in the back, the next he's standing in line with his girlfriend.
-the protag's dialogue (in this case, internal): The protag notices her grief, and knows it is winning in the battle for control of her life. She essentially compares herself to any other mother who would find herself grieving the loss of a child and she passes judgement on others (who don't know the difference between a problem and a nuisance) and on herself (for being too embarrassed to cry again, or being crushed under the prying, judging eyes of strangers who can't possibly understand how she feels.)
Generally second works best in situations where your protag feels distanced from the action and characters around them.
EX 3: Third person tight, who is the manager at the Tims
Andy watched as Taylor served the tall pickup-driving dude in the baseball cap, who usually used the drive through, but came in to get a six pack of donuts today. The new girl was getting better at least, but whenever the lineup got long, she got sloppy. The elderly lady waiting two slots down always ordered three double double's, extra-small, the least popular of all the sizes, but big with the grey-hairs. Though he couldn't remember her name, he knew her well enough to elicit a smile from the arthritic woman, making her appear remarkably like his own gramma. Her two octogenarian pals waited for her at their usual table by the middle window.
Many of the new staff didn't under-scoop the sugar to compensate for the mini-size of the extra-small cup. He would wait and watch to see if Taylor remembered. Sure enough, she held an enormous scoop of sugar over the cup, then caught herself before dumping it in. Good job, newbie, he thought. Maybe the petite redhead had paid attention during her training after all. Somewhere in the back, a beeper sounded for an extra ten seconds beyond ideal. Andy nodded at Taylor and hurried to yell at Joe for burning the donuts in the warmer.
-the protag's gender: Male. Though I don't specifically identify him as the manager, his vigilance over the staff and the people in line helps to convey that detail to the reader.
-the protag's feeling: Alert. Andy is aware of the needs of the people in line, where they're sitting, which car they arrived in, how his server is coping, and the noises coming from the back room.
-the protag's frames of reference: He cares about his customers and his staff as well as the smooth flow of the shop. Regular customers look familiar and he remembers them by their drink order and/or the car they drive.
-the protag's dialogue (in this case, internal): He constantly reflects on the needs of the customers in line as well as the performance of his crew.
The great thing about third tight is that we get an in depth sense of exactly what our protag cares about. Andy is obviously a good manager, since he connects with his customers and oversees his employees through each process of their job. The disadvantage is that we cannot get into anyone else's head unless we do a scene/chapter break.
EX 4: Third person, omnipotent.
Andy, the manager, watched Taylor serve the tall dude in the line.
Bob smiled at the young girl, always a fan of redheads. Ever since she started at the shop, he'd been coming to the counter so he could check her out.
Rosalind's arthritis was acting up again. Even though today was her turn to get the coffee, she had hoped that Madge might have offered to give her a hand. She wouldn't be able to use the environmentally-friendly mugs since they didn't have lids. Her friends wouldn't approve if Rosalind spilled half the liquid before she made it to their table.
Jessica watched as Taylor served the old lady, smiling at her friend clad in the beige Tim's uniform. Jessica hoped that if Taylor did well, she might be able to put in a good word with the manger. Jessica needed money for her trip to France, especially since her Dad got laid off from the plant.
Notice a few things here:
-the protags' genders: Some male, some female. With multiple POVs, I had to repeatedly use character names to distinguish the he's from she's, otherwise the reader might not be able to figure out whose head we were in and who they referred to at any one moment.
-the protags' feelings: Bob is interested in Taylor. Jessica is enthusiastic about making a good impression. Rosalind is worried about getting to her friends without spilling the order.
-the protags' frames of reference: All over the map. With more than one personality, the reader might find it hard to know who to root for in this example. Who should we pay the most attention to? Jessica? Bob? Rosalind? Taylor? Andy? That's one of the big downfalls of omni POV, plus having so many names in such a small space can be tiring and/or distracting to the reader.
-the protag's dialogue (in this case, internal): As the POV shifts, we get a sense of what they are thinking and what they care about via the narrative/internal dialogue.
With Omni, you can give the reader a taste of every character's desires, feelings, and frames of reference. You run the risk of confusing the reader about who to cheer for, but you can provide a depth difficult to achieve with any other POV. If, at some future point in the novel, ALL of these characters converge into one singular moment, then third Omni might be the best POV for that particular story.
At this point, we've seen the same donut shop from several different POVs. Each is useful in its own right. When you are writing your next story, select the POV that works for the story you most want to tell and that provides the perspective that is the most interesting in the tale.
For fun, in the comments section, feel free to vote for whichever POV you most want to learn more about with respect to my examples.
Do it now:
Write your own exercise from the POV of one of the many people in this Tim Hortons. Either one of the people I already chose, or another character, either named, like Madge or Joe, or unnamed. Make sure you understand WHY you chose that person and that POV.
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Before you write even the first sentence of your story, you need to choose from the three main points of view. Each POV has advantages and disadvantages, and some are more common in particular genres.
In first person, the story is told using the "I" and "me" pronouns. The protagonist is the narrator, the focus of the novel, and every scene is told from their perspective. Examples: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and One for the Money by Janet Evanovitch.
Many Young Adult (YA) novels are told from first person POV, usually with a female protagonist. Now I'm not saying that if you're writing a YA novel it must be told from the female 1st, but if you understand your market, have done your research, and want your best shot at fitting into the YA list, you might want to consider this perspective. Why female? Because more teenaged girls than teenaged boys read and buy books. Why 1st? Because teenagers are self-focused; many of them don't think of anyone but themselves, don't think of any contingency except those that affect them personally. Yes, this is an exaggeration, and not all teens are like this all of the time, but trust me. I've taught high school (for 8 years) and I have two teens at home, so I have plenty of first-hand experience on this particular topic.
Mystery is another genre that is usually written from 1st person POV. The reader is more engaged with the protagonist if they follow the character's thought process through every clue and every aspect of the case. And as the author remains in only that one character's head, no other information is "known," allowing for more twists and surprises as the mystery draws to its revealing conclusion.
Many of my short stories are written from 1st, but few from the female perspective. How do I pull that off, you might ask, since I'm not a guy? I get inside the head of my protag, and do my best to write every word with that masculine bent. I enjoy writing in 1st because it has a gritty, man-on-the-street feel. This perspective provides the opportunity, more than any other, for me at least, to really immerse the story in my character's world. As I write, hearing the "I" in my head helps to keep me in my character's head. (More about this aspect of POV next week)
I'll admit, I do soooo love to write about protag's who are more the scum/underdogs of society than the clean-cut white bread dudes.
It's a thing. Work with me. :)
In second person, the story is told using the "you" pronoun. The narrator is essentially speaking of themselves, but from a disengaged, distanced perspective. At the same time, 2nd also drags the reader into the story, since they are almost encouraged to "be" the character. Example: the first section of Warchild by Karin Lowachee.
Second POV is the least common of all of the perspectives. Partly because it can make the reader uncomfortable, as this perspective can make the reader feel as though the author is accusing them, or personifying them in ways that do not apply to them. When 2nd is done well, the novel can soar. But when it's done poorly, 2nd POV can destroy the story's credibility. If you do choose to write your story with this POV, choose it deliberately and be determined in your reasons for doing so. At the same time, brace yourself for the criticism that may come your way from the many readers who don't like the 2nd perspective.
In third person, the story is told using the "he/him" or "she/her" pronouns, depending on the gender of the protagonist. Within third person, the story can be told either "tight," which means the story is ONLY told from the protagonist's perspective, or "omnipotent," where the narrator essentially is the GOD of the story, knowing information that the protagonist/POV character doesn't know, and with the ability to jump from one person's head to another's at will. Examples of tight 3rd: any of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. Example of omni 3rd: Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce.
Personally, I am a bit of a POV Nazi, in that I WANT the author to remain in tight POV all of the time. As soon as they "drift" or lapse into more of an omnipotent POV I get frustrated. Not all readers feel this way, as plenty of omni books are best sellers. But understand that this blog post might lean towards tight 3rd as the "preference" since it is my personal preference. (Feel free to blast me in the comments later, if you are an omni lover)
Third POV is probably the most common. If you're writing a story for the first time, use 3rd (tight in particular), to see if you can remain, tightly, within your character's head.
Do it now:
As an exercise, write a scene, using 3rd tight POV, where your protag walks into a coffee shop. Keep this exercise for next week, when I will post four examples of a protag walking into a coffee shop told from 1st, 2nd, 3rd tight, and 3rd omni POVs.
Authors often use 3rd to write novels from multiple POVs. George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series of books use this perspective extremely well. In the Martin novels, the title of each chapter is a character's name, and that chapter is told from that character's POV. This "prompt" is great for readers like me, who really love one particular story line and want a quick and easy way to skip to the next chapter told from that POV. (Yes, I'll admit I have flipped ahead, desperate to know what happens next, but I do go back and read the novel in order. I'm not out for spoilers, I simply NEED to know how many pages lie between where I'm reading now and the point where I get to read about that character again. I'm impatient. Deal with it!)
Multiple POVs allow the author to weave different character story arc threads into a tapestry. At the end of the novel, all of the woven threads converge into a complete, satisfying ending. Usually, these multiple arcs occur simultaneously in novel-time, so using multiple POVs is the only way to elaborate all of the complexities of the story while maintaining time-line consistency. Many high fantasy novels rely on this technique to create the richness that their readers expect. (Examples: George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, etc.)
That brings me to the next important point. I'm going to write this point on a separate line because I'm a POV Nazi, remember?
If you change POV, insert a scene break. (or a chapter break)
Please, I'm begging you, do a scene break. For the love of all the good prose in the world, do a scene break. Because jumping heads drives me crazy as a reader. Seriously. Crazy. Seriously!
(Okay, I swear I will stop being such a POV Nazi. Deep breaths. Back to civility once more. Whew!)
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the different types of Point of View and the reasons why you may choose one over another.
Next week: Using POV to give your novel a consistent, emotional thread.