POV

One of the aspects of writing that is difficult for me is Point of View (POV).

Point of view is basically who is telling the story you are reading. The easy example is first person point of view – I walked my dog in the park when I saw a wonderous site. A UFO landed right in front of me and I couldn’t believe it. My dog, of course, went crazy.

The other one that is popular and fairly easy is third person – George walked his dog in the park and saw something wondrous. A UFO landed in front of him and he was shocked. His dog barked at it.

There are some slightly different variations and there is also 2nd point of view, but I’m not going to go into that much here.

My problem is something they call head hopping. When you right from a third person point of view, you can be omniscient or focused. When omniscient, you can see in the heads of all the characters and when focused, you usually stay with one character. The problem is, in any scene you should stay focused on one character or it gets confusing. That is something I have a hard time with and it’s hard for me to even recognize it.

Here is an example my editor gave me. It is from Martin & James vs. The Masked Moss-Trooper.

Martin’s POV is red, while James’ is blue.

Martin grabbed the ladder and climbed hurriedly. A noise below caused him to glance down and see James climbing. 

“James, do go into the car and wait for me. It is much too dangerous up here. I cannot be responsible for you and apprehend Victor at the same time.”

The little face looked up, voice whining. “But sir, I’m your partner.” Not getting the reaction he wanted, James tried again.  “Please, I won’t screw up like last time, I promise. Cross my heart, well, if I wasn’t holding a ladder I’d cross my heart.”

You can probably see fairly easily how the first part is as if we were in Martin’s head and the next part we are in James head. When I was writing it and reading it and re-writing it, that never stood out to me.

Here it is rewritten:

Martin grabbed the ladder and climbed hurriedly. A noise below caused him to glance down and see James climbing. 

“James, do go into the car and wait for me. It is much too dangerous up here. I cannot be responsible for you and apprehend Victor at the same time.”

The little face looked up, voice whining. “But sir, I’m your partner.” When Martin didn’t respond, he took another step up the rung.  “Please, I won’t screw up like last time, I promise. Cross my heart, well, if I wasn’t holding a ladder I’d cross my heart.

It’s subtle and the rewritten part says the same thing, it’s just the way it’s said. Some people don’t find it jarring and think it sounds fine the first way. This isn’t the best example, so let me try another one. Here is an example from later in the story when Martin is facing Vincent.

The triangle shape made this blade unique and Martin knew he had to be careful or he’d receive more than a cut from it. (Martin POV) Vincent tensed, readying himself, knowing he could overtake the other man, but before he could close the distance, there was a clatter as the door behind him opened. (Vincent POV) 

That one is much more clear. The POV definitely shifts between the two characters. We head hop from one to the other.

The triangle shape made this blade unique and Martin knew he had to be careful or he’d receive more than a cut from it. Martin readied himself as he saw Vincent tense. He knew he could overtake the other man if he was careful of the blade. Before he could close the distance, there was a clatter as the door behind Vincent opened.

This is an area of writing I still struggle with and will continue to work on. I want to thank Cate Hogan for helping with the examples above. I hope that I can use the knowledge I’ve gained to be able to go through my manuscripts and fix them so that they read better, because getting people to read them is the whole point.

They say we need a writing prompt, not a revolution

When my kids were in middle school, they participated in a program called Power of the Pen. A group of them would meet once a week after school and work on writing. At the end of the year, there was a contest amongst multiple schools. During the day, the kids would be given a writing prompt and would have a set time to write something about that prompt.

If you’ve never done much writing and aren’t sure what a writing prompt is, it’s just an idea or a sentence to spark your creativity. They are designed to make you think of something different and get the juices flowing so you can write.
Recently I have run into a great weekly writing prompt subscription. These are from Reedsy, a job type website where authors can connect with and hire editors and other professionals to help with their book publishing.

On Fridays, a list of writing prompts is sent out and displayed on their website at http://www.reedsy.com/writing. You can write anything you want based on any of the writing prompt ideas and submit them. They pick one to publish on their blog and receive $50.

I believe that most school kids are too young to legally enter the contest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the writing prompts. Go to the website each week to see the new prompts. Use your imagination and write a short story. Then, the following week, go compare your story to the one that was chosen. Think it stacks up?

Recenty, my favorite writing prompt was this:

In the human world, a magician reaches into a hat and pulls out a rabbit. In the rabbit world, the God hand has appeared again and a sacrifice must be made. This time, the Council of the Hop has chosen you.

That’s pretty good and sounds like it could be a fun story. This also seems to be appropriate for middle school kids, so it could be used with almost any age.

Even if your kids aren’t in a writing club, they can still do this on their own. Or, how about at breakfast or the dinner table? Look at the writing prompts and choose one for each night and everyone can make up a story on the spot or do a group story where everyone contributes.

These also would be great for trips. Throw out a writing prompt and makeup stories.

If you’ve been looking for a way to get kids interested in writing, start with just making stories. And if you aren’t good at coming up with the ideas, these are a great way to help get started.