Friday, June 25, 2010

Point of View Demystified

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

I recently sought to hire an editor for my MANUSCRIPT and found many of them willing to offer a CHAPTER length sample edit. One came back with the notation I had a Point of View error on page one.

How in the world did I miss a POV error on the first page? *shakes head - roll eyes*

If nothing else, the experience taught me two things. Editors are a necessity, and POV errors are easy to miss. With that said, I thought I'd pen an article on POV and share it with you.

Let’s first try to understand what POV is. In a sound bite, it’s who's telling the story. POV is nothing more than the writer’s method for presenting narrative. See, it’s not all that mysterious, though mistakes are evidently difficult to catch.

The first aspect of Point of View to understand is each POV has its advantages, disadvantages and typical uses. My focus for this article will be the three most common uses of POV.

The three major types are:

First Person POV - the writer tells the story
Second Person POV - the writer gives advice
Third Person POV - the major character or characters tell the story

Third Person POV has three subdivisions and they are:


Let’s take a look at First Person POV.

First Person has the writer, or narrator, tell the story. In effect, the author speaks to his readers. This POV is told in either present or past POV.

It is most often used when one authors a book about ones’ personal experiences or opinions. You’ll see the writer using the pronouns I, me, my, mine, we, our and ours. It does fit into fiction, but is widely used in memoirs.

Second Person POV

Think of this as an instruction manual with extensive use of the pronoun, “you.” This POV is rarely used in fiction as it simply tells the reader what the characters are doing and what they see. A weakness is it provides only limited access to creativity though a strength is it grabs the reader’s attention. It can also exist in past and present forms.

Third Person POV, where a character or characters tell the story, has three subtypes and we’ll discover each of these in time. It's the primary POV utilized in fiction.

Third Person - Omniscient POV

Third Person Omniscient POV has all the major characters in your novel tell the story. What is nice about this POV is the freedom it affords. The author can tell the reader everyone’s motivations and their thoughts. It allows the writer to give or withhold information at will.

The difficulties of this POV lie in lack of control and its potentially cumbersome nature. If you aren't careful and you show too much of what’s inside every character’s head, the reader receives an overabundance of information and can become frustrated if your POV loses cohesion.

To overcome this drawback, ensure consistency in your POV and have only one person at a time tell the story. It's also important to eliminate any information that is not pertinent to the story. Have each chapter focus on one individual to eliminate “head-hopping,” which is jumping from one character’s POV to another within chapters.

Third Person - Limited POV

Third Person Limited POV is perhaps the easiest to utilize and most popular when writing novels. Here the author writes from a single person’s vision throughout the entire book. In third person POV, you’ll see pronouns such as she, he, her, him, hers, his, it, its, they, them, theirs.

The disadvantages come with the writer’s limitation as to who sees what. The character who tells the story cannot get into the head of another to read his thoughts. He can only surmise what the other guy thinks by their facial expressions, actions and such. It’s also very easy to shift out of this POV.

Third Person Objective POV

In this POV, the author only tells his readers what happens by way of action or dialogue. Their characters’ feelings or thoughts are never revealed. It's not the most effective POV for fiction.

The secret to POV is to learn what type works well for your writing style and genre.

Now, who wishes to share a POV issue they've faced?

I hope you know by now, I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel, "Born to be Brothers"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Writing New Worlds to Life

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
Writing New Worlds to Life

by C. Patrick Schulze

I write NOVELS set in times we've all read about and pull my PLOTS from real life stories. It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to find stories in this manner. However, those who write sci-fi or fantasy have always impressed me. It seems to me those writers must bring a great deal of creativity to their work when they write new worlds to life.

Not only must they write that all-elusive and saleable novel, they have to create entire and believable worlds out of thin air. Now, I can write a good story, but I've never tried to build an entire ecosystem as sci-fi and fantasy writers must. So, I did a bit of research on how to create such a world. The more I got into it, the more fun these genres offered.

You should have a believable place in which to plant your readers, and it seems there are eight primary aspects to worldbuilding. They are:

The supernatural, or God and spirits
The new world's laws of nature, the Physics
The weather and climate
The lay of the land or Geography
The skies or Astronomy
The beasts that roam your world or Zoology
The flora and fauna
The speaking creatures that populate your world or Anthropology

Let's take a quick look at each of these components of your new world to see what must be considered.

The supernatural component of your novel will have great influence over the morality of your world's inhabitants and thus power over what occurs there. Is there a God or does the world tend toward oracles or even magic? Are these superior beings vengeful or caring? How do they affect the lives of your inhabitants?

Everything in your world is impacted by the physics of the place. The tides may force people into underwater dwellings for half the day or the push of gravity might makes things fly. This then affects living habits, clothing, food production, the gods and all the rest.

The weather impacts your characters in ways we other than sci-fi and fantasy writers never imagined. It affects the type of buildings that exist, the crops that grow, your characters' clothing and so much more. Further, weather can even affect the outcome of your story. Ever heard of the Armada?

Geography can also be interesting. Imagine for example, your world is saturated with fluids. Might your creatures then walk on water? (Wait… Maybe your creatures walk on water so you need a water world of sorts. I'm confused…) In any case, you may have to reevaluate your weather as you build your landscape as the two, at least in our world, impact upon each other.

If your world is influenced by the astronomy, you may wish to create a star map. Here you imagine planetary rotations and orbits, star colors, constellations and such. Further, imagine the effect of your sky on the world's inhabitants and horticulture.

Now for the beasts that roam over your geography or swim under your seas. Here you have to consider the food chain, if it exists. If it does, that means higher level and subordinate animals with all those interactions and reactions. Are there classes or genesis of animals? Are they aquatic and/or terrestrial in nature? Do they communicate and how? Are they domesticated or not? I'd think this area of creation could be fun.

The plant life on your new world comes next. Do your creatures feast on the plants? How are they affected by geography, weather and everything else? Are your plants intelligent and do they carry the weight of a character in your novels? Can they be the characters?

Now for the Anthropology, those creatures that speak in your novel. Do they have emotions? Is their language formal, informal or written? Do you need to create a new language? (If there's ever a reason not to write sci-fi…) Are there genders and what are they? Do families exist? If so, in what form and what function to they serve? Are there classes of people and how might the "higher" classes affect the lower and vice-versa? This aspect to worldbuilding must be the most important to your novel for these creatures offer your dialogue.

I found it interesting to think about how these aspects of your new world might play against each other. On Earth, our climate affects the zoology, the physics of our world effects the geography, the Anthropology affects the supernatural and so on. How might these factors relate to each other on your world?

No telling what I've missed, but I do have to say, outside of a new language, creating new worlds could be the most fun part of writing - ever!

Has anyone developed a fictional world? What secrets to you have to share?

Best of luck in your new world and don't forget, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel "Born to be Brothers"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Writing a Fight Scene

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

I don't know why, but WRITING a fight scene seems my specialty. However, as with so much in my life, the knowledge came after the attempt. When I decided to study HOW TO WRITE a fight scene, I came across a number of primary steps for writing a fight scene I wish I'd known beforehand. I'd like to share some of them with you now.

If I could only give you four general tips on writing a fight scene, I'd say, keep the pace forefront in your mind, keep your descriptions limited, have a full understanding of your characters' personalities before you begin writing the fight scene and use the characters' senses.

Now, let's flesh out this scene with a bit more detail, shall we?

The most important aspect to this scene is the characters' emotional reactions to the event. What if this is the first time a woman slaps her husband? How might it affect her, or him and even their relationship? If you bring out the characters' emotional reactions, you'll have a much stronger fight scene.

Another important tool to use when writing a fight scene is to employ your character's senses. Have your hero taste the blood, hear the bullet scream past and smell the sulfur in the air.

You should have the fight scene offer insights into the combatants' personalities. For example, your hero might rise out of his emotional cocoon to protect the girl.

As with all scenes in your novel, a fight scene needs a purpose within the story and must move the story forward. You should also ensure your readers know which characters have something to lose in the scene.

Dialogue is tricky in fight scenes. You may wish to use fewer words and employ more grunts and curses.

Setting should also take a forefront position when writing a fight scene. Is the floor slippery? Does the wall scrape his skin? Is the building on fire?

Pace is another fateful choice for your fight scene. It might be as limited in scope as a woman who slaps a man, or a battle where thousands might gore each other with swords and axes. Regardless the type of scene you envision, the fight moves fast from the perspective of the fighters. It may take a thousand words to write, but to the combatants, it takes mere moments of time. Your goal here is to keep your reader on-edge during the entire scene.

Now for some general tips about writing a fight scene.

Sure, go ahead and act it out in front of a mirror. Choreograph the thing. See what happens when your combatants move in certain ways.

Know your character's perspective is highly focused on the events at hand. They see only their immediate danger and think only of survival. An interesting insight into a combatant's world is that his focus ranges only a few feet in any direction.

The fight scene must fit your characters' personalities. The milquetoast won't rise up to lead the army to victory nor will the troll sit down and cry when someone takes his weapon.

This is a good time to have your hero face his weaknesses.

Balance your violence and gore. The amount of each depends upon your audience, though every audience can appreciate a novel with little to no gore.

Use technical terminology with care. It can confuse your reader or make him slow down to understand what you meant. For example, if your reader does not know the difference between spherical case, shot and canister, just say cannonball.

Imagine the weapons these people will use and experience them for yourself. If they're shooting at each other and you've never been to a range, you're writing may have a hollowness about it.

Introduce the unexpected. The combatants will trip, slip, fall, hurt, bleed and all those other things the fighter never envisioned beforehand.

Fight scenes need to make sense to your reader. A pocketknife probably won't take off the villain's arm.

Make your opponents competent. It's not a fight if a trained soldier takes on a newborn.

Try not to offer too much detail. Allow the reader to visualize as much as you can, so his mind will seek those places most fearful to him.

Remember, for every action, there is a reaction. If he gets punched in the eye, he'll respond in some way.

Spectators are great for telling "what just happened."

One last thought. When the fight is over, show your reader your winner's physical condition. This makes it seem more real to your reader.

Fight scenes can have a powerful and positive effect upon your reader, but not if he doesn't buy it. So, guys, keep it real.

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"

Monday, June 21, 2010

How to Write the End of a Novel

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by. C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

When I finished my first MANUSCRIPT , low those many years ago, I hit the enter key a few times, center aligned my text and typed, "The End." The problem? I'd completed my novel but not my story. I had yet to learn how to write the ending to a NOVEL, and didn't realize it doesn't matter how your novel ends as much as where it ends.

Yes, to finish a novel is one trick, but to end your story is quite another. There are certain aspects to the ending of your novel that should be taken into account before you stop writing. For example, have you used one of the four unacceptable endings?

As to endings, I've found five general types, though I'm certain others would disagree with my evaluation. The ending types I've discovered are:

The hero gets what he desired and ends up happy.
The hero gets what he desired but is not happy about it.
The hero does not get what he desired but is happy about it anyway.
The hero does not get what he desired and is unhappy about it all.
The hero finds his original goals were flawed and now doesn't care if he attains them or not.

Do you see other potential endings?

Now for some tips on how to write the end of a novel.

  1. Make it satisfying to the reader. That is, the good guy wins and the bad guy loses.
  2. Tie up all those proverbial loose ends.
  3. Give your reader enough information so they know the story is over.
  4. Make the ending logical and see that it flows from the preceding parts of the book.
  5. Ensure your ending delivers as much emotion as did the beginning and middle.
  6. With that in mind, make certain your reader feels the same emotions as your hero.
  7. Draw it naturally from your characters' personalities.
  8. Give your reader enough information to envision your characters' futures.
  9. Have your hero solve his own dilemmas.
  10. Resolve all subplots before you end.
  11. Finish with as strong a sentence as you started.
To create that resounding ending you might try these tricks. Create a link between your story and larger issues of life. Think only the strong survive or justice for all. You might have your final sentence reinforce the theme of your story. For example, you may have your love interest tell the hero she'll love him forever, regardless his flaws. You might have your last sentence explain the title or maybe have it restate your first line. Any of these techniques can close a story well if the other aspects to your novel are in good order.

Now, as to those four unacceptable endings? They are:

An unknown character shows up to save the day.
A last minute conflict rears its ugly head but serves no purpose   other than to enhance the climax of your story.
You ignored an implied ending.
You end with a cliffhanger but don't have a sequel ready to go.

I'd like to answer one last question before I close. Must you write, "The End," or some other notation at the end of your novel? It's acceptable if you so wish. However, in my opinion, if you must write it so everyone understands the story is over, the story ain't over.

What ideas might you wish to add as to how to write the end of a novel?

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"