Tag Archives: novel

Learning How to Write Fiction Again: Point of View

Yesterday I hinted that I’ve dusted off one of my old novels for [some more] editing. I don’t do a lot of fiction writing, but I do a lot of fiction reading, and it’s helping me see what kind of edits I need to make. Sometimes the edits I need to make are painfully basic. It’s like I need an re-introduction to the elements of fiction writing.

Point of view is one of the big issues I’m dealing with.

It’s pretty important because it determines how the reader views things and decides what you’re allowed to see and what you’re allowed to know. There’s the basic first person (I say this, I do that, I jump up and get down) vs. third person (he says this, he does that, look at him jump up and get down) decision, which I managed to do OK. Yay for me.

But when you choose third person, you’ve got three options: Omniscient (you know everything), limited omniscient (you know what one character thinks) and objective (you only know what you can see). There are pros and cons to each, but you’ve got to pick one and stick with it (duh).

My story basically went with omniscient. But then I mostly followed a single character, making it feel like limited omniscient and confusing people whenever I “head jumped” to a different character. Oops.

Nathan Bransford has a good quick summary of omniscient vs. limited omniscient, and sadly it’s something I need to re-familiarize myself with.

I feel like I need a fiction primer that does more than my elementary school book on writing and defines things, but goes that step further to tell me the pros and cons, the tips on how to do it better, the pitfalls to avoid. I suppose that’s called being a writer and working on this stuff more than once a year.

Lessons From a Reader: Don’t Remind Me It’s a Book

I’ve read multiple books lately where a character compares their life to a movie or book.

“I felt like a character in a book…”

No, you are a character in a book!

Every time I just want to shout: But you are a character in a book!

How ridiculous for an author to have their characters compare their life to other stories, breaking down the imaginary world and flat out reminding me that I’m reading fiction? Being specific and comparing your drama to Hamlet or your overbearing parent to 1984 is one thing, but the generic, “felt like the twisting plot of an action movie” is just bad.

One book I was reading did it multiple times, using it as an excuse to explain plot lines.

Another book literally said, “as if I were a character in a sci-fi.” She was a character in a sci-fi!

Ug. I cringe every time as a reader.

But as a writer, I’ve done it myself. I was working on editing one of my novels recently (a task I always seem to take up again and never seem to finish) and came across several instances where I did it. Cringe. Marked for editing.

I can see how it might be a natural reaction. We’re so inundated with stories that it’s only normal to compare our lives to them. But it just kills the illusion and world building that happens in fiction. It’s lazy. Find another way to say it.

NaNoWriMo is Coming

November is National Novel Writing Month. I participated (and won!) in 2004, 2006 and 2008. If you noticed a pattern, then yes, I do it every even-numbered year and that means doing it again in 2010.

For the un-initiated, this means writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words per day. It’s a lot of work and the results can be pretty messy, but you end up with a novel. That’s cool. It’s about forcing yourself through the process and arriving somewhere at the end. It’s not about creating a perfectly polished product. It’s about diving in with a crazy but do-able plan and making it happen. Sometimes I think about applying the NaNoWriMo approach to other ventures.

Just like last time, I have no idea what I’m going to write. Not having an idea to percolate in the back of my head throughout October made things harder last time, so I hope I come up with something soon. Unfortunately, I keep catching myself coming up with weird ideas. Like exploring some strange new kind of storytelling (that kind of experimentation probably isn’t a good idea when you need to be cranking out 1,667 words every day like a writing machine) or turning this into yet another fundraiser (part of me thinks writing a novel when I should be paying the bills is foolish).

So we’ll see where NaNoWriMo 2010 takes us.