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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Swat that Fly!

Okay everyone, get out your flyswatters.  Yes, it's summer, but it is also time you let your characters reveal their story.

One thing I see a lot of is narration coming from the point of view of something that sees all and knows all.  I call this Fly on the Wall narrative—as if a fly is stationed merrily on the wall above everyone and describing the events.  The problem is...the fly isn’t a character in the story.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of stories done in this type of third person narrative and some work well.  The issue that I see often, however, is a story being told from the perspective of the main character and then the fly dropping in to have it’s say and thus pulling the reader out of the head of the main character—and subsequently, the story. 

One other main issue the fly narration often produces is passive writing in the form of more Telling vs Showing.

Using deeper point of view (POV), keeping in the “head” of your main character, gives the reader a chance to know them, to understand them, and most of all, to relate to them.  You want a reader invested in your characters and the story so they leave the laundry, housecleaning, and any other chore behind for another time while they are riveted by your character’s journey.

Deeper POV means that things are described specifically by the POV character and thus can only be shown by what the character knows, sees, hears, feels etc. 

Let’s take an example:

Her cheeks flared an angry shade of red as she fisted her hands and aimed her steamy blue gaze toward the bane of her existence.

Unless the character can see herself in a mirror, she wouldn’t know the color of her face or could reference her own blue eyes in such a fashion, therefore the above is a description from that of a Fly on the wall, and because of this, it is also Telling.

Let’s revise Showing the anger through the deeper POV of the character, the specific percpective of the main POV character—giving the reader a better sense of the moment:

The burning in her cheeks scorched down her neck.  Fisting sharp nails into her palms, she fought back a verbal slaying and narrowed her gaze toward the bane of her existence.

With the above revision, the reader now experiences the moment with the character instead of just being told what is happening.

Another fly example that happens often is referring to the POV character in a group:

They came to a small pathway and decided it was better for the other two to go first.

Who is the POV character in the above sentence?  Exactly-?-unknown.   The sentence also doesn’t Show much about the path or tension of the scene—is it a happy, yellow brick road or a scary, dark corridor? A garden in the sunshine or through a dark forest?  If that many scenarios can be thought of, then you aren't painting the full picture for the reader to follow your character's moment specifically.

Let's see what a stronger revision could look like:

Jenny bit her lip as she stopped behind her friends near the darkened pathway.  The boys decided to go first, and she blew out a thankful breath, only to suck it back in when a cold breeze blew across her neck. 

Now we know exactly whose head we are in AND that there is something about the path making her nervous.  That “something” is what makes the reader WANT to continue to read to find out what happens next.

Remember, for a stronger read, leave the fly on the wall and let your characters be the story.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hollywood comes to a small town

Some exciting happenings in the last week as a film production crew took over the small town where I work to film Stephen King's IT.

Rumor has it Stephen King was even in town, yet no known sightings or verification.  Though I have to admit that I have only read one of his books for the sheer fact I have a VERY overactive imagination and horror freaks me out, I respect the man for his work and as a infamous author in the industry, so being a writer myself made the rumor alone extremely cool.

And I found the behind the scenes so fascinating.  The funniest parts were the revamping of the local establishments into 1980s America.  A shoe store became a dry clean shop and another a deli, while a tattoo parlor became an ice cream parler (much to the surprise of some tourists LOL). The old cars were awesome roaming up and down the streets!  Not to mention the 20 foot lumberjack statue reminiscent of Paul Bunyan in the middle of a full decked out fourth of July setting in the park.

It really brought to light how much money it takes to make a film--and not just paying actors and directors.  The amount of crew lining the roads to ensure pedestrians didn't get in shots or politely asking us to wait before heading down the streets, the police officers directing traffic (and being really cool in letting me take a vacated parking spot close to the office), the extras (most local), the builders, designers and hired labor were all way too many to count.

But, I have to say, from my experiences and what I heard from other business owners and townsfolk, the crew were all so respectful and nice overall.  It made the small headaches of traffic, parking and just getting to the office or a block down to the bank less annoying and more interesting.

Now, will I watch the movie when it comes out?  I want to sooooo bad, but I don't know.  Like I said, I don't do horror so I have to find a way to watch it that it won't scare the living beejeesus out of me :)