Tag Archives: POV

Detoxing a Writer’s Brain and Opening Up New Worlds

I am feeling better than I have in a very long time. No cigarettes. Minimal caffeine. Sparkling water all day. Delicious fresh salads for lunch. Minimal carbs. Feel as if I have detoxed my system.

Most significantly, my head has really opened up. My writing has taken off. I may not get thousands of words a day, but what I am writing is really, really good. Yes, I’m impressed with myself.

Clearing the fog and the crashes has allowed my creativity to blossom. My thoughts are better organized. I have focus, clarity, alertness that simply didn’t exist before.

I’m giving my attention to a suspenseful psycho thriller. My main character, Jillian, has clairvoyant nightmares. There’s a serial killer in her past and another in her present. The dreams from the past are in the victims’ POV. I know, I know, it can be hard to be inside a victim’s head, but it’s working…at least for me, now. I may rethink that later.

It’s limited omniscient POV. There’s a therapist and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) liaison. Jillian has an eighteen year old son and a twelve year old daughter. My psych and forensics background makes this writing relatively easy once things gel in my mind.

The dream sequences are written in first person, but the storyline is third. A bit unconventional, but it’s working out so much better than when I had it in all third person. I had to rewrite two chapters.

It’s fast paced and much happens to her that brings everything close to home. I’m excited about how things are coming along.

I still don’t have a title for this new book and it’s killing me!!!

I owe a great big “Thank You” to Sue Coletta, who has posted some very helpful info in the past couple of months. I find myself bookmarking her pages frequently. Pay her a visit, especially if you are looking at mystery/thriller/crime fiction. She’s an awesome thinker and has some really cool contacts who contribute.

I don’t have an outline yet, beyond a fish bones skeleton. I tend to get about half way through, and then need the outline fleshed out to proceed.

I’m also reading and researching much material. So, I’ve had little time online beyond my e-cig forum support group and a bit of FB.

Just thought I should pop in and let you know I am alive and well. I do skim blogs but honestly haven’t done much commenting. I wish I had more time. Don’t know how you folk who work eight hours a day do it. My hat is off to you!

Hoping you all are doing well.

Do you get as excited as I do when you get deep into a new project?

What do you think about first person victims?

Person, POV and Head-Hopping

 

headhoppingFirst, let me say that you should write your story any way that you want to. That being said, these are guidelines, not rules carved in stone. Many great authors deviate from these guidelines and create wonderful works. Some readers are okay with head-hopping and some readers detest it. I’m sort of in the middle, but the more I learn about it, the more I lean toward NOT head-hopping in most fiction.

To understand head-hopping, you have to grasp point of view and person.

Most creative fiction is written in first person (I, me, mine, myself, us, our, we) or third person (Proper nouns, like names, and they, he, she) point of view.

With first person, the narrator is often the main character. (But not always, I read a book recently where a doctor was the narrator in first person telling someone else’s story.) This voice allows the reader to identify with the main character very closely. The reader can get inside the head of this person, know what she/he is thinking, and know everything the writer has let the character know. It is limited in that the reader only gets to know his/her feelings and thoughts, not those of the other characters. The writer can describe all of the ways his first person’s character’s five senses are affected, sights, sounds, smells, feelings, tastes, but cannot let you in on what others perceive except second-hand through the first person character.

Joey followed me into the bar. He must not have seen Janet sitting in the booth beside the door. He walked past the booth and ordered a whiskey. Janet blushed at the sight of him so soon after the incident.

In the first paragraph me, the main character, assumes (thinks) that Joey doesn’t see Janet. You are still in the main first person character’s head. The main character, me, sees Janet blush.

Joey followed me into the bar. He didn’t see Janet sitting in the booth by the door. He walked past the booth and ordered a whiskey. Janet felt embarrassed at the sight of him so soon after the incident.

In the second paragraph, there is head-hopping. How does me know Joey didn’t see Janet? He can’t know what Joey thinks. The writer has jumped out of me’s head and into Joey’s head. How does me know what Janet is feeling? The writer has jumped out of me’s head and into Janet’s.

A greater head-hopping problem is when there is head-hopping in the same sentence:

We went into the bar, saw Jane at a booth and she felt embarrassed to see Joey so soon after the incident.

That’s seriously problematic for a reader. The writer is inside three different heads in one sentence.

You can also have multiple POV in first person, usually separated by chapters for ease of reading. It has the effect of slowing the story down to examine each character’s perspective before moving forward, giving the writer’s story an ebb and flow.

With third person, you can have a limited POV (closed omniscient), or unlimited (omniscient).

Third person limited omniscient still restricts feeling and thinking to one central character in a scene. If this was third person omniscient limited (closed to Sam’s POV only) you could write:

Joey followed Sam into the bar. Joey must not have seen Janet sitting at the booth by the door. He walked past the booth and ordered a whiskey. Janet blushed at the sight of him so soon after the incident.

Third person omniscient doesn’t impose those restrictions on the scene. The narrator can show whatever any or all the characters know and feel. If this was third person omniscient you could write:

Joey followed Sam into the bar. Joey did not see Janet sitting at the booth by the door. He walked past the booth and ordered a whiskey. Janet blushed with embarrassment at the sight of him so soon after the incident. She grabbed her purse, arose, and headed for the door.

To totally avoid head-hopping, it is really best, even in third person omniscient POV, to have the thoughts and feelings of different characters separated at least by paragraphs, if not by scenes:

Joey followed Sam into the bar. Joey did not see Janet sitting at the booth by the door. He walked past the booth and ordered a whiskey.

Janet blushed with embarrassment at the sight of him so soon after the incident. She grabbed her purse, arose, and headed for the door.

Many new writers prefer third person omniscient because of the freedom to tell what any character is thinking or feeling, to be able to enter the minds of more than one character.  It still has to be done with care, or it comes off terribly confusing.

Separating paragraphs or scenes by POV eases the transition from one head to another.

I want to emphasize that head-hopping is NOT a cardinal sin. There are many experienced writers that use head-hopping very well. Stephen King is one who comes to mind. It has more to do with reader preference and writer technique.  It can be done well, or make a read impossible.

Here’s a chart I ran across that breaks POV down for people who follow a visual best:

POV

Played With Scrivener Today In My Revised Crime Novel

I have been writing in my WIP for a few days and playing around in Scrivener so I thought I would pop in and do a quick progress report. I have 8593 words on the revised crime novel and things are going very well. I did not write today but reviewed and worked on typing up the synopses. I am not outlining in advance, but keeping notes on what I have already written. This is a fast paced story with a lot of twists and turns, so I need notes that I can refer to easily to recall who did what when. (You can click the images for a close up view w/o leaving the page. It opens in another window.)

A quick overview: This is in editor mode. You can also type in full screen mode where EVERYTHING on either side, above and below the editor panel is blacked out for zero distractions. The binder is on the left and you can move chapters and scenes around in there easily. I don’t have folders set up with several scenes. I have the entire chapter set up as the scene in the chapter folder. Less complicated for me that way. As you can see down at the bottom, your chapter word count is in the center, the little orange bar indicates that I am not quite half way to my target word count. I am not really worrying about word counts as I go. You’ll see that in the outline. This chapter is in Brandi’s POV as you can see from the purple dot on the Inspector panel on the right.

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In this next shot, you see the POV (marked by the red X) is in Richard’s. All of the other main characters in this chapter show up as colored keywords below. Above, (circled in red) is the synopsis. Many people write this in advance to cue them along. I wait until the chapter is done and then make notes of highlights in the chapter to help me keep facts straight. It is easier to see it listed here than to try to pick through a whole chapter to find details. The target progress indicator at the bottom is green because this chapter is complete.

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In the corkboard mode you can set up index cards with your synopses or, like I did here, character sketch images. It’s just a fun way to see them at a glance if you need that visual reminder. With your synopsis as index cards, you can move them around on the corkboard and that changes their order in the binder if you need to shift scenes around.

 

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In the binder to your left the character profiles are listed for a quick click to review details and have reminders of specific traits you don’t want to violate in character development. Brandi’s profile is shown, and as you can see in the binder it highlights in blue (see the text page is blue at the red X) whenever anything in the binder is selected so you know exactly where you are. That’s true for the editor mode also.

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Finally, the outliner mode. Again, you can set this up in advance and follow it or just let it happen as you go along like I am. You can see all your word counts here or click on your manuscript button in your binder for the complete word count. The synopses also show here and, again, you can move scenes or chapters around in here, which will also move them in the binder.

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When I am all done with the first draft, I can edit with split screens if I need to. I can compile into a number of files; .epub, .mobi, .pdf, .txt, .doc, and a number of other text files I have no idea what to do with. Then, they can be sent off easily for beta readers, editors, or even publishing. There are all sorts of formatting features and compile features that I will show later. There are also some very cool features in tools and options.

That’s all folks! This is what I did today. What are you doing?

Back to writing!

Multiple Points of View

Sarah M. Cradit, author of “St Charles at Dusk”, wrote a very helpful post called Five tips to writing  Multiple Points of View (POV).  I am reading her first novel in the Series, “The House of Crimson and Clover”, now.  She is quite adept at utilizing this literary device.  In her use of the literary device in a style of writing, the literary voice and person perspective of the characters actually play a role in the POV.

I have thought a lot about this post and I wanted to let you know that my book, Red Clay and Roses, offers a little taste of this done in a slightly different style than what I am finding in Sarah’s work.  This work was based on a compilation of true stories.  Since my first few chapters are real life interviews, the narrator, Hannah Hamilton, has opportunity to explore a couple of characters by inquiring directly on their point of view.  I used multiple points of view in a way that let’s the reader into the minds of two characters, Beatrice and Moses.

Beatrice, the Good Doctor’s wife, is in denial about her husband’s work and thinks the world of him.  The Good Doctor plays a small but most significant role in the story, but knowing him through Beatrice is paramount to understanding the story line, and how his work affected her.  Beatrice, who also has a less than significant role in the story of the romance between Sybil and Nathan,  makes a major contribution to the story line by allowing us to come to understand her delusions and /or hallucinations.

Excerpt from Beatrice:

Mrs. Handley was a red-haired woman, though not much hair was left.  Thin places were seen between tightly wound pin curls.  She stooped so low that she had to turn her neck to look up at me.  She was arthritic and twisted, with gnarled fingers.  She had a broad smile with slightly bucked straight teeth, yellowed and  trimmed in gold. She looked as if she had been a pretty woman in her prime, bright blue eyes and lean figure.  Her step was spry.  She wore a navy plaid dress with a white sweater sitting over her shoulders.  There was a white full apron tied around her small waist.  Her yellowed slip was hanging out from under her knee-length dress, and her shoes were flat with soft soles.  There was something finished about her, yet askew.

She looked in Trudy’s direction, “Trudy’s not a real nurse, you know, she’s only a sitter.  She just sits, and that’s all she does.  Gets paid to sit, and to sleep.  She has a night job, so she just sits and sleeps because my sons think I need a sitter…like a baby sitter, only worse because she sleeps.  I could be dead back in the kitchen for hours and she wouldn’t know.  Isn’t that right, Trudy, hum?”

Trudy said nothing, and pretended she hadn’t been addressed.

“Probably sleeps on her night job too,“ Mrs. Handley continued, as if Trudy wasn’t present, “You know you could offer our guest some tea, you could, but she won’t because all she does is sitting.”

“I’ll get it myself, of course I will, because you can’t get good help anymore, you just can’t,” she continued, as she made her way to the back of the house where the very large kitchen was located.  I followed.

She put the kettle on to boil and proceeded to tell me all about the house.  “The Good Doctor and I, we built this place, designed it and had it built just like we wanted it.  That’s bamboo on the ceiling, came all the way from the Philippines.  And these floors, this isn’t pine, you know, its mahogany.  You can’t even get this anymore, all that rainforest preservation and such.  We were one of the first couples in this area to build our house out of brick.  I know everybody does it now, the newer homes, but nobody did it back then around here, no, just stick-built houses with clapboard walls or some artificial siding, back then.  Yes, we bought the best red brick and these walls, no they aren’t stick built like today.  Today, they throw up stick built walls and insulated siding and then slap the brick right over it. No, these walls are all poured concrete with steel reinforcement  inside.  I watched them put it up myself, we did.  We were staying in the little house out back and I watched them build every inch of this house, and lay every brick.  The Good Doctor, he had a colored boy move into that old place out back with his family.  There’s nobody, but the spirits, living out there now, though.  Do you believe in spirits?”

“Yes well, sort of, I don’t think I have really given it much thought but I do believe in a spiritual presence,” I said.

“Well, you should.”

The kettle had begun to boil and she set out three cups and saucers.  She steadied her right hand with her left hand as she poured the hot water and set the saucers to steep the tea.

“What music is that playing on the stereo?” I asked.

“Oh that’s Freddie Hubbard’s album, ‘Red Clay’. I think Negros play the best music.  They always have.  I’ll turn it down a bit.  Music is the best thing to keep bad angels away.  I like the Big Bands too.  I have a tremendous album collection, 45s, 33 1/3rds, goes way back to some 78s that my mother had.  Tommie Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, I liked it ‘sweet’ and ‘hot’.  Like Bean and Prez.  We were swing dancers back in those days and man weren’t we good.  I was a little bitty thing and whipped right over the backs of my beaus back then.  You can’t see it now though, can you?”  Her broad smile faded.  She stepped into the den and went toward the living room to turn down the stereo.

Trudy stood up and stretched, and stacked some of the newspaper across the top of her head.  “Well, Ms. Bea, since you have your own real nurse here today, I guess I’ll head on back to the house.”

Beatrice didn’t respond to her with words. She looked in my direction and said, “She’s supposed to stay until seven, but I put myself to bed.”  She walked to the living room door and that’s when I saw all of the brass on the door.  She opened the door wide and Trudy made her exit.  Beatrice closed the door behind her and reached into her apron for a large ring of keys.  She bolted three deadbolts and slid across three chains and one bar lock.  “There,” she announced, “We’ll be safe enough in here now.  I have to keep the fairy babies out, you know, they are everywhere when it rains.  The rains spook them up out of the leaves in the woods and they come scratching at the windows and doors.”

“Fairy babies?” I asked.  “Are they sprits too?”

“Oh yes, of a sort, much more annoying than most spirits, but they aren’t dangerous, just annoying.  They do bite and sting when you swat at them.  You hear their wings humming before you can see them, worse than mosquitoes, they are, and much bigger, too.  They will buzz holes in the glass.  That’s why the windows are boarded, yes, to keep the fairy babies out.  When they bite, I can feel it right down to my bones, I can.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Also, Moses Grier, who tells his family’s story and brings up the first climactic point later in the story, is interviewed at The Colored People’s Old Folk’s Home.  Incorporating the interviews allowed me to get into the thought processes and voices of these two characters.

Probably the greatest challenge, aside from generally editing the book, was to speak in the voice of an old black man while remaining respectful and doing so with dignity.  I did not want it to come across as some sort of Uncle Remus rendition of a character, but I did want it to be authentic to what I actually experienced with Moses.  Editing his interviews was a challenge because spell and grammar checks simply don’t suffice when speaking grammatically incorrect on purpose.  Every detail has to be inspected for consistency.

 Here is an excerpt from one of the interviews of Moses as he tells of his family’s life:

They had always taken phone calls at the brick house of the Handley’s, and the sisters were aware that Eula Mae was keeping house for them.  But Eula Mae had concocted some sort of story about Moses buying up pecan orchards and making money off of pecans, and how well off he was since he had made these investments.  She had been telling these sisters how they owned lots of land all around for growing pecans and how they had built this big brick house.

“Now it was true, that we was surrounded by pecan groves, but me ner The Good Doctor owned none of them,” Moses went about explaining.

“Eula Mae come a runnin from the house one day late in June 1955, had to be, cause Nathan done got into medical school and Althea she was already gone, and Eula Mae says to me, ‘I done made a terrible error, Moses, they is a comin down on the train fer to see us.’  Well, I didn’t think it was all bad til Eula Mae went to tellin me all ‘bout her lies she’d been feedin her sisters and what was we a goin to be able to do ‘bout this?”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Coincidentally,” he said, “the Handley’s was a goin to Florida fer two weeks vacation ‘long ‘bout that time.  Them two boys what Eula Mae had raised had already gone off to boardin’ school, and The Good Doctor and his wife was a goin down to stay a while, like they was doin from time to time.  Eula Mae done taken all they photographs off they walls after they left and hid’em out to our house and when her sisters come in on the train we picked’em up at the train station and brought’em out here like it was our own house, you know to the Handley’s place.”

“That’s funny, did you pull it off okay?” I questioned.

“Course we did, we was all up in they house, and Mama had set’em up a room each upstairs and was cookin like it was her own kitchen, cause really it was, you know, and they was a playin the piano and singin, and Ms. Bea had all these records of black folk music, cause she liked it, and they was just like they was in our own home. They was a eatin on the Handley’s plates with they silverware, and a usein they dishes like they belonged to us.  That just weren’t done in them days.  Black folk weren’t served with the same utensils as white folk.  We didn’t even dine at the same tables nor in the same cafes.  Early in June in 1954, we had all went up to Washington D.C. on the train to see Nathan graduate when he received his B.S. degree.  Eula Mae, me, Althea, Ms. Bea and The Good Doctor, in separate cars, you know, blacks and whites.  We had separate hotels even in different parts of the city,” he laughed.

While these two examples are different from Sarah’s use of multiple points of view as a literary device, they do demonstrate how a character’s point of view, even in dialog, can move the story along and give insight into how the character’s thinking and behavior affect the whole story line.