Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Transitions, Detours and POV

First -- Glad to see so many new followers. Welcome! There's coffee and brownies on the sideboard, so help yourself. And Cleo – thanks so much for being my guest yesterday, and for all the great responses. You're definitely among friends here, and I hope you'll visit often. How many readers tried or will try those recipes?

Today should be the last day of painting, except for touch-ups as some of the demolition/replacement work takes place. I'll be glad to be finished with paint fumes for a while.

I've talked about writing environments, and those things that get a writer into the zone. Maybe it's the right playlist, or the right chair, or turning off the e-mail. Whatever it is, for many of us, we want it to "feel" right when we write.

Needless to say, when you've had to strip the room almost bare for painters, and you know they'll be coming back in a week to lay new floors, it becomes an effort in near-futility to keep moving things in and out (especially if they're downstairs and you're not exactly sure where you put the box doubling as your desk drawer). Then there's the noise.

Yesterday they painted the bathrooms, so they ran the fans which are far from quiet. They also brought their own radio, tuned to one of the few stations that come in up here (at least that's what they said—I haven't looked for one inside, but I've never been able to pick anything up in the car). They were listening to country music. I confess there is no country music in my writing playlist. Then there's the clunking of ladders and the squishy sound of paint rollers. Not my normal background noise. And let's not talk about the paint smell. A freshly painted room might smell clean, but breathing it all day isn't the same.

Yet I need to be writing. Editing would have been easier, but I'd already finished that last week. I did update my website—I uploaded the first chapter of my July 16th release, NOWHERE TO HIDE. Feel free to pop over and give it a peek.

But eventually, I had to tackle the WIP. I'd finished Chapter 5 last night, so I stared at screen—blank except for the words "Chapter 6" at the top. I re-read Chapter 5 to get a running start. Normally, when I begin a new scene or chapter, I will use the POV character's name in the first sentence, usually performing some act that shouts "change of POV here!" to the reader. These transitions should convey something that only the POV character would know. Here are some examples from scene openings in the WIP.

Grinch peeked through the passenger window of his pickup, reassuring himself that Dylan would stay asleep for the few moments it would take to get the gas flowing.

After rubbing some tinted moisturizer over her face to ward off the drying effects of Colorado's climate, Elizabeth gathered her hair atop her head and crammed a ball cap over it.

Grinch recognized the frightened-rabbit look in Elizabeth's eyes.

Elizabeth paced the confines of the living area, trying to settle.

Grinch accepted a cup of some God-awful flowery drink Elizabeth had called tea.

All of the above should be things that the POV character is seeing, feeling, or thinking. Something the previous POV character wouldn't really be aware of.

Until now, I've been alternating POV scenes between Grinch and Elizabeth since the book began. Thus, logic dictated that the first scene of Chapter 6 would begin with an Elizabeth sentence.

Imagine my surprise when the following dripped off my fingertips:

"That bitch. That sneaky, no good bitch." Victor Vaughn slammed his fist on his desk. Clawing his fingers through his hair, he stormed out of his office.

Now, while it's true the above might be something another character could observe, there's nobody else around—definitely neither Grinch nor Elizabeth. The reader should assume we're now in Victor's POV. To intensify it, I might stick in something he feels—like pain, or hears—like the sound of fist on oak, or thinks—like did someone hear him. Whether or not I go that route, the issue is finding a totally different path for the manuscript.

Victor as a character didn't appear out of the blue—he's the villain of this piece, the abusive husband Elizabeth has been running from, and has been mentioned by name 23 times to this point. But I've never included a villain's POV in any of my books before.

Why? Because knowing more than the protagonists makes it a suspense, not a mystery. I've always preferred my hero and/or heroine be worried about what might happen, but I don't like knowing it myself. I'm happier not knowing the bad guy is driving across country, closing in on them, with his evil weapon of destruction at his side.

But Victor seemed to insist on page time, and given that Elizabeth and Grinch weren't talking to me, I decided to see what would happen. I figure I'll either add him as a POV character and let more suspense into my mystery. Or I might simply use this as 'research' and figure out a way to get this information across without needing to be in Victor's head.

I've asked this question before, and I'm always curious. Are you a mystery person, a suspense person, or don't you care? Especially if it's in the romance genre to begin with. And if you write, how do you deal with surprises that might shift your work into the neighborhood of another subgenre? Do you take back the reins, or let the story run?


Annabelle Ambrosio said...

I've never had a character change the genre, but I've had a couple strong-minded characters want to become the Protagonist. It was hard shutting them up, but I insisted they take the part meant for them and thought about using them for the Protagonist in another story. Funny how they rule the rost. Ann

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hey Terry, Chin up with the home repairs. It will be worth it in the long run. As for characters, especially villains, demanding a voice, yes, this happens to me. Like you I write romantic supsense and mystery and I find the story works better to let the voices out!

Maribeth said...

Sometimes I wonder who is really writing the wip!
I tend to follow their lead and fix the little things later.

Terry Odell said...

Ann - I had a cop show up in the mystery I wrote and he demanded to be a POV character. I didn't mind, because he was still in the "good guy" territory, although it did make the book as much police procedural as cozy. Some day I'll learn to color in the lines.

Maggie - I wouldn't have started all this work (ok, hired people to do all this work) if I didn't think it would be worth it. But it's still a hassle. Don't be surprised to see a contractor in a book someday!

Maribeth - I agree--I'm leaving this chapter until I decide which way to go.

Carol Kilgore said...

As a reader, I don't care - suspense or mystery works fine, as long as there's a little romance thrown in. As a writer, I much prefer suspense. I love getting into my villain's POV.

Mona Risk said...

Terry, I went through four moves for us and for my mother in the last ten years. I know the hassle you are facing and sympathise. Personnally I don't want to see a mover, contractor or painter for a long time.

About characters, I like to keep the reins in my hands and never let a character take over POV or story. But sometimes, I write an important scene--particularly the book first scene--in one POV and then rewrite it in another POV to see which one grabs my interest more.

Judi said...

Love the blog.
I had the same problem with my last manuscript. It was supposed to be a mystery romance. But the bad guy kept wanting to be in, and I needed a scene where he was the POV character. I just let it go that way. It's still a mystery in my mind.

About the character that wants to take over. Wynter's mother in Ghost of a Chance was starting to take over. So I sat her down and told her that this was her daughter's story and she needed to behave herself and if she did, I'd give her her own story. Which seemed to take care of it.

And I've written a couple of pages of Aerial's story.

Terry Odell said...

Carol - I still find it hard to separate the reader me from the writer me.

Mona - When we leave her, it's going to be our kids moving us into The Home, I think. I'm impressed you have so much control over your stories. You probably plot, too!

Judi - thanks. I've given characters their own books too.

Terry Stonecrop said...

The smell of paint bothers me too. It will look nice though.

I like mystery but I have read some suspense and like them. I'm branching out more in my reading now.

Oh yes, characters. I haven't had them change the genre yet, but I have had characters I thought were unimportant become very important and others I thought mattered I ended up cutting out completely.

I plan to make the recipes, btw.

Jemi Fraser said...

I like both mystery and suspense. I think the addition of the villain's pov might be fun. See where he takes you! :)

Marguerite Butler said...

I like to see where the detours take me. The beauty of writing a crappy scene is that you can edit it into awesomeness or just hit delete.

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - I'm thinking it'll be fun to get into the bad guy's head -- he's not going to be one of those keep you up all night psychotics--I'm not ready to get into THAT kind of a head yet!

Marguerite -- edit it into awesomeness. I like that!

Karla Brandenburg said...

I don't think the characters have ever made me change genre, but I do tend to let them have their head. I can always rein it back in later if I realize they've gone too far afield. I think I prefer the mystery - its more fun to guess at what's coming to my way of thinking and I don't necessarily need to sit on the edge of my seat to get there.

Terry Odell said...

Karla - sometimes the differences in genre can be subtle. I think I tend to straddle lines anyway. And I'm with you on the mystery angle. I prefer the puzzle approach, not the worried anticipation.