Jul 21

Deep Point of View

Contributed by Linda Wilson

Do you write romance novels? Historical fiction? Mysteries? Whatever your genre, you strive to create a close personal relationship between your main character and your reader.

To shed light on this topic, at a recent New Mexico Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI Regional event, Kimberley Griffiths Little presented the workshop, “Close Third Person or Deep Point of View, DPOV.” Kimberley has written many Young Adult novels, such as Forbidden, Banished, and for Middle Grade, When the Butterflies Came and The Time of the Fireflies. Also, as Kimberley Montpetit, she has self-published The Executive’s Secret, Unbreak My Heart, and many other books.

As Kimberley described DPOV, it is capturing your main character from the inside out. What she “knows, sees, hears, feels, experiences—filtered through her world. DPOV creates an immersive reading experience. In DPOV we see more of who the character is.”

Add to that a writer’s greatest prize: DPOV is how you gain THE VOICE.

Boot out the Narrator

I received one of the first drafts of my first book back so fast from a beta reader it wasn’t funny. There were few notes, few edits. But in huge letters on the first page she wrote: “GET RID OF THE NARRATOR! Then send it back to me.”

Oh my, was I in a world of rewrite! I think all authors would agree that finding that voice, showing and not telling the story, nixing the narrator, takes practice and experience. Also, I’ve talked to writers who agree that even in later stages of revision, “telling” and “the narrator” crop up and have to be banned. It has certainly happened to me. Examples offered at the workshop:

Narrator: She wished she could whisk back in time and redo the last few minutes.
Without the Narrator: Too bad life didn’t come with an undo button.
Narrator: He had to think hard about what to do next.
Without: What should he do next?

DPOV in Action

According to Kimberley: Become your character. Live inside your character’s mind and heart. Immerse yourself by staying in your character’s point of view. Take your reader on a journey through your character’s experiences. Want to see how? Here goes:

Shallow: Desiree’s skin prickled with pleasant excitement.
Deep: Shadows loomed. The place reeked of ancient secrets. Desiree’s skin prickled.
Shallow: He could see the tip of the dog’s nose peeking out of the closet.
Deep: Barry stepped through the door and entered the room. “Aha! There you are!” The tip of the dog’s nose peeked out of the closet.

DPOV is not italicized. According to Kimberley, italicizing thoughts takes the reader out of DPOV.

With italics: Jane looked out the window. Wow! Look at that sunshine and dew sparkling on the roses. What a perfect day for gardening. I’d better go get my tools.

She went to the garage and scanned her shelves. Now where did I put my gloves and trowel?

Without: Jane looked out the window. The dew on the roses sparkled in the morning sunlight. Wow! Would there ever be a better day for gardening?

Humming, she hurried into the garage. Her gaze searched the wooden shelves. Where had she stored her gloves and trowel?

Avoid “Pitfall Words”

Do a search in your manuscript and look for “pitfall words:” Think, Know, Feel, Realized, Caused, Made. Focus instead on the senses and play-by-play action in the NOW: Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, Sound, Emotions.

Word No-No’s that create narrative distance:

  • Saw, considered, made, caused
  • She felt: watched, thought, realized, wished, decided, wondered
  • Avoid prepositional tells: with, of, in
  • Beware the IT Trap. It’s vague—(What’s vague? The It Trap! There, that’s better!) What does IT mean? Namely, that substituting “it” instead of specific nouns and descriptions isn’t nearly as dynamic.
  • Choose power words

Workshop Tips Served up on a Platter

  • Overuse of “to be” verbs
  • Don’t summarize: Write the scene
  • Share from the inside out rather than a “watcher’s” perspective
  • Research physiological reactions
  • Write moment-to-moment
  • Break up long description with an action; break up internal dialogue with action
  • Don’t name the feeling—Show the feeling by physical effects on the body, thoughts in keeping with that particular emotion: ASK HOW YOUR CHARACTER WOULD REACT
  • Everything can’t be written in DPOV. Your reader sometimes needs distance to relax, such as your character reflecting and telling friends.

A word of thanks: Experienced and successful authors like Kimberley and others in our New Mexico Regional SCBWI chapter, who take the time to attend meetings and events and share their expertise, are appreciated by our members. To learn more about Kimberley, visit: kimberleygriffithslittle.com

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, will be published in September 2018. Currently, she is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Need Help With Your Story

Whether you need editing, rewriting, or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable children’s story today!

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Oct 28

Are All Children’s Stories Meant to Become Books?

Not all kids' stories are meant for books.
Writing well over 300 stories, between ghostwriting and rewriting, I’ve only seen one story that couldn’t be tweaked, nudged, shaken, or even deconstructed and reconstructed into a publishable story.

The concept and author of that one book were, well, not quite all there. Dealing with so many clients, I’m surprised I only had one so far.

Aside from that though, most stories or drafts can be magically turned into something an author will be proud to be author of.

A big problem I see is that new authors sometimes don’t know what a publishable story is.

But, wait a minute …

Let me clarify what I mean about a publishable book because today any story can become published, whether it’s poorly written or a well written story.

When I use the term “publishable,” I’m talking about a book that meets the standard children’s U.S. publishing guidelines.

Three of the top mistakes I see that would warrant taking another stab at your story or demolishing it and starting over are:

1. The point-of-view

You’re writing a picture book or chapter book and have more than one point-of-view (POV).

This can happen when you have two or more main characters in your story or it can happen is you have head-hopping in your story.

Let’s go back a step and define POV.

Every story has to be told from someone’s perspective. In other words, who is the story about.

It’s essential in young children’s writing that you clearly define who the protagonist (main character) is. And, there should only be one.

Jerry Jenkins, author of over 190 books, says he avoids slipping into an omniscient viewpoint “by imagining my Point of View or Perspective Character as my camera—I’m limited to writing only what my character ‘camera’ sees, hears, and knows.”

So, POV is a critical element of your story. Check to make sure you have only one POV and its that of the protagonist.

Head-hopping is slipping from one character’s POV to another, within the same paragraph or even same sentence.

In the example below, Tommy is the protagonist:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of it tube. Without blinking he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

“Pete,” said Jim with a nudge, “you see that. I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.” Jim threw a pretend pitch. “Look at him running those bases.”

The second paragraph in the example, just above, is a no-no. It’s bringing Jim’s perspective into the story since Tommy couldn’t see or hear him.

Tommy is the protagonist and must know what’s going on in the story or it can’t be in the story.

This could be rewritten though:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of it tube. Without blinking he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

When Tommy raced to home plate, he heard Jim yelling, “I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.”

Now it’s all with Tommy’s point-of-view.

2. Adults save the day.

Children want to read about children. They want the protagonist to solve his own problem.

While parents or other adults in a story can be a support system, their involvement needs to be minimal. The young protagonist needs to come up with the solution to her problem.

In “Stephanie’s Ponytail” by Robert Munsch, Stephanie wants to be unique. Here’s how the story starts:

“One day Stephanie went to her mom and said, ‘None of the kids in my class have a ponytail. I want a nice ponytail coming right out the back.’”

The problem though is the day after Stephanie comes in with that particular ponytail, all the girls in her class have it. So, each day she asks her mother to create another specific kind of ponytail. The day after each new ponytail, the class copies her.

At the end, Stephanie comes up with a clever, and funny, idea that cures the class of copying her.

While the mother in involved in the story, it’s Stephanie who comes up with all the ideas. And, it’s Stephanie who solves the problem.

3. Jumping in without learning how to swim first.

You’ve wanted to write a children’s book for years. You have tons of ideas and you’ve even written a couple down. It’s gotten to a point where you can’t wait any longer and you put one of your ideas into a story.

You type or write away and finally you have your story and it seems great.

Picture books can be 10 pages, right? You ‘kind of’ draw, so you can create your own illustrations, right? You have a couple of rhymes here and there, so that’s good, right?

While you may have a great story idea, standard picture books are usually 32 pages. Unless you’re a professional illustrator you shouldn’t create your own illustrations. And, either you’re written a rhyming story or not.

There are lots of other elements that you need to be aware or before jumping in to write a publishable book. You really should learn at least the basics of writing for children.

So, there you have it, three top children’s writing mistakes.

If I were to give a number 4, it would be that you have toooo much showing in the story.

If I were to give a number 5, it would be that you’re trying to knock the young reader over his head with the moral of the story.

Hope these tips help you when you sit down to write your story.

References:

HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK
POV with Jerry Jenkins

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