Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with the Multi-talented Author, Devon Monk

Devon and I first met when I asked her to write a story for my anthology, Fantasy Gone Wrong. She wrote “Moonlighting” for me, and I’ve been a fan of her stories ever since. She is such a warm, kind person and a very talented author. We’re pleased to have her as our guest today. 🙂

 

Devon Monk

Devon Monk writes the Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy series, the Age of Steam steampunk series, and the occasional short story.  She has one husband, two sons, and a dog named Mojo. She lives in Oregon and is surrounded by colorful and numerous family members who mostly live within dinner-calling distance of each other. She has sold over fifty short stories to magazines and anthologies in five different countries, including a Year’s Best Fantasy collection.  When not writing, Devon is either knitting strange things, remodeling the house-that-was-once-a-barn, or hosting a family celebration. Visit her online at: www.devonmonk.com or www.deadlinedames.com

 

WD: Has your family always been supportive?

DM: My family has always been supportive of my writing. But you know, writing as a career doesn’t follow a by-the-book (ha! Pun!) career path with easily definable markers. Writing for a living took me down many different roads before it became something that paid the bills on a regular basis. And while my family was always supportive of me, I think they were even more excited when the job I’d been pursuing for seventeen years turned into a full-time paying gig.

WD: How did you get started with the blog at Deadline Dames?

DM: I had just sold the first three books in the Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy series, and was starting to “meet” other urban fantasy writers online through various blogs and such. Some of my agency mates and I tossed around the idea of a group blog and started the Deadline Dames.

WD: What are your favorite types of posts?

DM: Although I love talking about writing and my process, my favorite posts are the ones where readers get excited and leave comments. Those are usually the posts that cover everything from our hobbies, to our favorite TV shows, to books we are currently reading.

WD: What do you enjoy about it most?

DM: I love the interaction with readers and fellow writers. I also love having a little spot on the net where I can celebrate successes and commiserate during hard times with eight other terrific writers. Something I didn’t expect when we started blogging together was how close we’ve come together as friends. The Dames are fantastic about offering support, advice, and sympathetic ears when any of us are dealing with challenges. I can not say this enough–the Dames are terrific writers and the kind of women I’m proud and honored to call friends.

WD: Do you and the other writers see a lot of crossover from readers by doing the blog together?

DM: We do have readers who follow one Dame and try out another Dame’s books, which is always very cool. Sometimes when we gush over an author we love, we’ll have that author’s fans come check us out and give us a try. It’s all about being honest and sharing the things you love.

WD: What drives you to write short stories in so many different genres?

DM: In my opinion short fiction is a free ticket to risk wildly.  I love exploring story structure, style, and concept, and pushing what I think I am capable of writing whenever I write. Short fiction allows me to do all that in a small space and in (hopefully) less time, which feels very rewarding.

WD: Which of your own novels has been your favorite to work on? Or was the most difficult novel to research?

DM: I’ve loved working on all of my novels, though I’ll admit the steampunk series takes a lot more research than the urban fantasy series, and therefore writes more slowly for me. TIN SWIFT, my latest steampunk, felt like it wrote excruciatingly slowly as I watched my deadline tick down.  But when I went back to read it, I was surprised to find it read really fast, with lots of action and pep.

Magic For A Price by Devon Monk

 

WD: What are your favorite events to attend? 

DM: I love big group signings where the energy is high and a lot of people come to the store or convention to browse every book in the place. Smaller signings can be a lot of fun too, and offer a more intimate one-on-one time to talk with readers, which I love.

I think conventions are a lot of fun. Every one is so different I try to sample them all!

Every year I try to attend my local SF/F/H convention. Other types of conventions I’ve enjoyed are steampunk conventions, World Fantasy, WorldCon, romance conventions, comic conventions, writing conferences, and even Book Expo of America.

I attend as a professional guest at some conventions. At others, I just go for the fun of meeting new people, listening to speakers, and immersing myself in all the wonderful aspects of being a writer, reader, and fan.

 

Tin Swift by Devon Monk

WD: What marketing have you/your publisher done for your latest release, Tin Swift?

DM: The most unusual thing I did was write a serialized short story, HANG FIRE, that took place between book one DEAD IRON and book two, TIN SWIFT. It was told in twenty short chunks–a little like a radio show–through my two point-of-view characters, picking up where DEAD IRON ended and ending where TIN SWIFT began.

 

We lined up twenty blogs to each host a piece of the story and offered prizes at each stop. I had a great time writing HANG FIRE, the bloggers liked having original, exclusive material, and readers seemed to enjoy the experience. I think it all went well.

WD: Have you belonged to a writer’s critique group? How has it helped your career?

DM: I have belonged to several critique groups. Some of them were on-line, some were in-person.

The critiques I received over the years were always very helpful, but the surprising thing about critique groups was how much more I learned when I was asked to critique someone else’s story.

The great thing about a critique group is that it allowed me to look at other writers’ stories with a critical eye to see what worked and what didn’t work for me. To give a critique I hoped would be helpful to the writer (whose goal was to publish said story) I would have to explain my experience as a reader, point out where and how the story faltered, and then offer suggestions for what I thought might make the story stronger for me.

Taking apart hundreds, maybe thousands of stories in that way, while listening to other writers do the same all around me (and to me) really helped me understand different ways a story can be built, and different ways an audience can respond to the same story. Critique groups opened my eyes to many wonderful stories and gave me a chance to glimpse the gears beneath the magic.

Thank you, Devon, for taking the time out of your day to be with us today! We wish you the best of success with your writing.

Please feel free to ask questions or post a comment for Devon. Thank you! 🙂

Mary and Rick Roberts

Creative Choices

E. Tip of the Day: Try to avoid using the same word twice in one sentence, or in the same paragraph, if possible. Be creative in your word choices, especially when using verbs.

Example A: She walked to the store and then walked home.

Revision: Sarah went to the store to pick up the needed items to make brownies, then completing her task walked home.

With the revision, it’s much easier for the reader to visualize what the character is doing. The reader doesn’t need to see the inside of the grocery store unless it’s integral to the plot.

Example B: He drove to work, stepping on the gas to get there on time. When he parked, he stepped out of the truck and went up the steps.

Revision: Michael slid into his 4X4 truck, put the vehicle in gear and stepped on the gas. He was late for work again. Speeding through traffic, he was in the parking lot of his office in no time. Jumping out of the truck, he ran up the stairs to the large glass doors of the building adjusting his tie before going inside.

The revision gives the reader a sense of who the character is by showing the details of his day. He was late for work. How did he react? Instead of calling to say he was running late, he sped to work. He’s a character willing to take a risk, but not too great a risk to jeopardize his job.

There also isn’t any redundancy of verbs so the reader isn’t bored. Instead, they are constantly learning about Michael’s character.

Happy Revising!

Mary and Rick Roberts

Edit of the Month for September 2012

For September 2012, our Edit of the Month will be Amateur Sleuth mysteries. We will edit your 75,000 word Amateur Sleuth mystery for $300.00. The edit includes embedded comments using the track changes feature, and a cover letter explaining any overarching issues with the manuscript. We will edit for inconsistencies in the plot/characters, grammar, typos, story depth, and much more. Manuscripts must be received between September 1st and September 30th 2012, and must be 75,000 words or under to receive this rate.

Contact us at brittiany@writtendreams.com for more details. Thank you!

Mary and Rick Roberts

Teleporting Characters

E. Tip of the Day: If you’re writing a science fiction novel, teleporting can be a great mode of transportation. However, if you’re writing a contemporary, historical, or any other genre and there’s not a time travel device anywhere in the story, you may want to rethink how your characters are getting from Point A to Point B. Make it clear your characters are not teleporting as a way to get around and showing up in the middle of the beach when they haven’t left home yet.

Not every action needs to be shown but when the characters seem like they “teleport” somewhere you may want to show the action how they traveled from Point A to Point B.

Inspirational Photo of the Week taken at Haigh Quarry in Illinois.

 

 

 

 

 

Where would this path lead your character?

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday An Interview with Helen Osterman About Her Character, Emma Winberry

I first met Helen a few years ago when I edited her novel,  The Stranger in the Opera House and we became fast friends. We’ve been working together ever since. To date, I’ve edited three of Emma’s stories, and Emma Winberry is one of my favorite characters. 🙂

Helen Macie Osterman

Helen Osterman lives in a suburb of Chicago. She has five children and nine grandchildren. She received a Bachelor of Nursing degree from Mercy Hospital-St. Xavier College. During her training, she spent three months at Chicago State Mental Hospital for her psychiatric rotation. Years later, she earned a Master’s Degree from Northern Illinois University. Throughout her forty-five year nursing career, she wrote articles for both nursing and medical journals. She is the author of the Emma Winberry Mystery series. The Accidental Sleuth, 2007 and The Stranger in the Opera House, 2009, The Elusive Relation, 2011, Emma Winberry and the Evil Eye, Sept. 2012. Helen is a member of The American Association of University Women, The Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and The Authors Guild. Visit her website at: helenosterman.com

WD: What made you interested in writing?

HO: As a child I loved to read and make up imaginary characters in my head. I used to tell myself stories. I was an avid reader. My best friend was the library. One time, I got a group of neighborhood children together and we wrote a short play. We put it on in someone’s basement for our parents. I don’t remember the story line, but it was a huge success.

WD: Do you write every day?

HO: I try to write every day or two, depending on my schedule. I’m a morning person and the words flow better at 6 AM with a cup of coffee. I write my first draft long hand. I cannot create on a machine. The second draft goes into the computer using four fingers. I never learned to type. I print it out, let it sit for a few weeks, then revise and revise and…revise.

WD: What other books have you written?

HO: Besides the cozy mysteries, I wrote a paranormal/historical: Notes in a Mirror, in 2009. It is about two student nurses doing their three month psychiatric rotation in a state mental hospital in 1950. I was a student at that time, so it is based on some of my experiences. There were no tranquilizers in 1950, so the treatments were archaic and dangerous. I wove a ghost into the story to widen the appeal. I’m sure there were many entities roaming around that place.

Song of the Rails, a Love Story, was published in 2010. It is partly autobiographical and a very personal story about an abused wife who, with the help of friends, finds the strength to reinvent herself. If I can help one woman who reads this book to leave an abusive relationship, I will have accomplished my goal. It is the only book I’ve written in the first person.

WD: How old were you when you started writing Emma’s series?

HO: Let’s just say, if I decided to write about a senior citizen, I had to be in her age group. A thirty year old can’t possibly understand the problems that face someone in her sixties.

WD: How did you come up with Emma Winberry?

HO: That’s an interesting question. Emma took up residence in my head long before I wrote about her. I knew what she looked like: thin and shaped like Olive Oyl; knew she had a ‘sixth sense’ and talked with her Guardian Angel. I felt that made her unique. The problem was, I didn’t know where she belonged. I tried different settings, but nothing worked. Until I put her in the opera.

WD: Are you in Emma’s head, or is Emma in your head when you write her stories?

HO: A little bit of both. Emma always seems to be with me. Sometimes I ask myself, “What would Emma do in this situation?” It’s very difficult for me to separate myself from a character I’ve known for so long.

WD: What did you do to research Emma’s Guardian Angel?

HO: I grew up with Guardian Angels. In grade school the nuns told us we had a special angel protecting us at all times. So the concept came naturally.

WD: How do you research your novels set in other places outside the United States, such as in The Elusive Relation and Emma Winberry and The Evil Eye?

I have always loved research in general. I enjoy the challenges of learning something new.  For The Elusive Relation, I spent three weeks in London. I have an advantage in that my youngest daughter lives there. Each day I visited one of the places that I portrayed in the book. I strove for accuracy. If I made an error describing St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of my readers would be sure to catch it.

I spent two days in the village of Roydon where most of the action takes place. Again, my daughter’s friends, the Paxtons, actually own the house on the cover of the book. It was originally built in 1534.

I had fun calling Scotland Yard and the Essex Police and Fire Departments. When I identified myself as an American author, they graciously gave me all the information I needed.

For Emma Winberry and The Evil Eye, I read a number of books about Sicily and the distinctive dialect. I grew up in an Italian family, but my mother was from Naples. Each area of Italy has its own pronunciation and spelling. It goes back to the time when Italy was divided into city states, each with its own language. The Internet is filled with information about The Evil Eye, The Malocchio. My grandmother attributed it to every misfortune.

The next book takes Emma and Nate on a sailboat in the Caribbean. Again, I have a son who lives on a 49 foot sailboat. He and his wife  are accomplished sailors and cruise the Caribbean. I’ve been on the boat twice for the experience and research.

WD: What is the best fan letter you’ve received?

HO: I was interviewed on Skype by a sixth grade class doing a writing project. One of the girls sent me a letter telling me how much fun it was and she liked the fact that I took my characters to different places.

WD: What are the challenges you face when looking for a publisher for a senior citizen character book series?

HO: Some publishers see the baby boomer generation looking toward older protagonists. One agent was excited about the senior protagonist, another, ambivalent. It all comes down to sales. Many readers in my age group are pleased with an older character. Remember, Miss Marple is still around.

WD: If you could see Emma wear any outfit in your closet, what would it be?

HO: My tee shirt that read: The Emma Winberry Mystery Series. An angel on top and one below.

WD: What is Emma’s favorite meal?

HO: Emma loves to cook, anything and everything. Most of all, she enjoys making her famous muffins. A lunch for Emma would consist of a cup of tea, a muffin and a banana.

WD: What age exactly is Emma?

HO: Emma starts out being sixty-ish. I don’t tell her exact age because, I’m not sure. She’s healthy and keeps herself in good shape by doing yoga and walking. But, she does take a few too many chances.

One thing I have to remember is to age her grandchildren. Even though Emma can remain the same approximate age, children change rapidly from year to year.

WD: What’s in Emma’s future?

HO: I’m working on the last book in the series now. I’ve heard that after the sixth book, a series tends to deteriorate. So, book number six will be the last. Unless I have an Epiphany.

WD: What advice would you give to writers writing about a senior citizen character?

HO: If you want to write about a senior, it’s best if you are one yourself. Otherwise, get involved with active senior groups. There are plenty of them around.

WD: Thank you, Helen, for penning such wonderful stories and taking the time to be with us today. Emma has certainly brightened many of my days with her wit and talents. Feel free to leave a comment or question for Helen. Thank you!

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday Guestblogger Capri Smith On Writing Emotion

I met Capri Smith recently when Written Dreams made a donation to the Brenda Novak On-line Auction for Diabetes. I’ve asked her to blog today for two reasons.

1) That no matter what the odds are against you, there’s always a way to write if you’re determined to be published. Persistence is an important quality to have as a writer.

2) Writing from the heart shows through to your readers. If there’s no emotion, a story can be flat and uninspiring. If the writing gets deep into the emotion of the characters, the reader feels those emotions along with the character–living, breathing, feeling every moment. As an editor, my personal favorites are tear-jerker moments. If a writer can make me cry, she’s done her job right. 🙂

Capri Smith is a writer and secular homeschooling mother of four. Her youngest daughter, Keke, was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in August, 2006. Since then, Capri has been a pioneer in the use of diabetic alert dogs. Their service dog, Teddy Bear, has kept Keke seizure free for over three years. A book that includes his story is due out in the near future. When Capri is not focusing on her kids, she can usually be found holed up in her bedroom typing out her thrillers. On her door hangs a sign – “Interruptions Tolerated for:  Fires, Profuse Bleeding, or Blood Sugar Issues Only.” Teddy Bear is the only one who complies. Visit Capri’s blog at http://www.caprismith.com/

I was acting in a movie, one of the star parts. In the scene that we were performing, I was the mom racing on crutches no less—behind a gurney that held a little blond girl. The nurses clutched the side-rails and bolted down the corridor in front of me.  A petite, pony-tailed nurse straddled the little girl, bagging her, and swaying as she rode along on the wild teacup ride towards the ICU. The floors we moved along were slick and the crutches that I was supposed to balance on slipped out from under me crashing me to the floor. I rolled and tried to get up, but this wasn’t really a movie, and up was very far away.

A month earlier, my daughter, Keke, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. T1 is very different from the diabetes of Paula Dean and Halle Berry. T1 is an around-the clock, never-give-up, no-holds-barred fight. And in that moment, the fight was life or death, and the doctors had prepared me for death to win. Keke was comatose.

I am a homeschooling mom and a thriller writer. I spend my days checking blood glucose numbers, teaching algebra, and writing scenes—like the one above that I lived through not so long ago. It’s not often that I actually write about diabetes. I take refuge in my writing and writing about the monster that stalks us gives me no respite from the constancy of the disease.

I do use my experiences in my fiction, though—panic, terror, impuissance, strain, exhaustion… I know these emotions so well. I can easily write how it feels to think you can lean on your highly intelligent spouse only to watch his brain abandon him, as he calls 911 and forgets his daughter’s name and age. Or to think that as a parent you are the strong one – but then your nine-year-old uses his hands to force fear-frozen legs into motion, sliding forward to save the day as the paramedics’ sirens wail closer.

It’s all fodder for my books—though I’d give almost anything to just be able to make it all up.

Writing and being the mom to a disabled child are roles that often stand in opposition. For me the biggest issue is the sleepless nights. It’s like being the mom to an infant who never grows big enough to sleep until morning. I check Keke’s blood frequently through the night. To miss a low could mean we’d lose her. We have a diabetes alert dog, Teddy Bear, who shares my vigilance. And often it’s his clickity-clacking in the halls that pulls me from my dreams.

Exhaustion makes me fall asleep in front of my computer. The imprint of my key board is impressed on my cheek as I type this. Sometimes I just can’t keep my eyes open. Other times, fatigue creates brain-fog that muffles already ambiguous words and awkward reasoning. But it doesn’t stop me from writing. Because I love writing. And because it’s mine.

I guess the other side of the coin is that sometimes I am excited–tapping out the perfect plot twist, my characters yelling at each other as they go fisticuffs in a fabulous brawl. Jazzed by the vivid scene, I am deep in my own world, then yanked back to reality when Teddy Bear comes to alert, or my daughter yells, “Mom, I need help.” It feels like someone is throwing a pail of water on the fire of my imagination. But I can use those feelings, too. I’ll just remember how the annoyance tightens my jaw and heats my blood, and then how quickly my body chills when I see the low number show up on her blood meter. How it actually feels to run hot then cold. As I type these words, I’m thinking that I actually have the perfect place to insert those feelings—a scene that I’ve been frustrated with…

My goal each day—whether writing from a place of inspiration or a place of sleep deprived, muddled confusion—is to write for six hours. Sometimes this comes at three in the morning, when Keke’s having a bad night. Sometimes I get to sit down at nine a.m. and type straight through lunch. I’ve learned to take everything day to day. And that’s okay, because what’s a day without writing?

Thank you, Capri, for sharing such intimate details of your life and showing us how precious every moment can be. You are an inspiration to moms/writers everywhere! We wish you all the best in the hopes of finding a cure!

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

August 2012 Edit of the Month

Exciting news for writers!

Here at Written Dreams, Lara and I want to be able to help as many writers as we can put forth a well-written story. We know editing fees are something writers may dread due to the sometimes heavy costs.

Every month we will post on our Facebook page the current sub-genre that is the Edit of the Month. August 2012’s sub-genre is Romantic Suspense. Send us your 60,000 word or less romantic suspense manuscript anytime in the month of August 2012 and the rate for editing will be $250.00. This rate includes a cover letter explaining any over-arching issues. The manuscript will be edited using the tracked changes feature and will include embedded comments in the margins.

Manuscripts can be sent to brittiany@writtendreams.com. Please type Edit of the Month in the subject line.

For manuscripts longer than 60,000 words, please query us for an estimate. Thank you!

August's Inspirational Photo Taken in Illinois at Haigh Quarry
Mary and Rick Roberts

Consistency and Convenience

E. Tip of the Day: Proofread your story for more than just typos. Look for inconsistencies and convenient placement of objects and actions. Convenient placements and inconsistencies in the plot can push the suspension of disbelief or even pull your reader out of the story.

Here’s an example:

Consistency:

End of Chapter 1:

Before going to bed, Brenda realized she didn’t have coffee for the morning and George was planning to be over early.

 

Beginning of Chapter 2:

The next morning, Brenda woke up to the smell of coffee.

“Good morning,” George said. “I made coffee. Would you like a cup?” he asked coming into the bedroom. “I found some in the cabinet.”

As an editor my comment would be: How did George find coffee in the cabinet when Brenda was positive the night before she didn’t have any? Please clarify.

Even little errors like this could bother your reader. For this story, having or not having coffee might not be a big deal. But it could be. It could make the reader think Brenda was under too much stress to remember what was in her kitchen cabinets. It could also pull the reader out of the story to think: “So, if this isn’t consistent in the story–a little detail like whether she has coffee or not–what else isn’t consistent? Should I even waste my time reading this book?”

And that’s something no writer ever wants the reader to feel–that their book is not worth the time to read. Because your book is worth it, you just need to take time to read your novel and make sure even the little inconsistencies within the story are clarified.

Convenience: Placing an object or action somewhere without any foreshadowing.

“Good morning,” George said. “I made coffee. Would you like a cup?” he asked coming into the bedroom. “I found some in the back of the cabinet.”

“Thanks.” Brenda said.

Let’s just use this line of dialogue and forget about the thought Brenda had about not having coffee the night before. Let’s say it’s never been mentioned at all what she drinks at home. For all we know she may drink vodka for breakfast. The reader has no idea.

As an editor my comment could be: That Brenda drinks coffee for breakfast should be mentioned sooner. Otherwise it feels like it’s conveniently placed to have it here. George conveniently found the coffee in the cabinet. Sometimes things that are convenient can push the suspension of disbelief for the reader. It’s important for the writer to be aware of this.

A better example for a mystery novel might be: She pulled the gun out of the drawer and pointed it at the intruder.

If the gun had never been looked or mentioned in the previous chapters, that would be a convenient placement.

It’s impossible to foreshadow every little detail, so as a writer you have to pick your battles and go with your gut on the important issues. The characters wear clothing, have a home, etc.

When editing, if I get a feeling that something doesn’t feel right, I’ll let the author know. It’s important to me as an editor to tell the author what feels odd or awkward or convenient so they’re aware of how the reader may react to that part of the story.

If you have specific questions on a scene in your novel that may have either too many inconsistencies or convenient placements, we’d be happy to take a look and let you know what we find.

 

 

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday Guestblogger Terry Odell with Tips on Point of View

Today we welcome romantic suspense author, Terry Odell. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of editing several of Terry’s novels, including Where Danger Hides, which won the the 2012 Romantic Suspense Holt Medallion Award. To learn more about Terry’s novels, visit her website at: http://terryodell.com

http://terryodell.com/blog1/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/portrait3_200x300.jpg Terry Odell was born in Los Angeles, moved to Florida, and now makes her home in Colorado. An avid reader she always wanted to “fix” stories so the characters did what she wanted. Once she began writing, she found this wasn’t always possible, as evidenced when the mystery she intended to write rapidly became a romance. Although her genre is labeled “romantic suspense”, Terry prefers to think of her books as “Mysteries With Relationships.” Her titles include her Blackthorne, Inc. series, her Pine Hills Police Series, as well as other stand alone titles. Look for her newest release, NOWHERE TO HIDE, a spinoff of her Pine Hills Police series.

 

Point of view (POV) is the vantage point from which we show a section of the story to the reader—and it’s one of the hardest things to deal with when we write.

Usually, we only tell the story through the eyes of one character—or at least one character at a time. When we switch back and forth, the reader is jerked from one person’s head to the other, and it’s hard to develop empathy for either character.

Using POV

If we’ve chosen to use our heroine’s POV, then the reader will see what the heroine sees, hear what the heroine hears, and know most of what the heroine’s thinking.

The reader won’t know what anyone else is thinking, or what’s happening behind the heroine’s back, or what’s said after she leaves the room. If the heroine doesn’t see it, hear it, smell it or taste it, then it can’t happen for the reader—not in that scene, at least.

So how do you show the other character’s state of mind (like the hero)? We’ll know his state of mind by what he says, what he does, how he acts, and what the heroine thinks about it.

Let’s try an example. Sally’s the heroine, and she has just confronted Joe, the hero, about a lie she thinks he’s told her. Sally’s the POV character.

  • Include Sally’s words. (“Why did you lie to me, Joe?”)
  • Include her feelings as she works herself up to express herself. (Should she say it? Her head feels like it’s going to burst. Maybe it would be better to stay silent because he’ll only lie to her again.)
  • Describe what she sees. (Joe’s jaw sets. The corner of his mouth twitches. He looks away instead of straight at her. His knuckles go white.)
  • Include what she thinks. (He’s looking away rather than at me, so that must mean he’s admitting he was lying, or he’d look me in the eye.)

In Sally’s POV, we never include what Joe’s thinking—we don’t know if he’s feeling guilty for lying, or upset because he has been unjustly accused—and we don’t need to know. Knowing what everybody’s thinking will throw all the suspense right out the window. We know what Sally thinks, but we don’t know whether she’s right. And that makes readers want to keep turning the pages!

Types of POV

The most commonly used in fiction are first person (where the character tells the story as if talking to the reader) and third person (where a narrator describes what’s going on, sort of like a radio announcer doing the play-by-play of a basketball game).

Most romance novels use third person (Jane walked down the street), though chick lit often uses first person (I walked down the street).

In general, in a romance you’ll alternate between the hero’s POV or the heroine’s throughout the book. In longer books, you may go into the head of a significant secondary character who’s the pivot point of the story. But if a character only shows up in one scene, then it’s unlikely we get to hear her private thoughts. We’ll only hear what she actually says, or see her actions. The rule of thumb is that the POV character is the most important character in the scene.

Mystery novels often use first person, and the story is told from the POV of the detective. This is closest to reality, because the reader doesn’t get to know what’s happening until the detective does. However, third person also works well in mystery, especially when the author uses a deep POV.

Finally there’s a POV which tells everybody’s thoughts and actions. It’s called omniscient POV. Trouble is, the reader knows too much about what’s going on inside everybody’s head, and at the same time the reader doesn’t have a personal connection with any one of the characters. That’s why most entertainment fiction is written from one POV (or one at a time, with only a few total) and often with a very distinctive voice that draws the reader into the story and invites him/her to be the character’s friend.

Multiple POVs

As much as we try to stay in one character’s POV, sharing only their thoughts and feelings and impressions is difficult.

If you have your heroine thinking and then say, “She didn’t hear the hero coming up behind her,” if she didn’t hear it, then we’re suddenly outside her POV.

We do have to know what’s going on in all of our characters’ minds all the time, in order to select what they’re going to say, what they’re going to do, how they’re going to react. So it’s simple to let something the hero is thinking sneak into a scene where the author should only be giving the heroine’s thoughts.

Think about what your POV character can see and hear. If he can’t see it or doesn’t hear it, then you’ve shifted POVs. You can test for this by reading your scene aloud in the first person. If your scene is supposed to be the heroine’s POV and you’re reading, “I said… I moved…” and then suddenly you get to “he thought”—that’s a POV shift.

Of course, it is possible to have many POVs represented in one book. But it must be done judiciously and on purpose. The authors who do it well generally switch only a time or two during a scene (not with every speech) and only at places where it’s critically important to see what’s going on in the other character’s mind. If you’re writing suspense, it’s almost mandatory to show multiple POVs, because by definition, suspense means the reader is a step ahead of the action. Most suspense novels show the villain’s POV, so the reader knows what’s coming, and has to hope the protagonist will figure it out in time.

To switch POVs, you can always start a new scene. Starting too many new scenes, however, can make your story choppy and jerky. If you’re skilled, you learn how to lead your reader from one character’s head to another without scene or chapter breaks. But again, you have to be careful to do this seamlessly, and only when a POV change moves the story forward.

Are there rules? No. If your reader can follow your POV shifts, then you’ve done your job. But if you’re just starting out, it’s better to limit your POV characters and make your changes at logical breaks.

Nowhere to Hide     Deadly Secrets

Thank you, Terry, for joining us today. If you have questions or comments for Terry about her novels, or about point of view, please feel free to post them. Thank you!

 

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

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