Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Savvy Point of VIew

What I'm reading: First Cases, Volume 3, edited by Robert J. Randisi

Thanks, Jacqui for your great advice yesterday. Definitely some good takeaway truths.

And just because this is my blog, I thought I'd share a picture of another visitor to our home yesterday. I'm sure I could have figured out a clever tie-in to today's topic, but--I didn't. Feel free to suggest one.

Right about now, a few thousand writers, agents, publishers and assorted book people will be in Orlando for the annual Romance Writers of America Conference. Of course, thousands more won't be making the trip, myself included.

A writing site, Savvy Writers, is holding an on-line symposium for those who won't be at nationals, and I volunteered to host a one hour chat on Point of View. At the time, it seemed like fun. POV was one of my first writing "lessons" and I'm probably overly aware of it when I read. Now that the chat is looming, I'm trying to figure out how to handle information exchange during a live chat. For the most part, you can only post a few lines—a short paragraph at most—and it's a "chat" not a lecture or a workshop. I'd love some help

What are some areas of POV that we can chat about? Writers, what do you find hard? Easy? Readers, do you even notice? Pet peeves?

Here's a sketchy outline of what I figure I'll start with. I'm hoping "chat" is the operative word and there will 1) be actual people in the chat room, and 2) they'll participate by asking questions.

1. What is Point of View?

Simply, it's who's telling the story in any given scene. It's the character through whose senses the reader experiences what's going on. There are no 'rights' or 'wrongs' but choosing the wrong POV can keep the reader from being drawn into the story. Readers need to bond with character, and POV is one tool the writer uses to develop that connection.

2. What Are Your Choices?

There are variations and subsets, but these are the basics:

Omniscient: Someone outside the story knows what's going on and reports to the reader.

First Person: "I went to the store." More common in mystery and chick-lit than most romance.

Second Person: "You went to the store." Very rare. Also very hard to do.

Commonly used in things like children's books where the reader can choose what to do next.

Third Person: "He went to the store" or, "George went to the store."

Most commonly used. Has many variations. Can be shallow, almost narrated, or deep, almost the same as 1st person, with all levels in between.

3. How Do You Choose?

"Figure out whose story it is. Get inside that character…" (Jack Bickham)
Who has the most to lose?
What do you want to reveal to your reader?
What do you want to conceal from your reader?

So – opening the comments to ideas. If you're a member of Savvy Writers, you can join the chat. It's the 29th from 8-9 pm Eastern Time. Which is 6 my time, so I have to remember to adjust for time zones. Would love to see you there. (But you have to be a paid up member of the group, so I understand if you can't make it—I'm not egotistical enough to think you'd fork over $30 just for my 1-hour chat--although you'd get a full year's membership.)


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like a nice chat!

As far as the picture...Terry, I don't think you're in Florida anymore! :)

Lou Belcher said...

Great post on Point of View. Nice examples.

Love the picture. How wonderful to have him visit you.

Mason Canyon said...

Your new neighbors are getting more curious. Guess he's heard all the noise the workmen have been making and what to see how the work was coming along. :)

Thoughts in Progress

T. Powell Coltrin said...

My caption: No stalking, deer, please.

I love love love that picture.

Happy chatting!

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth- I hope the chat will go well. I've never been to one at this site, but I've "met" my moderator, and she seems to know the ropes.

Lou - Thanks - those are my openers for when I've done live workshops on POV

Mason - what with all the moms bringing their young around, and now this buck, it's been hard to concentrate on writing!

JW - great caption.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Love your friend in the window.

On POV, you might mention "head hopping", i.e. when writing in third person, sharing the thoughts/feeling/etc. of more than one person in the scene. Sometimes the rules on that aren't as clear.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Linda - yes, head-hopping can drive some readers (myself included) a little nuts.

Dominique Eastwick said...

You could talk about the new move into Deep POV

Stacey said...

I've been an avid reader all my life, and honestly, before I wrote my first ever novel and submitted it to an editor and received comments that I was head hopping and not staying in one character's POV, I never paid attention to POV when reading a story and didn't have any idea of what it was. Now, as a multi-published romance writer, I follow the strict POV rules. Maybe I'm a dull bulb, but it took me a long time before I "got it" about POV. Then one day it just clicked. If you have new writers, you can explain how one chapter, or at least several scenes, should stay in one character's POV. When switching POV within a chapter, there should be a scene break or the character should leave the room, etc. before writing in the next character's POV. Seems elementary, but I didn't get it. It's easy when thinking about the characters being real people. Sue can't possibly know what Tom is thinking or how he's feeling. So, if Tom is thinking how pretty Sue is, you're writing in his POV. If the next sentence has Sue thinking how handsome Tom is, that's her POV, and that is called head hopping. You might explain in more detail what head hopping is and how, as you mention, it takes the reader out of the story to have more than one character thinking or feeling something in the same paragraph, or even scene. Personally, I try to stick to one POV per chapter unless I use a scene break and take one character completely out of the scene. Good luck with your chat, Terry.

Terry Odell said...

Dominique - I didn't realize deep POV was "new"! I've done it since I started writing. But you're right about trends changing. Omniscient used to be commonplace, but now there's not much out there. (Nora Roberts being a notable exception)

Stacey - yes, as a reader I never knew what POV shifts did to the read, so when I started writing, I hopped wherever I wanted.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the photo - is he looking for some dinner :)

POV is tricky at times. I definitely keep to one pov per scene.

Terry Odell said...

Jemi, it was more like lunch time. Although one might argue he was thinking about being dinner, so he left.

Anonymous said...

The POV is so important. I just had my book re-edited from Omniscient to Third Person POV. Lots of work but had to be done. Best wishes at your conference.

Stephen Tremp

Terry Odell said...

Stephen, congrats on completing that major undertaking. Styles do tend to go out of fashion, so better to go with what readers expect/prefer. Omniscient POV isn't "wrong" it's just not what's popular at the moment.

Terry Odell said...

April - thanks, and yes, knowing when to switch POVs if you're writing more than one is a daily challenge.

Carol Kilgore said...

Hope your chat goes well.

Caption: Hurry up, I want to read the next page.

Terry Odell said...

Carol - love your caption!

Linda Leszczuk said...

I'm going out on a limb here and admit, as a reader, I like a certain amount of head hopping. I like knowing what's going on in the minds of more than one character. Especially in a two person scene where the dialogue and/or action is going back and forth between them. I take it this puts me in a minority view.

Terry Odell said...

Linda, wanting to know what's going on in more than one character's head is fine--it's virtually required in romance. It's a matter of making sure the transitions are smooth. If the reader can follow, that's perfect. One POV per chapter or scene isn't a 'rule'--it's just a convention to help ground the reader.

This will be something I hope to discuss at the chat tonight.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I love first person best. It makes me feel more a part of the story. That may be why I write noir.

What a sweet face on that buck. Curious George.

Good luck with the chat!

Nancy Sartor said...

Terry, it might be good to mention some of the techniques a good writer can use if s/he *must* pass POV within a chapter or a scene. Using an object, for instance, to pass the POV smoothly. I also would benefit from some guidance on how a few truly brilliant writers pass POV smoothly within a scene or chapter without an object. There must be a method there somewhere.

Terry Odell said...

Nancy, an excellent suggestion. I always try to begin new POV situations with some kind of reference to 1) the character's name, and 2) a thought or action that clearly shows we're in the new character's head.

Terry Odell said...

TerryS; I've written a couple of short stories in first--police procedurals seem to lend themselves to that POV. At least, when I started writing, the detective insisted on me using "I".

Donna B said...

LOL - About the picture..."On the outside looking in - where every writer begins..."

POV - groan - can I start a new chapter, please...??? First person is much too limiting for me - and head hopping is much too easy, but I fight the battle like all the rest.

Great post!

Terry Odell said...

Donna - great caption!
Whichever POV you choose, it's all about being consistent and NEVER confusing the reader! Yes, it can be tough.

Jean Hart Stewart said...

Great post. I've always had a dreadful time with POV. This contained some really good stuff. Thanks. Jean