Three Dirty Birds on Self-Editing for Fiction Writers — 3


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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, Chapter 3: Point of View.

Kate: I don’t have any stickies. I guess it’s because I recognize that close third is what’s fashionable right now, I rarely write in first, and I don’t have the skills to handle omniscient.

Ana: I guess it depends a little on the genre? Once you go into YA you get bombarded with 1st person story.

Zoe: Yes, I rewrote my new adult from third past to first present to make it work better for the category. And next I’m tackling omniscient…but it’s horror, and omniscient can work well in horror.

Ana: Good luck! Actually, my first thought… or my first sticky in this chapter was: Omg, 26 different types of POV?

Kate: Someone is a little OCD, methinks.

Zoe: I’m going to have to look them up on the internet, because I can’t know it exists and not know what it is.

Ana: Yes, I’m intrigued. Although I don’t think we need to distinguish between 26 types of POV. I get along just fine with the regular three. (Or well, maybe four, counting 2nd person POV)

Zoe: Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted has second person plural. (No—wait I’m confused. It’s first person plural. Fight Club has a lot of second person, and I think parts of Haunted use second person, but not the parts I was initially thinking of. JUST IGNORE ME.)

Kate: That’s just…odd. But if it works, go for it. Some stories need that. Me, I like my third person for the most part, though my one piece in first is cute too. But that one really depended on personality to work, so third wouldn’t have carried the same weight of story as first was able to.

Ana: Talking about writing in 1st person POV she mentions that you can’t write about anything your main character wouldn’t know, but I have the same limitations writing close 3rd person POV. Unless, of course, I switch my POV character. You can do that in 1st person too, but she does say you have to be an expert to do it right. Funny enough she doesn’t say what happens when you’re doing it badly.

Kate: People don’t know which head they’re in, is what happens, then the plot falls apart, because they spend too much time trying to figure out how this character knows something, only to realize that it’s actually the other character. And then they throw the book.

Zoe: Which can totally be resolved by naming the chapters after the POV characters. /sarcasm

Ana: I hate when I’m reading something and the POV changes and for a couple of lines, sometimes even a page, I don’t know whose head I’m in. It’s frustrating. (Kate: Not something you want to do to your reader. Not until we have the Substibook™ in production, anyway.) Recently I read something where the POV changed and I didn’t even know there was a POV change for a while…

Zoe: That’s where voice can be really important.

Ana: What did you think about her example for using narrative distance?

Kate: I like that she takes the same passage and rewrites it to show what it would look like with different degrees of narrative distance. That’s sometimes more help than all the explanation in the world.

Zoe: You mean showing, instead of telling? 😉

Kate: Yes, indeedy-do, that’s it! 🙂 I’m debating trying that POV slip she shows near the end of the chapter, where the chapter is equally important to both characters, and you just slip naturally from one POV to the other in the same chapter. I usually scene break to change POV, but I’ve written and rewritten this chapter from both POVs, to the point where I’m wondering if there’s some way I can just take it out, because no matter which one I choose, I lose something I want from the other POV.

Ana: I actually tried doing this with my second novel (which I was writing while reading this book for the first time, if I remember correctly.) I did it by going distant first. With the narrative, I mean. I’ve only had non-writers beta that novel, though. They didn’t notice what I did, but writers/editors probably would.

Zoe: It certainly can’t hurt to try it out. After all, no one’s going to ever see it if it doesn’t work. You’ll just learn something and scrap it.

Kate: Then here’s another question–can I get away with it in just this one scene? Or is this a technique I’m going to have to rewrite the rest of the book to match?

Zoe: I think the only way to answer that is to do the scene, and then see how it all plays together.

Ana: I only used it in that one scene, because it was only necessary there. I’m not sure, but this might be something where the more you do it, the more noticeable it becomes.

Kate: Hmmm, something to think about. It could be the solution to this particular issue, though. *adds rewrite #27 to the list of ‘Things To Do’*

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