Monday, December 16, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Head Hopping' Quote of the Day...

’Head hopping’ is like ‘bed hopping’…it can get you into a lot of trouble if the new beds are not occupied by the current spouse. However, in either case, it makes life more interesting.”
Vince Mooney

Writing Quote of the Day...

“Writing with charm is writing with magical delight.”
Vince Mooney

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On Breaking Writing Rules…

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child."
1 Corinthians 13:11

Many writing rules are actually the children of more encompassing parent rules. For example, the rule that one should not employ more than one POV per scene is the child of the parent rule that states that one should not confuse the reader by making it unclear which character is having which thoughts.

Obviously, if a reader can’t tell which character is having which thoughts, then the reader will be drawn out of the story in a confusing effort to determine what’s happening. This is a most damaging type of alienation (anything that reminds the reader that she is reading a story) and doing this can cause the reader to throw the book against the wall. (Fortunately, book throwing happens  much less often given the growing popularity of eBooks.)

A writer can always choose to obey ‘child’ rules and all will be fine. Beginning writers are especially advised to do so. However, a more experienced writer can choose to obey the superseding parent rule and ignore the child rule.

For example, a writer might have a pivotal scene where four characters learn that they each have totally misunderstood a situation and now in this one scene they will learn the truth. The thoughts of each character, as the truth becomes evident, may well provide very exciting reading. The reader may very much want to know how each character will react to having been so totally wrong.


In this case, under the governing parent rule, the writer could employ four different POVs in the same tightly written scene. This is not really a case of breaking the ‘child’ rule against using more than one POV in a scene because a parent rule always has supremacy over child rules.

In order to use four different POVs, one after the other, in one scene the author would have make it crystal clear which thoughts belong to which character.  Given the situation in the above example, making each POV change crystal clear should not present a major problem to the experienced writer. Indeed, the context of the above example almost demands such a POV-changing approach.

The real danger of changing POVs too often within a scene is that it may seem willy-nilly while also diminishing the impact of the story.
Writers who knowingly follow parent rules should not be thought of as ‘lawless mavericks’ whose high sales volume gives them license to break all the rules. It is the parent rules themselves that allow writers to bypass the rules of their children.

Yes, but…

What about the making of several POV changes in the opening scene of a novel when the author wants to quickly establish the identity of the major character in the story?

In this case the parent rule still applies. If it is important to have four different POVs in one scene, as the novel opens, then the scene must make it clear who is thinking what thoughts. It is also important that all the POV character thoughts point to the major character.
Obviously, doing this gets increasingly harder to accomplish the more POV changes the author  attempts to make.  And while this may be difficult, it’s not impossible.

For example:

The main POV character enters a room where a cocktail party is going on. Two women and a man look at her as she makes her entrance.

Mary Jones entered the room on shaky legs. It took her just three seconds to spot three enemies. I was crazy to come here.

The hostess, Sally Grant, noticed Mary and gasped loud enough to be heard over the noise of the room. Her full glass of red wine fell to the floor. As if frozen in place Sally never looked down at her new white carpet. All she could see was that woman. What does that slut want here? Mary Jones at my party? It’s already a scandal.

Robert Smith heard Sally’s gasp -- the room fell silent. Robert slowly turned his head and even through the haze of far too much alcohol, he recognized the newcomer.  Mary Jones here? Tonight? Is she crazy? I’ve got to get out of here.

In the above example Mary Jones is the central focus of each new POV character’s thoughts. A reader encountering this scene at the start of a novel would naturally have a right to assume that Mary Jones is the main character in the story. She seems to be the center of attention.

The above four-POV-change scene is not an example of artistic merit but rather of how four POV changes could be clearly written within only 131 words of text.  Is having four POV changes in such a short space wise? Probably not but in some cases it might actually be imperative to do so. It is up to the experienced writer to learn both the child rules of writing and those of the parent. 

To sum it up, it is possible, by following higher order parent rules, to bypass child rules without becoming a ‘rule breaking’ outlaw writer or a prima donna of divine dispensation from the rules that mere mortal writers must obey.

One last thought. Couldn’t an author achieve much of same results by using physical proxies instead of POV changes? Yes, an author could ‘hint’ at a character’s mental state by using physical proxies; however, an author could never project the specificity possible by using explicit thoughts. Physical proxies are a good choice for beginning writers. I’ve written over 100 examples of physical proxies here.

Caveat: It is always a good policy to follow the ‘child’ one-POV-per-scene rule. The problem with following the parent rule, especially for experienced writers who are familiar with their major characters’ speech patterns, is this: what is perfectly clear to the author may be as clear as mud to their readers. When several POV changes are made in a scene the result needs to be proof read by a reader who knows nothing about the story a reader would not know at that point.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writing Quote of the Day...

“A ‘sagging middle’ often results when an author’s writing becomes too weighty for the foundation to support.”
Vince Mooney

If Fictional Characters Could Speak...

“I can handle the story’s ‘black moments’ just fine. It’s my author’s ‘black moments’ that drive my crazy.”

Sydney in "Crinolines & Cowboys"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Quotation Quote of the Day...

“Some famous quotations amount to putting lipstick on a pig. The pig is not more beautiful but the sight is more memorable.”
Vince Mooney