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.

Let’s talk self-publishing and covers

A couple days ago, I posted the links to the short story Martin & James vs The Masked Moss-Trooper. Go ahead, if you haven’t read it, click the link, read it, I’ll wait.

One issue with that was the cover. Here’s the problem with covers. Most people will make a large part of their buying or reading decision based on the cover. If you have a crappy cover, no one will pick it up to read it. The opposite is also true – great covers will get readers, even if it’s a not so good story.

When you are traditionally published, the publisher will get the covers made based on what they think will draw the attention of the target market. That could be good and bad – it makes the author totally rely on the publisher to decide what the cover should look like. For some, that’s fine and they do great. You may also have seen books that get different covers. This, I’m sure, is due to many market factors.

The problem if you are an independent author and publisher, it’s totally up to you to get your covers. What usually happens is that the author thinks, “Hm, I have a great story that people will love and I don’t want to spend time/money on a cover so I’ll just get something cheap. It’ll be fine.” Then they end up thinking, “Hm, I wonder why no one is buying and reading my great story?”

Don’t get me wrong. Good cover designers are worth what they charge. When you are just starting out and no one has actually BOUGHT a story from you yet, it’s difficult to spend money on a cover.

That leads me to my problem with this story. I’m not charging any money for it, but I want people to read it. If I don’t have a good cover, no one will read it, so I should get a good cover. But a good cover costs money, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on this cover because …. I’m not charging any money for the story. And we loop around until we decide to go eat ice cream and binge watch something.

The first cover was just me messing around and I threw something together. Good enough. When I release a book of all the stories, I’ll get a good cover. But it bugged me. And bothered me. So I decided to try and create a better cover. I wouldn’t get the benefits of a professional cover, but I might make it look a bit better than that first one – which looked like a second grader had fun in art class.

It took a bit of time, but I came up with a cover that isn’t completely horrible:

cover martin & james vs the masked moss-trooper
Cover for the short story – Martin & James vs The Masked Moss-Trooper by S.A. Schneider

The other benefit, I learned a bit of how to use a good graphics program. Exotic things, like layers and cloning and blends. Is it the best cover ever or even the best cover that could be made for this story? Phew, heck no. Is it better than the last one? I hope so.

Let me know what you think of my newbie, mad graphics skills. And if you haven’t read the story – what are you waiting for?

<hint – click the cover to read it>