Author Archives: Bob Mayer

More on Point of View– Craft at Write on the River

Toolkit_TNYou have to consider point of view before you begin your book and before you write every scene, much as a movie director has to. You have to determine the best point of view to get across to the reader the story you are trying to tell. Decide where are you going to place the camera to the best advantage of the story.

Say you are going to write a thriller about a female FBI agent tracking down a vicious serial killer. You want to open your book with a scene that will grab the reader and set the stage for the suspense of the novel so you decide to open with a killing. What point of view will you use? Now, remember, no point of view is wrong—you just have to understand the advantages and disadvantages of your possible choices and make a knowledgeable decision. And remember, you will most likely be stuck with that point of view for the entire manuscript.

First person might be a bit difficult. After all, this would most likely mean your narrator actually witnesses the scene. This isn’t impossible, but it could be awkward. Perhaps you use first person from the protagonist’s point of view and she witnesses the murder but is not in a position to take any action? Using first person from the POV of the victim means the book is rather short, unless the victim survives the attack and swears vengeance. First person from the killer would make for a dark book, but it has been done.

You can decide to use third person from the point of view of the victim. This can build tension well, but also means the chapter will end abruptly.

You can use third person from the point of view of the killer, but remember that the killer knows who he or she is and therefore you have to be careful how much insight into the killer’s head you allow. A technique some use to overcome that limitation is to have the killer think of himself in different terms than his reality. The killer is Joe Schmo, but when he’s in killer mode he thinks of himself as Captain Hook, thus hiding his identity from the reader in third person insight.

Or, you could use omniscient, placing your ‘camera’ above the scene. Here, though, you have to be careful not to show too much and give away the killer’s identity. Much like a director might choose a dark basement where the viewer can’t see the killer’s face, you will do the same.

Another example of considering how to write a scene is if you have two characters meeting in a pub for an important exchange of dialogue. They sit across from each other. How are you going to ‘shoot’ this scene? From third person of one of the characters? That means you get that character’s thoughts and you describe the other character’s reactions—i.e. the camera is on your POV character’s shoulder. Is it important that the reader know one character’s thought more than the other’s? Or is it more important to show one character’s reactions than the others?

Or, do you keep switching the camera back and forth across the booth, going from one to the other? If you’re Larry McMurty and won a Pulitzer Prize you might be able to do that, but for most of us, such a constant switching of POV is very disconcerting to the reader. Or do you shoot it omniscient with the camera off to the side and simply show actions and record dialogue?

Consider this scene like a date. If you were out with someone and you knew exactly what they were thinking, and they knew what you were thinking, would there be any suspense to the date? Taking too many points of view can greatly reduce your suspense.

Black Tuesday finalI’ve written in all the above points of view. I tend to go with omniscient now as it’s the voice that works best for me, but it took me almost forty manuscripts to figure that out.

Coming 24 August: The Time Patrol: Black Tuesday

Six missions on 29 October to six different years, from 999 AD to 1980. Each operative has 24 hours to maintain our timeline or else everything snaps out of existence.

 

Moving Out of the Comfort Zone – The Author as Activist By Susan G. Weidener

high res_front-2As a cadet at West Point, Jay Scioli, the hero in A Portrait of Love and Honor, challenges and confronts his demons . . . and his naive notions of honor and glory.

Later, as a cancer victim, he questions the medical establishment, which often treats patients like statistics, not human beings. By writing his memoir, Jay moves toward a greater understanding of himself and impersonal systems, including the military establishment that tarnished the dream he once coveted – a career as an officer in the United States Army.

Jay’s questioning of the war in Vietnam; indeed, the honor code at West Point during that era may not be ‘popular’ with some, but it does offer insight and an important historical record of the challenges and the tragedy of that period in our history.

A writer has a larger obligation to stand for something – something ethical and true. Moving out of one’s comfort zone, finding our voices and our “truth” are integral components of creative expression. As writers, we must continue to challenge ourselves and our readers.

Accepting the status quo often seems at odds with the writer’s lot in life, or, if it isn’t, it should be. We write that which is the unspoken, the unmentionable . . . challenging ourselves and our readers to dig deep, and in the process, take away life’s lessons; whether or not our book has “marketing potential,” isn’t the point.

Our work, as Ursula K. Le Guin, fantasy and science fiction writer, says, often lies in realizing the difference between the “production of a marketable commodity and the practice of an art.”

And yet it is almost impossible to move beyond our books’ rankings on Amazon, how many reviews and “stars” readers have awarded them on any given day.

“Sales strategies, in order to maximize profits, are not the same thing as responsible book publishing”; authorship is not “letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant and tell us what to write” . . . Le Guin says.

In that regard, I am an activist. I have written three books – two memoirs and A Portrait of Love and Honor: a novel based on a true story. Together they form a trilogy dedicated to and inspired by my late husband, John M. Cavalieri, Class of ’71 USMA. My books reflect what I felt offered readers life lessons and a message that some may not always feel comfortable in wanting to hear; by standing up to the system and not taking the easy way out, there is a price to be paid.

In our 17-year marriage, John and I often challenged the “status quo” both in the workplace and as members of our church before his death from cancer in 1994. As a journalist, it was my job to dig deep and seek answers and truth for readers.

In A Portrait of Love and Honor, Ava Stuart, Jay’s editor and the woman he falls in love with, moves beyond disillusionment in her own life to hope and renewal. She finds the connection and intimacy that comes when we fully love another person. Together, Ava and Jay find meaning and honor in a world that is often not very honorable.

About A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story

Newly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events.

Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.

Susan Weidener photoAbout the Author:

Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher.  She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based.  Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA.  Her website is:  www.susanweidener.com.

https://twitter.com/Sweideheart

http://www.susanweidener.com/

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004G7AXQY

https://www.facebook.com/susan.weidener

 

 

 

Omniscient Point of View– Craft at Write on the River

Thumb_Nail_Novel_WriterOmniscient point of view. This is also known as authorial narrative. When I first began writing I felt I had to lock in third person on a character for every scene. And that worked. But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to use an omniscient point of view. I also realized that most of my favorite authors wrote in omniscient voice.

I liken authorial point of view to the camera getting pulled back in the hands of the author in order to show the viewer more. There are times you might want to pull back so you can tell the reader more information or show the reader more than the characters who are in the scene might be able to see or know.

For example, a battle scene can be written much better from omniscient point of view if you want the reader to understand the battle. But if you want the reader to see how one specific character is responding to the danger of combat, you might stick with third person from that character’s point of view.

One of the most difficult obstacles for me as a writer was accepting that I could write from the authorial point of view. That I can describe things as they are or were using my own voice as the author of the work. The more I write, the more I find it important to be able to do this. There may be some information that is not going to fit using third person. Also, you may get very tired of writing “he thought” over and over again and the reader may grow weary of seeing it.

Starting sentences with the word THE shifts you up into omniscient quite a bit.

Omniscient

Authorial narrative

Camera is above, all-seeing and all-knowing

Must be the story psychologist

Good for action scenes

Be careful of head-hopping

More authoritative

BURNERS(fist)For more on all of this: The Novel Writers Toolkit.

Coming 6 October: Burners. What is more valuable than money?

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world!”

Third Person Limited– Craft Tuesday at Write on the River

NovelWriterIs when you give the camera to various characters and they record the scene. Everything in the book is channeled through your point of view characters.

A key concept here is the concept of a ‘cut’. When a film director yells cut, he means one of several things: first, in all cases, he’s stopping the camera that is currently filming. Then he is going to:

Leave the camera with the current point of view character, but is moving that character off-screen to another time and/or place and then restarting the camera.

Take the camera from the current point of view character and give it to another character who will then ‘film’ the scene. This scene could be in the same place or a different place. It could be the same time or a different time. If it’s the same time, then the reader is getting the same scene from different POV characters and you must have a very good reason for doing that because it’s head-hopping.

Regardless, what you must do is make sure the reader knows you, as the author, have done a cut. The reader must know within the first paragraph after a cut which character now has the camera. I recommend against doing a cut in the middle of a scene unless you have a specific purpose for doing so.

Another factor in third limited is that each point of view character is literally going to have a different point of view. Each is going to see the same situation differently. As the author this requires you to shift your perspective as you write to the various POV characters and even write each one slightly different in terms of style.

There are what I call first-third stories, where the book is written in third limited, but there is only one point of view character. An author might choose to do this as an alternative to the problems of first person POV.

How many points of view can you handle? Exactly how schizophrenic are you? It’s a question of your ability as a writer. If you aren’t an expert at POV I’d recommend limiting the number of POV characters as much as possible. One thing I stayed away from in my thrillers was getting into the POV of the antagonist. Because the antagonist knows his dastardly plan and I don’t want to reveal it to the reader. Remember, you can’t cheat your reader by going into the POV of a character and withhold information they know from the reader.

There are several problems with too many POV characters beyond just your ability. If you have too many POVs, you will reveal a lot of information to the reader, but not to the other characters. Thus your reader will end up knowing more than your characters, which could end up being an awkward situation as you try to get some characters up to speed on information they need to know but which the reader already knows. You could end up writing some really boring scenes for the reader.

Another problem with too many POV characters is you diffuse attention from your protagonist. The reader spends so much time in points of view outside of the main character that they lose focus.

Third Person Limited

Everything is channeled through various characters’ points of view

Cuts have to be very clear to readers

Each POV character must be distinct

First, third stories

Cutting in the middle of a scene: is there a purpose

How many points of view can you—and the reader—handle

Too many POV characters:  The reader ends up knowing more than any of the characters

Diffuse attention from your protagonist

The line between Third Limited and Omniscient is a thin one

BURNERS(fist)And coming on 6 Oct: burners

“My candle burns on both ends;

It will not last the night.

But oh my foes, and oh my friends;

It gives a lovely light!”

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