Point of View

Point of View

So what are we talking about here?

Sol Stein’s definition is a good one,

p. 109, ‘The character whose eyes are observing what happens, the perspective from which a scene or story is written.’

Much has been written about ‘Point of View’, so much so that some people begin to get confused about the do’s and don’ts. Others don’t really care; they just want to write.
Sometimes we want to include so much information, all the research we did; what different characters are thinking and saying in response to any given event.

All of that is possible, but remember to keep the reader on board.

When we are listening to friends in a bar or coffee shop there is no confusion about who is saying what; they are present in the room and we are looking at them,  listening to them and sharing their stories.

We can achieve the same when we are writing. Apart from writing an autobiography we write with a mouth-piece, one of the characters, real or made up, usually the most important one for the telling of our tale; THE MAIN CHARACTER.

Having decided who fits this role we then decide on that person’s delivery. The two most popular these days are first person and third person subjective.

FIRST PERSON

It was dark and I kept looking over my shoulder every time the wind blew.

We are in the mind of the character with great immediacy, using  “me, myself, I.”

THIRD PERSON SUBJECTIVE

‘I’m up,’ He shouted, turning over in bed and resting his head on the pillow. For extra measure he banged a shoe up and down on the floor so his mum would think he was walking around. She would set off for work soon and he would be alone. He had no intention of going to school today.

We are in the mind of the character, but once removed, using “he/she, his/her.”

If we want to get into different characters’ minds we can do so in the same way, but need to flag up the change to the reader.

Those that know suggest you keep the characters separated into their own chapters, or if that is not what you are looking for, leave a blank line or two in your document so the savvy reader understands.

First Person POV is alluring but dealing with the first person POV’s ego is harder. As Sol Stein says, p.111 ‘If he sees himself as weak, the reader won’t have much interest in him as a protagonist. If he sees himself as strong, the reader will think him a braggart. Therefore, in the first-person POV the author relies on action and the speech of other characters to reveal things – particularly good things – about the “I” character. An unreliable or villainous first-person narrator can lend credibility…

If the character takes the reader into his confidence, the character can’t “forget” to provide the reader with an essential secret or other important piece of information. When the reader learns that was withheld, he will feel cheated. The most dramatic way of handling information that the character is reluctant to convey is for another character to strip the secret from him in heated conversation.’

What do you think?

Tracy
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Grab Their Interest.

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Our writing club opens its doors the last week of September and until then I have another opportunity to blog… Sol Stein is a terrific writer to go to for tips on techniques. Born 1926, he edited and published books for 36 years from some of the most successful writers of the twentieth century, including James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas, Elia Kazan, W.H. Auden, and Jacques Barzun. If you want a better look, check out Stein on Writing, St Martin’s Press (1995)  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stein-Writing-Successful-Techniques-Strategies/dp/0312254210

So, what did he have to say?

Lots. Nearly all of it valuable.

He begins by quoting E. L. Doctorow, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” p.4

Yeah, we get it, -Show not Tell-. Good advice.

Stein studied buying behaviour in a Manhattan bookstore during lunch hour. They mostly read the front flap of the book’s jacket and then went to page one. No-one went beyond page three before either taking the book to the cashier or putting the book down and picking up another. p.9

So, no point encouraging someone to read on because your novel picks up a bit after the first few pages. Start writing where it picks up, as near to the climax of that particular episode as possible and hook the reader. No matter how beautiful your writing is, we’re in  a hurry and as a reader need to:

  • know why we’re reading,
  • enjoy where it’s taking us
  • seek the answers to the questions that got us hooked.

Stein advises we should grab the reader’s curiosity, PREFERABLY ABOUT A CHARACTER OR A RELATIONSHIP and create a setting to lend resonance to the story.

Characters Build Strong Interest.

Think of even the most meaningless soap opera. You may not admit to your friends that you even watch it, but when it’s on it’ll pull you in. There’s possibly no point talking about the plot, it may be banal, but for some reason, you care about how that particular character will react, how he or she will deal with whatever the script writer has concocted.

What Excites our Interest?

  • the unusual
  • action
  • conflict
  • knowledge that something is not right, that fate is being tempted
  • when characters find themselves in a situation  you identify with…

It’s not an exhaustive list. Think about it, what works for you? Perhaps a character wants something important, wants it badly and wants it now. Or maybe a character that you are rooting for finds herself in danger and you must find out what happens next.

Write responsibly.

We need to write for ourselves AND the reader. Imagine you are at a party and someone ‘corners’ you and insists on a boorish recital of a tale that you must listen to, politely, until an escape route opens up to you.

Do not be that boor.

How better to be captivated by something that entertains and raises questions that catch your interest long after the story ends.

Be that captivator.

Years ago I heard two girls chatting to each other at the bus stop. My bus came and I seriously considered missing it, just so I could hear more…

The hook?

‘So, was he circumcised?’

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Welcome to Sotogrande Writers

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Welcome

This is where writers, in any genre or medium, can share their work and get inspired. Hopefully we will encourage and learn from each other with the end goal of growing together and becoming the best that we can at our craft. We are egalitarian; some of us at different stages of development to others, but we were all beginners at one time.

The Art of Writing

For some of us writing is a passion, for others, it can be a chore. However, just because we love to write it doesn’t mean we are necessarily good at it. Writing anything if your heart isn’t in it is not a pleasurable experience, so if you enjoy the process of writing that in itself is a great starting point.

The good news is that writing is a craft that can be honed to perfection. This doesn’t mean that we will all find publishers for our work, but if we want to then it will make our chances of doing so that much better.

“We do not write as we want, but as we can.” – W. Somerset Maugham

It may sound simple but there are three crucial steps that should be a part of any writer’s routine:

  • READING – reading books by established authors will help you to absorb the process of writing successfully
  • LEARNING  – this is where we hope that Sotogrande Writers can assist
  • WRITING  – this may sound obvious, but you must write often and consistently

“It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.

Those who do not do this remain amateurs.” – Gerald Brenan

 If you have never shared your writing with others, now is the time. Becoming part of a writer’s group is a good way to fire up your motivation.

Sotogrande Writers – a creative environment and support system for current and aspiring writers.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Jo
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Becoming a Writer

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“My name’s Tracy Thomson and as co-founder of the Sotogrande Writer’s club, (www.sotograndewriters.com),  I am delighted, and sufficiently audacious, to have welcomed myself on board!

I’ve just finished my first novel, Kiss the Candle Goodnight – an eco-political thriller set in the Sumatran Rain forest. It took me two years and is now being submitted to agents.

But enough of me, during my apprenticeship to novel writing, for that is what happens,  I became an avid reader of nothing but advice and below are excerpts from the earliest book I came across, by DOROTHEA BRANDE, ‘Becoming a Writer.‘ She penned this in 1934 and I read the reprint that came out Jan 1981. (First Published by Harcourt, Brace, New York.)

The famous creative writing teacher and writer, JOHN GARDNER wrote a fantastic foreword to this which I also recommend reading. The link to Amazon lets you look inside.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Becoming-Writer-Dorothea-Brande/dp/0874771641/

I shall start where Dorothea Brande ends,

‘When you sit down to write do not sit idle. Avoid the habits that we employ to induce procrastination.’

Brande’s common-sense approach is packed with wisdom. She talks about the need to see as if through the eyes of a captivated child. It reminds me of a Michael Parkinson interview, with Dennis Potter shortly before the author died. He was in great pain, but in getting ready to leave this world his eyes saw only wonder and splendour. He showed us life’s delicate beauty in the commonplace where once I had forgotten to look.  A remarkable man. This freshness of response is what Brande knew was ‘vital to the author’s talent.’

Here is more of her splendid advice.

Page 48,

‘The unconscious is shy, elusive and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it. The conscious mind is meddlesome, opinionated, and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training.’

Page 53,

‘If you leave it to the more sensitive side of your nature to set the conditions of work and living for you, you may find yourself at the end of your days with very little to show for the gifts you were born with.’

Page 153,

She talks about an ‘artistic coma’ that afflicts us so thoroughly that we feel defeated, but we need not worry,

Something is at work, but so deeply and wordlessly that it hardly gives a sign of its activity till it is ready to externalize its vision.’

We all know what she’s talking about, let us end on that word, INSPIRATION.”
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Join us online or in person. It's free. We meet 6.30 - 8.30 pm the second Thursday of the month at Las Camelias Hotel, Torreguadiaro, 11310 From September to June.