owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Location, location, location.
Yesterday, at Springfield Writers' Guild, one of our members brought in some work, and asked for a critique. Her story line was good, her writing was pretty strong, she had created a character I could care about but, I had to ask myself where was the story happening? What was the location?
It wasn't enough to know that her main character was a Mexican woman with smooth skin, or that she was recently divorced, or that a kind stranger had given her a job as a waitress in his truckstop. I wanted to know, where in the sam hill we were in her world. Later, I think it was said the story was taking place in southern California, which is a great location, completely appealing.
Your readers want to know about location. They're interested. This is where our writer fell down a bit. Had she given us a little Spanish here and there, described a cactus or a plant that grows in southern California, we would have known where we were, and quite honestly, felt a little more secure in the story. Not knowing your location is sort of like taking a trainride to nowhere in the fog. There's something swarming all around you, but you can't really grasp it or see through it, and after awhile, you feel chilled, and maybe you want a blanket.
Location. Look around the world of your characters. Is there dialect, speech patterns, learned mispronounciations? Physically, is it desert, tropical, cityscape? What nuances of the location mesh up with your characters?
There's also a "why;" why is this location important? Is it generational? Had they always been there? Is someone starting over, making a new start, as in the main character of our writer's story? Why is it important?
So, think about location as you create your stories. Clue your reader in. It'll give your story more depth and hold your reader's attention for a longer period of time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Point of View

Several years ago I was so, so fortunate to be able to attend the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, held annually in Colorado Springs. I can't remember now how many years ago this was; I remember I had a different employer at that time, and how I thought I was the next Nicholas Sparks, whose writing I now don't admire very much, point being, what a greenhorn I was.

I arrived at the convention, starry-eyed, stomach fluttering, convinced that I held the next Great American Novel in my hands, and (ta-da!) I got a pitch with Jessica Faust, and then one with Lily Ghahremani, and both of them told me I was toast. "What is your point of view," Lily wanted to know. "I just don't get it."

What??? I'd written the next greatest American Novel Ever. Point of View? Seriously?

Yup. You see, I had confused them both, and therefore, they declined representation of my manuscript.

Point of View determines how your story is going to be told; therefore, it's important to know what point of view to choose. Below is a brief synopsis of point of view.

First Person - this is the most intimate point of view because you see the story through this person's eyes. This point of view uses the "I" stance. It can be limiting as you will only see the story from one point of view; thus, other characters' thoughts, feelings and ambitions won't be seen.

Second Person - told from the standpoint of "You." Not used in fiction writing much; this is for more instructional work.

Omniscient - this point of view knows all. This is sort of a nineteenth century tool, and not used a lot these days either.

Third Person - sort of a compromise between first person and omniscient, and is used the most today by fiction writers. With this point of view, you can move back and forth between characters and the unique way each of them act and react. As you are head-hopping with this point of view, the main thing is, don't make it confusing for your readers as to whose head you're in now. If you suddenly switch midstream, your reader will be confused, and likely, put the book down.

So, how do you choose a point of view? I've been told to choose the character who has the most to lose, but no matter what your story is about, the point of view you choose will determine how the story is written.