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Friday, April 20, 2012

Creative Tools


Point of view in stories makes a novel as significantly noticeable as genre. Whether you write in first person or third person, or even the anachronistic storytelling second person, editorial standards demand you don’t switch at random. I can understand this to some extent although the golden rule of ‘there are no rules when it works’ apply here as always. It would be extremely difficult to go from first to third and back again without the reader bailing on us. I’ve only done first person once and it took me nearly half the book to get comfortable. When your fictional world is created in first person POV, every action, every scene, and every thought must be related by that main character. You can get a little something going in dialogue interchange, but even that must be perceived by the main character.

The omniscient factor of third person POV drew me in as a writer. I love reading a novel with POV changes even in the midst of the same scene – and believe me, before the editorial nation went to war using the head-hopping banner, it was done regularly. It still is by some of the big names. What this foolish affectation no-no does is strip third person POV of a very appealing tool. If we want to create a scene where the hero and heroine interact with comical or romantic inner dialogue, we as writers are forbidden to do so without breaking the scene up, no matter how plain it is to the reader about which character is speaking and thinking. Granted, getting an agent or publisher to even look at an unknown writer’s novel rivals hitting the lottery or being struck by lightning lately – so, having a few creative tools stripped from our writer’s toolbox shouldn’t really bother us, right? Wrong! It bothers me.  :)

15 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I rather naturally wrote my first books all in first person. I like the immediacy of it for adventure fiction. Third person is really much better for more complex works, though. When you have multiple characters and plot lines. I like what they call 3rd person close, though, which means only one head at a time in any one scene. I'll confess to being one of those readers who really doesn't like head hopping in the same scene. Of course, the only rule is what works, so I can imagine it being the right tool in certain cases.

raine said...

Agreed.
I know, for example, that Nora Roberts head-hops a lot. But then, she's la Nora. And she does it well.

I don't like the idea of "no headhopping" as a hard and fast rule. If an author can do it skillfully, and there's no character confusion, I don't understand the problem.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

The adventure part is the easy stuff in first person, but I admit when wanting more 'looks' at some issue, that's when it really became difficult for me, Charles. The problem the editorial world used to perceive as head-hopping started out as a clarity issue. They now, of course, have expanded it into their own dimension of forbidden except of course if your name recognition signs their paychecks. :)

Yep, she does it really well, Raine - enjoyably so. I had a scene in COLD BLOODED that was absolutely hilarious (in my mind anyway) between my two characters Nick and Rachel that I had to strip out. They've mutated the term head-hopping into some form of all encompassing blasphemy it was never meant to be. :)

RJ Parker said...

Okay, I have to weigh in here. Me being a non-fiction writer, I don't have to worry about head-hopping. I am currently re-reading Bennie's 'Monster', which I think should have been called 'Cold Mountain', and there's a lot of head-chopping going on there LOL. I'm reading it again Bernard and this time keeping track of the 'head' count, or lack thereof lol.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

LMAO! Yeah, there may have been some violence in MONSTER, RJ. The body count in that one may require the use of a calculator... but they were all bad. :)
Thank you!

RJ Parker said...

It's one of my favorite books. You mentioned before that you're writing a sequel to Cold Blooded? How's that coming along and when will we see it? I'll have my nifty calculator ready to count the 'room temperature' people and rolls of duct tape lol.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

No, my friend, I mentioned I was going to write a sequel to COLD BLOODED after I finish the trilogy I'm working on. I'm only about half way done on the second book in the trilogy of DEMON. Each book will be about the same length as the first which was 77,000 words. The agent that requested a full look has not gotten back to me yet. That could be a good sign or a bad sign. :) In any case it will be a while before I get writing again on the COLD BLOODED sequel, RJ.

RJ Parker said...

Well darn that. So the demon trilogy... are u going to release them all together and are u going to self pub? I'm re-reading Monster now, halfway thru and the body count is 27 lol...love it. The chemistry and humor with these characters is amazing and really enjoyable.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I'm hoping to get an agent, RJ, with the possibility of getting the DEMON series picked up by a publisher. Then possibly I can get my other novels published too. If I can't get an agent for any of the four new finished novels I'm shopping around by summer, I'm going to start self-publishing them. I'm glad you liked MONSTER enough to reread it, brother. At over a 190,000 words, I appreciate the compliment very much. Anything I put into published mode you will get a review copy of first... guaranteed.

Rick said...

I write mostly third person, but I really do love first person.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

It is the most immediate form of writing, Rick. When it's done right, it's the best. :)

Vesper said...

Very interesting post, Bernard. I write in first person many times, and sometimes in 3rd person close. Head-hopping gives me a headache. There's a book I had to stop reading because of that; the famous "The Night Circus", written in Present Tense and switching POV every tiny paragraph, was way too much for me. I've seen a book once (this means I couldn't read it either) with each chapter written in first person but with a different narrator. I don't remember its title, but the writing was totally confusing. That happens especially when there is no difference in the "voice".

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

As Raine pointed out, Vesper, Nora Roberts still does it. That was a good example because I remember reading a few of her novels where she did it, and I enjoyed the POV change very much. My point was there is head-hopping, and then there is editorial license to censor. Not every reader will enjoy what a particular author does in a novel. That is why the rather large sampling Amazon allows as a preview should be enough for a reader to decide if a book is right for them or not. Even in the old days of shopping for books at a bookstore, I would speed read through the first few chapters of a novel I was thinking of purchasing - mainly because when I start a book, I obsessively must finish it. :)

Sis said...

Proud of you big brother for standing the line of integrity! I love the articles about the customers! I feel like I am watching over your shoulder as the scene unfolds...

Love, Sis

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I'm glad you like the stories, Sis. It's a lot more enjoyable going through the situations when I can head for the back room and blog them after they conclude. :)