Monday, January 4, 2010

Mystery Solved - Staying in Point of View the Ghost Method By Brynna Curry

A Guest Posting by Brynna Curry

It's finally happened. You've sent out dozens of polished queries to your 'hit list' of agents and/or publishers; one has asked to see more. A few chapters stand between you and possibly realizing your dream of becoming a published author. You feel confident as you press send or hand your package to the mail carrier, but a long several months later Ms. Agent sends back a form rejection. You might cry, go for the the ice cream or cheesy comedy flick to get past it and then you begin to wonder why? 

In this day and age, if you approach an editor or agent you'd better bring your A game. The last thing you want to do is give them cause to toss your precious baby, er manuscript, in the rejection pile. Are you guilty of point of view slips, more commonly known as head-hopping? We'll call it POV for short. I think POV may be one of the hardest elements of writing to learn and just like anything else to do it well you must practice. There are no shortcuts around it, but if you master POV, you'll find other common problems correct themselves or in the least show up as obvious errors. 

Here are some tips to help give you a better perspective. I like to use the ghost method to stay in POV (in case you're wondering I made that up. Someone else may have already thought of this, but I promise it does work.) 
  • Omniscient POV - Pretend for a moment the world inside your manuscript is a square box. You, the author, are a ghost or spirit hovering box. You represent the storyteller or narrator. You see, hear, and know everything happening inside the box. The nature of this position lends to a lot of telling instead of showing and passive phrase something you definitely don't want.
Inside the box there are four types of characters you are allowed to possess, hero, heroine, villian, and supporting persons. 
  • First Person POV -  You have entered the box. With first person you may possess one character only for the entire length of the novel, but once you are in possession of that character, all your awesome omniscient powers vanish. You can only experience the world from that character's point of view. Alot of the YA books I've read are in first person, usually the heroine's, such as Twilight for example. 
  • Third Person POV - Say for instance you'd rather alternate between your main characters' personalities. You may possess any of the characters now, but who you choose depends on the genre you are writing. Romance normally alternates between the hero and heroine while crime fiction would show predominately the hero and villain. Remember to keep scene and POV switches smooth. Choppy transitions are as difficult to read as it would be for a ghost to constantly switch hosts. The same rule for first applies here too. You can only see, think, feel and hear what the character in possession experiences. Unless the character is using telepathy or some other extrasensory ability, if so you need to make it clear beforehand.
Most adult contemporary, romance and suspense are written in deep third. While first and omniscient POV are fairly straightforward, third POV is the most difficult to master in my opinion. Keeping character voice consistent when switching from hero to heroine isn't easy.  Switching between the them too often can throw the reader out of your story.

  • Second person - Is all about you. Second is like adding the reader to the box and story. Reader inclusion to me is like bringing the reader into the story and then putting them in a bubble. They can experience the story through the character's eyes. They are just stuck there waiting for everything to play out. It's also frowned on by many publishing houses (I won't say all). It does have uses however, especially in instructional writing. 
Thanks for allowing me to join you today. 

Excerpt of To Take Up the Sword

 Lea fished her keys out of the pocket of her windbreaker and unlocked the front door of her sweet little house. Uneasiness swept over her for the second time this morning. Turning, she scanned the empty street behind her. Nothing looked out of the ordinary as far as she could tell. At six-thirty, it was too early for the school bus riders in her neighborhood to be waiting outside.
She’d be at her desk in her warm classroom if she hadn’t forgotten the graded test papers. Those really needed to be added to the signed papers she sent out over the weekend.Though it was an hour before she’d have to report to her first class, she’d go in at seven o’clock to catch up on grading homework. The smell of Dunkin Donuts’ coffee and sweets lingered on her jacket, beckoning her back to the car. She just had to get one thing she’d forgotten.
Opening the door, Lea froze. Oh my God! What had happened to her house? She picked her way over the broken glass of an old vase in the foyer and looked into the living room. Couch cushions were ripped apart, stuffing all over the floor. Mirrors, shattered lamps tossed into corners. As she picked her way through the destruction of her home, down the hall she found her office and bedroom the same way. Completely trashed. She’d never get the blood out of her clothes or mattress. Were the criminals who’d done this still here? Why would they want to attack her home?
Unless... This was about Serena’s statue. Lea thought back to the last meeting with her sister here in her home.
“Lea, I need a favor, a gigantic one.” Lea watched Serena’s red curls
bounce aroun d her face as she emphatically pleaded with her sister.
“Sissy, calm down, I’ll do it if I can.” Lea noticed Serena kept her back to
the wall, alternately looking between the windows and her watch.
Serena thrust a statue into her arms. “Keep this safe and with you always.
Never let anyone know you have it. When I need it I’ll come back for it.”
Lea looked at the cheap trinket curiously and shook it, but it made no sound.
"I will, because it’s important to you. Can you tell me why?”
“No, I can’t. I will return for it, Lea.” A chill went through Lea and she
hugged her sister so tightly she could scarcely breathe. “I love you. I’m sorry to
ask this of you, but I have no one else to trust.”
"Not even your husband? You’re scaring me, Sissy.”
“Especially not Jack, his life depends on it. I know you’re scared. You
need to be. If I don’t come back or you find you’re in danger, go to this man
and only him. Promise me.” She grabbed a ballpoint pen off a nearby table
and scribbled something on the back of a small white square. Serena gave her
Gabriel’s business card. “Tell him who you are. He will help you. I’d trust him
with my life, and in a way I guess I am.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Lea asked.
“I don’t know...” She paused as she opened the door. Her eyes were grav
e as they met Lea’s gaze “Tell no one I was here. We’re estranged. You don’t
know me. No one does, not anymore. Take care, I love you.”
The next time she’d seen Serena was in a casket.

Paranormal romance author, editor and reviewer Brynna Curry is a life long believer in the importance of reading. She enjoys the writing process and helping others hone their craft whether by reviewing published novels, critiquing raw manuscripts or serving as a contest judge. She is the author of the Elemental Magic Series. When she isn't writing Brynna enjoys spending time with her children at the park and local library. She makes her home in northern Alabama with her husband, son, two daughters, and their redbone hound Diablo.