My short story “Watchers of Old” will be included in a collection of stories about grandmas. The editor wants me to darken it , to make it more foreboding. It’s an interesting thing to do, to alter the mood without changing the storyline.
Writer, Reader and general Book Fan
Here is a publicity photo for “Planet Woman” and another for “The Three Ways of Desire”. They are going the rounds of Twitter and Facebook. The one with the legs should generate some interest, I would think.
To use the http: links from this site, highlight the link for a picture and right click on it. You will see a “Go to . . .” instruction. Left click on that, and you will be at the book’s page.
Two powerful men have to share a woman to save her.
“Writing Deep Point of View” is the latest in Rayne Hall’s 13-book “Writer’s Craft” series, and it is out on Amazon Kindle. If authors think they know everything about PoV, this book will probably tell them something different. Posted here are the introduction and first chapter to give readers an idea of the attractive way this interesting and particularly useful material is presented. I will be writing a review of the book.
Do you want to give the readers such a vivid experience that they feel the events of the story are real and they’re right there? Do you want them to forget their own world and worries, and live in the main character’s head and heart.
The magic wand for achieving this is Deep Point of View. Point of View is a recent development. Victorian authors didn’t know its power. They wrote stories from a god-like perspective, knowing everything, seeing into everyone’s mind and soul. 20th century writers discovered that when they let the reader into just one person’s head, stories became more exciting and real.
If we take this one step further, and delve so deeply into one person’s mind that the reader’s awareness merges with that character’s, we have Deep Point of View.
Readers love it, because it gives them the thrill of becoming a different person. The reader doesn’t just read a story about a gladiator in the arena, an heiress in a Scottish castle, an explorer in the jungle, a courtesan in Renaissance Venice—she becomes that gladiator, heiress, explorer, courtesan.
Deep Point of View hooks readers from the start. After perusing the sample, he’ll click ‘buy now’ because he simply must read on, and when he’s reached the last page, he’s grown addicted to the character, doesn’t want the story to end, and buys the next book in the series at once.
A reader who has been in the grip of Deep Point of View may find other books dull and shallow. Who wants to read about a pirate, when you can be a pirate yourself? Immersed in Deep PoV, the reader enjoys the full thrills of the adventure from the safety of her armchair.
In this book, I’ll reveal the powerful techniques employed by bestselling authors, and I’ll show you how to apply them to rivet your readers. I’ll start with the basics of Point of View—if you’re already familiar with the concept, you can treat them as a refresher—and then guide you to advanced strategies for taking your reader deep.
This is not a beginners’ book. It assumes that you have mastered the basics of the writer’s craft and know how to create compelling fictional characters. If you like, you can use this book as a self-study class, approaching each chapter as a lesson and completing the assignments at the end of each session.
To avoid clunky constructions like ‘he or she did this to him or her’ I use sometimes ‘he’ and sometimes ‘she’. With the exception of Chapter 6, everything I write applies to either gender. I use British English, so my grammar, punctuation, spellings and word choices may differ from what you’re used to in American.
Now let’s explore how you can lead your readers deep into your story.
CHAPTER 1: FRESH PERSPECTIVES
Instead of explaining Point of View, I’ll let you experience it. Let’s do a quick practical exercise.
Wherever you are right now, look out of the window (or step out into the open, or do whatever comes closest). If possible, open the window and stick your head out. What do you notice?
Return to your desk or notebook, and jot down two sentences about your spontaneous observations.
You can jot down anything—the cars rushing by, the rain-heavy clouds drawing up on the horizon, the scent of lilacs, the wasps buzzing around the dumpster, the aeroplane scratching the sky, the empty beer cans in the gutter, the rain-glistening road, whatever. Don’t bother writing beautiful prose—only the content matters. And only two sentences.
When you’ve done this—but not before—read on.
Have you written two sentences about what you observed outside the window? Good. Now we’ll have fun.
Imagine that you’re a different person. Pick one of these:
- A 19-year-old female student, art major, currently planning to create a series of paintings of townscapes, keenly aware of colours and shapes.2. A professional musician with sharp ears and a keen sense of rhythm.3. An eighty-year-old man with painful arthritic knees which get worse in cold weather. He’s visiting his daughter and disapproves of the place where she’s living these days.4. A retired health and safety inspector.
5. An architect whose hobby is local history.
6. A hobby gardener with a keen sense of smell.
- A security consultant assessing the place where a foreign royal princess is going to walk among the people next week.Once again, stick your head out of the window. What do you notice this time? Return to your desk and jot down two sentences.
I bet the observations are very different! Each time, you saw, heard and smelled the same place—but the first time you experienced it as yourself (from your Point of View) and the second time, as a fictional character (from that character’s PoV).
You may want to repeat this exercise with another character from the list, to deepen your insight and practice the skill. If you’re an eager learner, do all seven. This will give you a powerful understanding of how PoV works.
Now let’s take it one step further: Imagine you’re the main character from the story you’re currently writing (or have recently finished). How would he experience this place? What would he notice above all else? Again, write two sentences.
Now you’ve experienced the power of PoV, this is how you will write all your fiction.
Repeat this exercise in a different place—perhaps when you have time to kill during a train journey or in the dentist’s waiting room.
Today I enjoyed an exchange with one or two other writers on the Facebook group “Books Go Social”. We talked about grammar and about how we handle the secondary characters in our books. This type of experience is typical of this particular Facebook group. It is people talking briefly to other people about a shared mutual interest and it’s surprising how just a few words from a person I do not know and never will know, can influence my understanding of an issue.
Sometimes I find myself wondering about the other person, especially if they have said something particularly interesting, but I really don’t need to know much about them. They are voices which carry ideas, although it is nice when the brief conversation becomes funny and witty, as it often does.
Taking the Story Forward
I’m off again! For the past two weeks I have been writing three different beginnings for the third in my Sci-Fi series based on the planet “Circe”, the one which can think, the one which has begun to move out of a self-imposed isolation.
This new book will tackle the approaching threat which has been mentioned only in an undefined manner in the two existing books, “Planet Woman” and “Man of Two Planets”.
Two days ago I was adding more to one of the possibilities, and it just took off. All writers know what I’m talking about, and it’s a rather wonderful experience.
The new story begins with a small-scale ethical crisis in the life of one of the young First Home pages who has gone back to Circe for a second visit. I won’t say how it ends, but there will probably be a fight somewhere in the storyline. I seem to be attracted to fights, but not yet to cosmic battle scenes.
All being well, with writing and editing, I’m looking at the end of March next year.
For the moment novel-less, I am working on two short stories. One is for a local competition and one will go farther afield to a collection edited by a member of an online writers’ group.
The online editor asked for stories about “Kickass Grannies”. I liked the theme but I couldn’t come up with anything featuring old ladies in black leathers riding Harley-Davidsons. No matter how I tried, grandmas with attitude seemed to be beyond me so I offered a more simple urban story of old ladies doing things to help their home town along, although the story contains a hint of the mysterious.
As I began to work on the first, another story emerged, also about an older woman in an urban setting. However, this one is a bit more feisty, and as I write her I think of an ageing Shirley Valentine.
Short stories are always hard work. The writer has to think of just about every single word and its potential impact on a reader’s mind.
Here is the beginning to the first short story.
THE EYES OF THE GRANDMOTHERS
Looking up from the vegetables, Julia Ward found her granddaughter’s eyes watching with thoughtful concentration.
“Yes, Poppy?” She smiled at the eleven-year-old and continued to chop. This after-school hour was sacrosanct to the affairs of childhood. Poppy could do whatever she wanted to do; no chores were allowed to intrude.
“Jackson Bird had another bruise today. He said it hurt.”
The knife stopped for a moment. “Did he, pet? Where was it?”
“On the top of his arm, like last time. Right on the top. He showed it to me. He said his dad punched him again.”
“That really must hurt. Was he upset?”
“I don’t know. He said it was OK but he looked down a lot. You know, more than he does usually, and he wouldn’t put his hand up in maths. And he said I mustn’t tell anyone because it would upset his mum. I didn’t promise. I wanted to tell you and Dad but I won’t tell anyone else.”
“Best not to, pet. People have got to keep things private, although sometimes not too private. Friends can always help.”
“It’s funny. Jackson’s dad is a really nice man. Why would he hit him so hard? When he brings Jackson to school he always says hello to Miss Leonetti and makes her laugh.”
“I don’t know, pet. Sometimes adults have a lot of things to cope with.”
Poppy slid off the tall stool. “Will you tell Dad?”
“I will, duck. Now where are you off to?”
“My cubby house . . . Grandma?”
“Do you think you and Mrs Morrison and the other ladies could do something?”
Julia stopped chopping and opened the door to the backyard. “Off you go. It’ll be homework time before you know it.”
“Yes, but will you ask them?”
“I’m having coffee tomorrow morning at the retirement village. Will that do?”
“Yes, great! Thank you, grandma. Will you say ‘hello’ to Mrs Morrison for me?” The girl skipped off.
Returning to the veggies, Julia thought about Poppy and her now close friend, Mrs Morrison. About a year ago the three ladies had been at a table outside Moxi’s café in the main street of the small town. They called Julia across because there was something she needed to hear, and Poppy came too.
“Leave your lassie with me,” Adeline Morrison said. “You talk to Evelyn and Dot.” While she spoke to the two other ladies as instructed, Julia saw that Poppy and Mrs Morrison had gone into what could only be called a huddle, talking to each other; Poppy listening closely, Adeline patting the girl’s hand now and then.
Sitting back at the end the old lady nodded. “You and I will do fine, my honey. Make sure that your grandma brings you here again.”
Some months later Mrs Morrison presented Poppy with a crystal ball, bigger than a tennis ball but still small enough to be held in the palm of an adult hand. It was a true crystal ball, made of quartz and not of glass.
“This is great,” said the girl on their return home. “Look, grandma, you can see into it but you can’t always see through it. Mrs Morrison said that I should put it away until I’m a woman, so I’ll need a box.”
From her store of this and that Julia found a box that would do. It was made of wood, had a hinged top with a latch and was decorated with painted roses and lavender. Poppy carefully wrapped the crystal ball in tissue paper and placed it in the box.
“When I’m grown up,” she said, giving it to her grandmother for safe keeping.
After tea, stacking the dishwasher, Julia asked David, her divorced son, about Jackson Bird’s father.
“Ken Bird? Well, I know who he is. Nice bloke. He’s a Fly-in Fly-out worker – flies up to Newman, seven days on, seven days off, and when he’s around he goes down to the town’s social club a lot. Why are you asking about Ken Bird?”
“He punched his lad, the one in Poppy’s class. She said he had a big bruise.”
“Did he? Well, the boy probably . . . No, no! I’m sorry, Mum.” The man put up his hands. “That came out wrong. Don’t tell any of your old lady friends. I don’t want to find myself on the wrong end of one of their staring campaigns. No, Ken did the wrong thing, but you never know what’s behind a punch, especially with a FIFO worker.” He set the dishwasher going.
“Poppy?” he called.
“Up here, Dad!” Poppy was in her bedroom.
“I’m watching the news now. Then I want to see your homework.”
“Yes, Dad. I’ve finished it.”
“It can be bad, working up there,” David addressed his mother again, “and it’s the rainy season. He could have been stuck at the mine site runway for hours, waiting for the water to clear; perhaps they had to fill in potholes before the plane could take off. And isn’t he a haul truck driver? I can’t see how anyone could ever feel safe driving one of those monsters! Not surprising that he could have hit his kid without meaning to.”
“Maybe, but the boy’s such a skinny little thing.”
“His mum seems to look after him well,” offered her son, making for the lounge. “She’s a good mother is Maggie, by all accounts. Ken’s a good bloke.” The door swung closed behind him.
And there you are, thought Julia. Jackson Bird is the son of a father under stress from work, if not for other reasons. If he punches his son, about four times smaller than him, it can be understood if not completely excused, and the man’s still a good bloke. This flying up to the north to work nearly a thousand miles away from home, for the sake of the good money it brought in, had real problems attached. Saying goodnight to your little ones through Skype would get to a man, not to mention what might be happening in his wife’s life and him not around to help her or detect the signs. Yes, the money was good, but a family might end up paying too highly in other currency for it.
After the divorce David had brought Poppy back to his home town, opting for a modest information technician’s job in the local hospital until his life changed again. He didn’t have a lot of spare cash but he wasn’t under stress. But Ken Bird was under stress and he could be letting it out on his little boy. Wife too? Not as easy to tell with wives. But she might go and have a look. Perhaps very soon. She’d talk to the ladies tomorrow.
The Three Ways of Desire is on ‘Smashwords’ and ‘Kindle’ on preorder until September 15th 2015. I had a hard copy printed so that one of my readers (who doesn’t use the internet) could have a look at it, so naturally I flipped through it myself. I feel very good about it.
While I was writing the novel I did quite a lot of research on the ‘erotica’ shelves and I came across some really foul and disgusting material, and only a very few good storylines.
I hope that I have managed to add a book with a strong (hopefully interesting) storyline. If people tell me that I have done that, I will be satisfied.
For the book cover I asked Vila Design to move away from the usual naked male torso/unzipped jeans look because it’s become such a meaningless cliché, although I have been told that those cover images are always popular. Even so, I’m sticking with the one I like. At least there’s a pair of bare shoulders to look at, but the rest of the cover actually refers to the storyline.
Keep on reading.
I have spent the last three weeks doing the final edit of my latest novel. It’s around 90,000 words long, and I swear I’ve looked at every single one individually, not to mention the punctuation. By ‘final’ I mean edit number five. Then I went back to my records and had a look at the rough draft which I put together in January this year. Well, a book’s got to begin somewhere, but I closed that file very quickly.
Now it’s on to the next novel. I’m in a mind to go back to the very first book I wrote and re-work it. The idea’s OK but I wrote it more for myself than for readers. Or I can begin on the third book in my “Circe” series. It’s ready to roll.
As you can see, a writer never stops.
Good reading to everyone.
PS The book is “The Three Ways of Desire” and sample material should be available from around 2/3 September. The date for complete publication is 15th September, but the novel is already on pre-order on both Smashwords and Kindle.
A writer with whom I’m in contact says that she began writing “BC” – before computers. When a re-write had to be done then it was a big job and took serious time. She mentions carbon paper. It makes me think. Carbon paper? What about constantly dipping a pen into an inkwell?
There are so many thousands of people writing now. Is it because they are really driven to write or is it because it is so easy to write with text programs? Would there be as many writers if contemporary writing was the harder and slower physical process that it used to be?
It’s similar to being prodigal with paper. If it’s easily available, it will be wasted. If words are easily manipulated, perhaps they will be used carelessly.
There is another writer I know who does all her writing with ball-point pen in ruled note books. I believe that Colleen McCullough produced real manuscripts, hand-written manuscripts, before transferring them to the typeface. And yet there are writers who say that the swiftness and easy corrigibility of computer authorship helps their creative energy. When ideas are in full flow, the computer becomes essential.
To be truthful, I have not seriously thought of producing a proper MS. If I did I think I might well find myself moving into a different relationship with my text.
I’ll wait for the next long power outage and make sure I have candles waiting; then I’ll see what happens.
I’ve been thinking about reviews.
A person who creates something rarely wants to keep it from other people. Writers want their work to be read and hopefully to be enjoyed so they publish it, knowing that from time to time it will be reviewed, whether paid for or unsolicited.
However I believe that reviewers have a responsibility to be accurate in what they write. A music review (and I’ve written many of those) mustn’t say that a performer played out of tune unless the writer is willing, and able, to prove that what they say is correct.
A review was written for “Planet Woman” which said that there are “syntactical errors” in the text. I have written for editors who look for errors of syntax with wide grins and bared fangs, so I know all about them. I asked the reviewer, very nicely, if he would tell me where I might find a syntactical error in my novel. Later, I asked him again. No reply both times.
I know quite a lot about grammar; things such as a gerund phrase used as a noun, or an adverbial modifier, don’t faze me.
I wonder if the reviewer is talking about my general writing style, where sometimes I adjust ‘normal’ syntax for the sake of a particular effect. I wish I knew what he means.