5 Steps to Stronger Point of View

34178310_sPOV – Point of View. Three little letters are the bane of every new writer’s journey. If we were writers forty or more years ago—now that would have been a completely different story. In the ‘good ol’ days’ we could write from everyone’s point of view at any time. Now—it is a big No-no.

Readers want you to pick a character and crawl in their skin, their thoughts, their motives, and their goals. You are allowed to change your POV character—but not without appropriate warning to the reader. Start a new chapter or create a scene break so readers will know you’re switching points of view.

So how do you do it? How do you keep in one POV consistently? Fellow Inspire writer, Loretta Sinclair describes it this way:

“If I am a character in your story and a fly lands on the back of my head, I can’t know it.”

 

1. The POV character can’t know anything that happens while she is not present until someone tells her about it. If she doesn’t know it, you can’t write it.

First Draft: She didn’t know he was in the room until he spoke.

Final Draft: When he said hello, she jumped off the couch with a yelp.

Let’s practice:

Example: King Edmund threw his tankard across the room, not knowing Mariamne had slipped into the room.

If he didn’t know it your reader can’t either. Try this instead:

King Edmund threw his tankard across the room.

Yelp!

He spun—heart pounding, hand on the hilt of his sword.

(With the second version, you have pulled your reader in and have them turning the next page to see who yelped and why, and what’s going to happen next.)

 

2. Stay in only one character’s POV at a time. Otherwise, you’re head-hopping and it’s not considered good writing. Your reader needs to be in only one character’s head at a time in order to relate to the character. 

First Draft: A shiver ran down Jane’s back when she realized Greg had been spying on her. That made him feel awful.

Final Draft: A shiver ran down Jane’s back. “You’ve been spying on me haven’t you?”

Greg looked at his feet and said nothing.

Let’s practice:

Example: Shawn glared at Meg. She hated him. His stomach knotted as she plotted his demise.

Try this instead: Shawn glared at Meg. Her lips were drawn in a thin line, and her breath rasped through her throat. Her finger flexed and moved toward the axe leaning against the wall.

 

Ready to go deeper?

 

3. Your characters can only experience life through their own senses. You can’t see your own face (or back) without a mirror, so neither can your POV character. They can’t know if their mascara is running, whether their tears are making muddy trails in their face, the look in their own eyes, or what color their face is turning.

First Draft: Alexis’s face flamed as bright as a fire engine. Her eyes flashed with rage at the detective.

Final Draft: Alexis narrowed her gaze on the detective blocking her path. Heat crept up her neck and pooled in her cheeks. She held his stare unblinking, fisting her hands until her nails dug into her palms.

 

4. Alert your readers when you’re changing POV characters in the middle of a chapter.

First Draft: Aria rose with slow purpose and left the king with his steward. She wandered to the outer bailey, letting the clop of her boots on the paving stones drive all thought from her head.

The king turned to his steward rubbing his hand over his neck, trying to work the knot free. “Should we keep her secret?”

(There is no way Aria, the POV character, can know what is happening in the king’s chamber. If you insert a POV shift (* * * or ####) between the above paragraphs and remain in the king’s for a while this works fine.)

Final Draft: Aria rose with slow purpose and left the king with his steward. She wandered to the outer bailey, letting the clop of her boots on the paving stones drive all thought from her head.

***

The king turned to his steward rubbing his hand over his neck, trying to work the knot free. “Should we keep her secret?”

 

5. Don’t tell your readers what your character is doing, just have him do it.

First Draft: Drew wondered what Alexis would do if she knew he had been in her apartment.

Final Draft: What would Alexis do if she knew he’d broken into her apartment?

Let’s Practice:

Example: She felt scared.

Try this instead: A floorboard squeaked behind her. She clenched her breath, her heart pounding in her ears.

Tip: Do a search for the following words: thought, knew, wondered, realized, speculated, decided, wished, felt, saw, and other similar words. These words are all telling the reader what your POV character is feeling for thinking. Instead show the reader these same things in deeper POV. Draw your reader in—and don’t let them go.

Be patient as you master POV, it won’t happen overnight. With practice, you’ll get it.

Here are a few sentences with POV violations for you to fix:

  1. Rachel waited for Bryce to knock on her door, but he was busy tying his shoes.
  2. Max felt powerful surf threaten to overturn his boat. Jackson gulped hard on the shore, fearful for his friend.
  3. Roxy stepped out of the ladies’ room, toilet paper trailing from her left shoe.
  4. “I’m sorry Dillon, but it’s over.” Marissa punched the button on her phone. Dillon was frantic, punching her number as fast as his thumbs would fly.
  5. Justin felt angry.

Add your favorite fix(es) in the comments below for a chance to win Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, by Jill Elizabeth Nelson.

michelle_murrayMichelle Janene  writes Christian Fantasy and Bible curriculum for students and adults. She teaches Middle School and leads a thriving Inspire Christian Writers critique group. She’s passionate about the Word of God and medieval history. In the summer of 2014 she founded Strong Tower Press to publish her own works with the first novella coming soon!

Michelle also serves as the Inspire Anthology Coordinator and oversees the selection, editing and distribution of our annual anthologies.

Dreams Interrupted

Dreams Interrupted was used with permission by author Kathy Ide. 

We all have cherished dreams and goals. We make detailed plans and then put in the time, effort, and sometimes money to make them happen, with the expectation that our plans will enable us to achieve our goals and realize our dreams.

And then life happens.

Twenty years ago, I got the idea of becoming a novelist. So I started to pursue that dream. I am now a successful freelance editor, and I have a couple of commercially published books, and I absolutely love what I do for a living. I still don’t have a published novel. But I wouldn’t be able to edit fiction as well if I hadn’t spent years trying to be a good novelist.

What are your dreams and goals? What plans have you made to achieve them? How has “life” interfered with those plans and altered your expectations?

The Bible says we are to rejoice always and give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

Everything? Rejections? Infertility? Cancer? Losing a loved one? Surely not those things.

Yep. Even those things.

Of course, we don’t have to be happy with everything that’s going on in our lives. But as Christians, we can focus on our loving heavenly Father more than our present circumstances. And put our ultimate trust in Him. Not in doctors or medical breakthroughs. Not in query letters or proposals or agents or editors. And certainly not in our elaborately orchestrated plans.

When we focus on God, we can recognize His blessings in the midst of our circumstances. And when we see those blessings, it’s easier to let go of our disappointments.

When we choose to thank God in everything, a spirit of rejoicing will reign deep in our hearts, regardless of our circumstances. And that inner spirit of rejoicing will reveal itself in the way we act, think, and speak.

If there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstances, then make the choice to rejoice. You don’t have to thank God for the difficult situation, but you can thank Him in it. Your words of gratitude will be a sweet aroma to your loving heavenly Father, who promises to work out everything in our lives (Romans 8:28) for His honor and glory, for our ultimately greater joy, and for the benefit of those who don’t yet know Him.

It’s great to have dreams and goals. And to prayerfully and intelligently make plans to achieve them. But when life interrupts those plans … and it will, far too often … choosing to trust the true Orchestrator of our lives makes those detours easier to handle.

Kathy Ide is a professional freelance editor who speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, January 2014). Kathy is also the founder and director of two organizations for editorial freelancers—The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com). Find out more about Kathy on her website (www.KathyIde.com).

Edits are Murder

Since writers are notorious for giving others advice, I thought it would be fun to dig up some of the most recycled tidbits on writing and share my thoughts with you. Not because I’m an expert. Not at all, but well, I covered all that self-deprecating stuff in my first post.

Today, I have a piece of advice from an incredibly prolific author who’s given us a zillion one-liners to chew on. This is a personal favorite.

Stephen King just kind of says it, doesn’t he? He’s good at that. And he’d better be with all that editing-is-like-murder business. But, I absolutely agree with him. And the longer I write, the more I appreciate this point of view. In fact, it’s increasingly difficult for me to turn off my internal editor now and simply read a book. I’m always editing other authors. Something I’m sure they appreciate. It’s okay; I know they’re doing the same to my books.

The liberating, albeit terrifying, truth is this: it’s not only the writing of a story that makes your stuff uniquely you, it’s also the ruthlessness with which you edit.

You should be overjoyed by this fact. It means that if you’re true to yourself and true to the process, your story will be unlike anything anyone else is creating. I know the crushing pressure to churn things out quickly. The haunting terror that someone, somewhere has already thought of all your ideas and written all your stories. It’s not true. It can’t be. Your voice is distinct, but so is that internal editor of yours. Find freedom in that.

There are ways to lessen the pain of editing, but one more thought before we go there. That phrase Stephen King uses, bare essentials, is entirely subjective. There are books that meander more than others, stories that do not walk directly from A to B. There are authors who set out to lead you on a delicious, slowly unfolding stroll. I think of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. In each of these books, there are scenes that could have been sacrificed for pacing. But during the editing process, the authors decided those words were essential. And, honestly, who are we to argue?

What I’m trying to say is that regardless of a story’s pace or word count, every good author cuts. They delete. They whip out their almighty hatchet and they swing it. A well-edited manuscript is not necessarily a manuscript void of description and full of short sentences. A well-edited manuscript is one that uses only the words necessary to tell the story trapped inside the author’s head. But necessary is entirely a matter of style and preference.

That said, most of us meander more than we should. We need to unshackle our inner editor. The good news is that once you get a taste for hacking up a manuscript, there’s something very addicting about the whole bloody thing.

But it can be painful. As the mother of two, I’m not convinced it approaches the despair of murdering children, but for the sentimental author, it can be a lot like shooting paintballs at puppies. And that is quite painful enough.

Here are a few ways to dull the pain:

1. Consciously celebrate this stage of the writing process. Treat yourself to a slice of cake and a balloon bouquet. You have drafted a novel. Being IN EDITS means you’ve accomplished something only a fraction of us ever will. YOU WROTE A BOOK! You now have the privilege of brandishing your shiny new machete and hacking it to bits. You’re in an enviable place. Let yourself appreciate that for a moment.

2. Stop monitoring your word count. You did that all the way through the drafting process. You posted it on Twitter and all your followers squeed! I’m glad. Truly. We need others on this solitary journey of ours. But, now, stop watching those numbers. They will fall. You will lose a few brave soldiers, but this is war. Keep your head down and your eyes on your own work. It doesn’t matter that Suzy Floozy just tweeted out her impossible word count. What matters is that you’re past that now. You’ve been promoted. YOU GET TO EDIT!

3. Keep what you cut. Not everything. Not the four billion adverbs you used. Strike those down and move on. But if you’re cutting the bulk of a chapter, keep it. When I’m editing, I have two Word documents open. One is my manuscript and the other is called CUTS. Whenever I decide to scrap a large portion of text, I cut and paste it into this other document. There are three reasons I do this. One, like you, I can get attached to my darlings and I don’t like to vanish them entirely. Even if I don’t use the actual words, I may need to reference them again. It’s good to keep them close at hand. The second reason is vanity. I like to see how glorious a word slasher I’ve been. For example, my current manuscript has about 80k words that I’m almost certain I’ll keep. But, on my CUTS document, there are over 15k words. I wrote those words. They cost me time and energy and they moved my writing forward. They taught me what WON’T work and that’s just as important as what will. And finally, I save what I cut because some of it may work as an ‘Extra’ later. Once my book is published (optimism, people!), I’ll have pages of deleted scenes that I can share with readers during the marketing effort. This saves me from having to generate new material down the road.

So those are my thoughts on Stephen King’s advice. What are yours? How do you dull the pain of cutting the excess fat?

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes Trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California.

ANGEL EYES was Shannon’s debut novel and the launch of a young adult supernatural trilogy. It was published in the summer of 2012 by Thomas Nelson. The sequel BROKEN WINGS hit shelves in February, 2013 and the final novel in the trilogy, DARK HALO, was available August 20, 2013. Shannon is currently at work on a new YA novel.

Shannon is represented by Holly Root of the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency and is an active member of Inspire Christian Writers of Sacramento.

Dana Sudboro: Excellence in Editing

Inspire Christian Writers member Dana Sudboro joined the group in 2007 and fondly remembers the days when all of Inspire was one tiny group, moderated by Elizabeth Thompson, meeting at Warehouse Ministries in Rancho Cordova. Since then, he’s gone on to moderate the critique group that meets at Harvest Church in Roseville and to step in to serve as one of the editors of Inspire Anthologies.

Let’s take a few moments to learn more about him.

 

Your work as an editor for Inspire Press and of the Inspire anthologies has given many authors a voice. What do you find most rewarding about that process?

“Critique groups equip writers. Anthologies showcase their work. I love being involved in both, to learn from and encourage my fellow writers.”

What would you encourage authors to remember when they submit their work for an Inspire Anthology? 

“Strive for perfection as you write, but once the imperfect result is submitted, don’t plague the editors with endless rewrites or, worse, treat their edits as tampering with sacred writ dictated from above.”

How does editing the work of others affect your own writing?

“lt blesses me with a wider view of the enterprise God has called us to and the variety of experiences and gifts He has given to fulfill it.”

Sudboro served as a Teen Challenge staffer, a pastor, and on the foreign mission field in Burkina Faso before “retiring” back to the States. He also teaches at Sacramento’s EPIC Bible College. Retirement doesn’t equate to indolence for the dynamic author.

How have your experiences as a missionary impacted your writing career?

“Cross-cultural adventures figure in each of my novels: a Muslim convert from Mauritania in Fatima’s Fate, missionaries to Japan and Mali in Continents Apart, French cooking and a visit to Montreal in Off the Menu, and a quest from Pacific paradise to Peruvian jungle in Exit Cyrus. “

When he returned from his overseas assignment, his daughter advised him to network if he wanted to write. An author herself, she encouraged him to attend conferences and join a critique group to hone his craft.

“It’s just amazing how much you learn, including online with the website, by looking at what other writers are writing about their craft,” Sudboro observes.

Your new release, Exit Cyrus, is now available. What inspired this story for you?

“Existential angst that plagued me from age six to sixteen, and re-emerged during my blue Beatnik period.”

He describes it as a novella dealing with a man facing an unexpected terminal diagnosis.

He describes his philosophy of writing as “Entertaining readers while sharing what’s deepest on my heart.” Sudboro describes romance as his favorite genre to read and therefore to write. His romances share a Christian perspective on a personal relationship which must be lived in a secular world.

His approach to marketing his book is a “soft sell.” He isn’t comfortable with big book release parties and a hard marketing program, which he tried with his full-length novel, Continents Apart. When he asked a friend to pray with him over the situation, he noted the friend addressed God as his agent.

“So I decided, that’s what I’ll do,” he says. He doesn’t consider himself a salesman, so he’s leaning on God’s direction in selling his latest offering. At $.99, the novella has an attractive price to match the beautiful cover art. The combination should prove a winning one.

What’s next on your writing agenda?

“I’m not sure whether my present project will be a keeper, not until the plot successfully works itself to some meaningful denouement. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to find the right destination for my full-length novel, Check or Mate.”

What do you want people to know about Dana Sudboro?

 “I’m looking for Jesus’ return and His restoration of the paradise that Adam and Eve lost.”

Mary Beth Magee has been a born-again Christian for more than 50 years. Her faith leads her to explore God’s world around her and write about it. She first saw her name in print as a juvenile book reviewer her hometown paper and hasn’t stopped writing since. Her checkered past includes stints as a telephone operator, substitute school teacher, cosmetic sales, home health aide, government contractor, kitchen help in a deli, real estate sales, office manager and corporate trainer. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, focusing on adult learning. Over the years, her writings covered news and feature articles for print and online publications, book and movie reviews, training materials, greeting cards, short fiction, poetry, and church bulletins. Most recently, her work has appeared in anthologies from Publishing Syndicate.

 

 

 

Writing Roundup

In today’s Writing Round-Up you’ll find insightful tips on writing from around the blogoshpere. You’ll learn how one man was impacted by great writing and how a children’s book saved a New York lighthouse. Enjoy!

Here are some links that inspired me this week:

What inspired you this week?