Right. So now that I think I’m back on track again and doing what I used to do, before this self-improvement goal of mine began and then derailed, I ended up spending about four hours last night re-writing chapter 1 … for the 9th time.
Last night was both productive and enjoyable. Not easy, though.
As I worked, using my new knowledge about POV, I started to realize where my mistakes were made and as I went along, what I couldn’t see before suddenly became more clear to me.
I’ll quote my son at this point, to give you his perspective on the way my mind works:
…bounce bounce jump fall swing fly bounce jump run next next next, mode.
This had me in tears and stitches for awhile, I laughed so hard. But, he’s got a point. This is likely to be the main culprit of my inability to see things clearly, understand instructions because I hear them in a foreign language, and to concentrate on what I’m doing without wandering or deviating from one form to another within the same body of work.
My initial confusion about POV wasn’t that I had no idea what it is or how it’s used, but that I distinguish it from perspective. Similar, maybe, but still distinct in meaning. 3rd Person allows for the voices of more than just one, including the author’s. I simply chose when the character spoke or thought and then interceded on their behalf other times.
The need, habit, whatever, of injecting opinion or embellishment in my writing comes in not seeing when or where to transfer those same emotions, sights, and sounds to the character’s perspective. It always seemed odd to me that one of them should ‘stop and smell the roses‘, and that those moments were better left to the writer before moving on to whatever the characters need to say or do next.
At least I get it now, which made the edit difficult but fun because I had to look more closely at my writing, find where I made these mistakes, and then try and come up with the right and effective way to word things so that Neal did all the explaining, thinking, feeling, and doing – not me.
Where I erred was in telling what they were thinking and feeling.
This was the only mistake, though, and I get it now. I am still free to say things like: On that gloriously warm, sunny afternoon, with the birds singing in the budding trees of spring, Neal made his way down 5th Avenue after another successful day at the recording studio. As he turned the last corner and started toward his apartment, he saw someone who looked mighty familiar to him and stopped.
DON’T tell me I can’t.
It’s what comes after this that I need to work on. Neal enters the scene, and now it’s his turn to show/tell everyone reading what is going down, how, and why. HOWEVER, it still isn’t wrong or incorrect for me to say – The sound of a lark hit him. What the -? Realizing he’d been distracted, he quickly returned his dark eyes to what mattered more. Whew. He exhaled with relief. She’s still there.
Again. This isn’t wrong. A little old school maybe, but not wrong.
And, as further proof of it being RIGHT … when in doubt, I refer to books of the same genre and in the same voice. I read and read and read. And this is what reassures and reaffirms that it is right. Not the seven different opinions about the same thing.
Then I began to notice that this new way of writing ended up changing the tense. Passive voice entered the picture, too. I know not to vacillate between past and present tense, but I continue to try and avoid passive voice. This was something I was guilty of years ago, and then it was pointed out in college. I had no idea what it meant or why it was an issue the same way I couldn’t understand how my POV didn’t work.
I get both mistakes now and work hard to keep them out of my work.
I have read and studied examples to know more about POV in 3rd person than I thought I knew, and I’m still right. The people critiquing about it are wrong. 3rd person is less limiting, by the way, and the writer is free to not only inject, but also to use as many POV or as much perspective in the same scene as they desire.
End of discussion.
Then, as I brought my main character into proper perspective, it became clear to me that a lot of my sentences started with He or His.
Another rule that is either evolving, or else the critiquers who are stuck in YA first-person mode don’t know about: to never begin a sentence with a pronoun. When you read 1st person narrative, every paragraph begins with the word “I”, and in 3rd Person, it’s She, He, etc.
Lemon sucking face. No. Rule shift or not, I don’t like it.
My critiquers told me that if I use POV correctly, that I don’t need to keep repeating the names of the characters because the reader will know who is speaking. Which leads me to think I’m right in my hypothesis about YA mentality. Still …
There are quite a few novels – published and free – that caused a great deal of confusion for me without those proper nouns being available. There are 5 people in my chapter 1, and just because it’s Neal’s perspective, that doesn’t mean he’s the only one who can say or do anything. The reader needs to know who is saying what, and he or she isn’t going to help when there are 3 guys and 2 girls in the scene.
Another thing of encouragement and reassurance in my knowledge is the simple yet obvious word: story TELLER.
Which lines up perfectly with my next, solved dilemma. That the critiques are confusing the POV rules with Show vs. Tell.
Point of View needs guidelines in order for your writing to be readable and comprehensive. Tell versus Show is a matter of opinion and not set-in-stone dogma.
Show vs. Tell is the Like or Dislike of the reader. ONLY. Kind of like saying, “I prefer science fiction to paranormal, but if I had to choose between just two, I’d rather read historical romance than YA.”
It is still up to the writer to decide if being pragmatic is for them, writing a lot of Show for the sake of a particular audience, or because their publisher insists they write in order to appeal to that audience.
Most people today would likely tell you that they hate to read SHOW. The cut-to-the-chase mentality of not having the time or inclination to actually get lost in another world for awhile, but to get straight to the point in less than five minutes, otherwise they won’t read past the first, two paragraphs – if that.
More confusing and conflicting information to process and either agree to or dump and move on.
For me, the bottom line in all this is that the WRITER needs to decide why they are writing at all. And, yes, we should keep our audience in mind while doing that writing … but to what extent and for what purpose?
OPINION has zero to do with me or my writing, and that is my bottom line. I can’t and won’t expect for everyone to like what I write. This is lunacy. I will, however, try to write in a way that captivates the most stubborn or shortest of attention spans. Whether they engage in the journey is up to them, not me.
I’ve accomplished the goal of writing an entire story without going back to edit (check), I’ve submitted the work to an outside source that isn’t a fan, to gain new perspective and insight about my writing (check), I learned how to recognize my POV flaw and correct it (check), and I’ve learned how to accept what makes sense and reject what isn’t correct or proper criticism (check).
Now comes the editing and re-editing and reading and re-reading part.