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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rememberance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.  To all those who came before, to all who have served and are currently serving, and to all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, thank you...we remember.

©bystacydawn

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Demystifying Deeper POV Part Two: Me, Myself, and Fly

Last week, we talked about Telling versus Showing being the difference between the Fly on the wall watching the scene, Telling what it sees, and your character experiencing the moment, Showing the event through his or her specific perspective/interpretation, which is the simple basis of Deeper Point of View (Deeper POV). If you are just joining us or want a refresher, you can find Part One HERE.

Do you have your fly swatters ready? Because we are about to start the fun stuff—finding out the sneaky ways the Fly buzzes into manuscripts…and swatting it right out!

Today, we are going to take back your character's identity.

For example purposes, let's start with this excerpt of a scene:

            Kathleen bent down and picked up Dane’s Stetson. She slapped it to his chest. “Well, Dane? That all you have to say?” Kathleen asked.
          But, he was just as stubborn as her.
          Casually, Dane held his hat. “So, Kathleen, you want to make a bet you can ride the mare?” His voice held a lot of humor.
          Kathleen just looked mad.
          “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word,” Kathleen began, and she breathed heavy. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”
          Dane put his hat on. He looked over his shoulder at the horse. A slow grin creased Dane’s face. 
          “Okay,” he said.
          “Okay?” Kathleen questioned.

Did you see the Fly? What if I do this…

          Kathleen bent down and picked up Dane’s Stetson. She slapped it to his chest. “Well, Dane? That all you have to say?” Kathleen asked.
          But, he was just as stubborn as her.
          Casually, Dane held his hat. “So, Kathleen, you want to make a bet you can ride the mare?” His voice held a lot of humor.
          Kathleen just looked mad.
          “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word,” Kathleen began, and she breathed heavy. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”
          Dane put his hat on. He looked over his shoulder at the horse. A slow grin creased Dane’s face. 
          “Okay,” he said.
          “Okay?” Kathleen questioned.

Overuse of proper names is one of the sneakiest ways the pest tries to take over your manuscript. This is FLY POV, especially when the main point of view character’s name is overused--because most people don’t think of themselves in the third person. Do you talk to yourself or talk aloud about yourself in the third person? I know I don’t go around saying to my friends or coworkers, “Stacy is having a good day.”
“Hey, Stacy needs a copy of that file.”
“Stacy would love a hot tea.”
“Yes, Stacy may have a bit of a cupcake obsession.”
(Err, uh, yeah…maybe I have said that last one a couple times before, but you get what I mean.)

The excerpt above may appear obvious (for example purposes), but be prepared when you check your own manuscript, because you will probably be stunned by how much the Fly dives in and commentates with an overuse of proper names right before your eyes.

Did you notice the other issue with the example? Whose scene is this? Dane’s or Kathleen’s? It's hard to distinguish the main POV character, isn’t it?  If I said Dane was supposed to be the main character, would you be surprised? I know it is Dane…but you as readers had no real clues, no sense of Dane being the one experiencing this moment, did you?  The Fly stole his identity by simply Telling the scene to the reader:  Kathleen did this...Dane did that...Kathleen said this...Dane said that...etc.

This is why it is so important that you take back your main character’s identity by Showing the scene through his or her specific perspective.

Now, BE CAREFUL you don’t just take the easy way out by simply going through and changing the proper names to pronouns or you will only end up exchanging one kind of overuse/repetitiveness for another, and worse, fall into the Fly’s trap of the same type of monotonous sentence structure—She did this…He did that…She did this…She did that…He did this…and which keeps that Fly POV buzzing in your manuscript.

          She bent down and picked up his Stetson. She slapped it to his chest. “Well, Dane? That all you have to say?” she asked.
          He was just as stubborn as her.
          Casually, he held his hat. “So, Kathleen, you want to make a bet you can ride the mare?” He put humor in his voice.
          She just looked mad.
          “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word,” she began, and she breathed heavy. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”
          He put his hat on. He looked over his shoulder at the horse. A slow grin creased his face. 
          “Okay,” he said.
          “Okay?” she questioned.

As you can see, simply changing to pronouns also did not help to establish the actual main POV character, did it?

Where secondary characters are concerned, repetitive clumps of proper names can easily be reduced by changing a few of the instances to descriptives or nicknames specific to the main character’s perspective, by the way he or she knows the person and depending on the tone of the moment/scene—her sister-in-law, the annoying man, the idiot, his depressed buddy, Miss Scaredy-Pants, Mr. High And Mighty, big-haired diva, etc.—and reflecting the mood and interpretation of your main character in that moment.

But again, BE CAREFUL you don’t simply change secondary characters to one basic description use such as her mother, her father, the woman, the man, the child, etc., or you will find once again that you are letting that pesky Fly Tell a simple/passive story.

          His girlfriend bent down and picked up his Stetson. She slapped it to his chest. “Well, Dane? That all you have to say?” his girlfriend asked.
          He was just as stubborn as her.
          Casually, he held his hat. “So, Kathleen, you want to make a bet you can ride the mare?” His voice held a lot of humor.
          His girlfriend just looked mad.
          “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word,” she began and, his girlfriend breathed heavy. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”
          He put his hat on. He looked over his shoulder at the horse. A slow grin creased his face.
          “Okay,” he said.
          “Okay?” his girlfriend questioned.

[Again, yes, this scene reference is meant to be more than a little obvious for example purposes, but at the same time, you would be surprised at how many manuscripts cross my desk with very similar repetitive natures.]

As discussed last week, each person, each character, has their own interpretation of other people and events, all based on their life experience. So, let your main point of view character be your guide for each scene.  Show, what he or she is experiencing by dotting in personal perception, thought processes, sensory details, etc.

For example, watch how the scene "deepens" when we let Dane Show the reader how he feels about Kathleen. 

Fly Telling:

          ...“Well, Dane? That all you have to say?” Kathleen asked.
          But, he was just as stubborn as her.

Swatted version (Character Showing):

          ...“Well, Dane? That all you have to say?” 
          She’d always had a temper beneath the raw beauty, and he loved it, loved her. She challenged him, pushed him, made him laugh, and made him strive for more than he’d ever thought possible...like her hand in marriage.
          But he was just as stubborn and wanted this done right—his way.
          
And further, when he Shows what he is experiencing in this moment (simply referred to as layering in Deeper POV):

Fly Telling:

            ...She took what appeared to be a fortifying breath. “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word,” Kathleen began, and she breathed heavy. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”
          Dane put his hat on. He looked over his shoulder at the horse. A slow grin creased Dane’s face. 

Swatted version (Character Experience):

          ...She took what appeared to be a fortifying breath. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”
          Setting his Stetson back on his head, he glanced over his shoulder at the red-maned filly batting her head around and strutting on the other side of the stockyard. There was no way Kathleen would be able to ride her. No way. A slow grin tugged his lips. And if she couldn’t ride the mare, his proposal would be even more of a surprise in her depressed funk afterward.

Both examples now give a very distinctive presence of Dane as the main POV character.  The reader feels with him the depth of his love for this woman, and is also included in his thought process leading to him experiencing cocky overconfidence.

This is very important, because remember, it is your character experiencing the event, so how he or she perceives the moment and reacts is pivotal to painting a vivid and colorful, character-driven story for your readers.

As for secondary characters, using physical descriptions once in while instead of names can be an alternative to clarify who is speaking, and adds a sense of Deeper POV by giving the reader a visual of the other person through the intimate perspective of your main character.  Not to mention, dotting these little descriptives in here and there also helps to mix up sentence structure and dynamics to keep the pace flowing and the read interesting.

Fly Telling:

          Kathleen just looked mad.
          “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word,” Kathleen began, and she breathed heavy. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”

Swatted Version:

           Cobalt blue eyes darkened. “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word.” The embroidered flower on her shirt rose as she took what appeared to be a fortifying breath. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”

Another quick way to tighten some instances of repetitive proper names is to simply delete them from dialogue. Especially when there are only two characters in the scene, speaking proper names can often be redundant. When you talk to your best friend, do you constantly reference her name in the conversation? Probably not, so your main character doesn’t have to, either. Save the usage in dialogue for a time when the characters are making a point so as to add tension to that particular moment.

Fly Telling:

          Kathleen bent down and picked up Dane’s Stetson. She slapped it to his chest. “Well, Dane? That all you have to say?” Kathleen asked.

Swatted version:

          Kathleen bent down, picked up his Stetson, then slapped it to his chest. “Well? That all you have to say?”

Not only does the revision take out the overuse of proper names and/or overuse of pronouns, but also tightens and condenses the descriptions, which is important for pacing and tension in a scene.

Along the same lines, at least 60% of basic dialogue tags can easily be deleted--he said, she said, he asked, she replied etc.--because, again, if there are only two characters in the scene, it is often understood who is speaking. If not, then deleting tags in favor of an action or visual descriptive can be a stronger choice.

Fly Telling:

          “Okay,” he said.
          “Okay?” Kathleen questioned.

Swatted Version:

          “Okay.”
          “Okay?” She pushed a brunette curl behind her ear and eyed him warily.

Don't get me wrong, tags can be beneficial to show how the words are being spoken--muttered, whispered, screamed, stuttered--so simply ensure they are necessary, and if so, use stronger verbs for the moment rather than the basic version of said.

 Now, it is important to note that dotting in Deeper POV is not about deleting every reference of proper names, simply finding a balance so as not to have clumps or constant repetitive Fly usage.  Also, layering in Deeper POV does not mean adding gobs and gobs of descriptive prose--a few well-placed phrases/sentences with strong word choices mirroring the particular moment's tension--light-hearted, humorous, terrifying, angry, etc.--can be very effective. Balance is the key.


So, let's swat that Fly from our full excerpt by giving Dane back his identity in this scene (or better known as layering in Deeper POV):

            Kathleen bent down, swiped up Dane’s fallen Stetson, then slapped it to his chest. “Well? That all you have to say?”
          She’d always had a temper beneath the raw beauty, and he loved it, loved her. She challenged him, pushed him, made him laugh, and made him strive for more than he’d ever thought possible...like her hand in marriage.
          But he was just as stubborn and wanted this done right—his way.
          Casually, he took his hat and dusted the brim with a sweep of his hand. “So, you want to make a bet you can ride her?” He tried to throw some humor in his voice, hoping she’d follow suit.
          She didn’t.
          Cobalt blue eyes darkened. “I don’t want to make a bet, Dane. I want your word.” The embroidered flower on her shirt rose as she took what appeared to be a fortifying breath. “If I can ride Flamin’ Jane, you finally put a ring on my finger.”
          Setting his Stetson back on his head, he glanced over his shoulder at the red-maned filly kicking up dirt on the other side of the stockyard. There was no way Kathleen would be able to ride her. No way. A slow grin tugged his lips. And if she couldn’t ride the mare, his proposal would be even more of a surprise in her depressed funk afterward.
          “Okay.”
          “Okay?” She pushed a brunette curl behind her ear and eyed him warily.
          He nodded toward the horse. “Go on, give ‘er a try.”

Take a moment to pop back up and read the very first version, and then this one above again. Which excerpt paints a better image in your mind? Do you get a real sense of the main character? You will also note the second one is not much longer than the first. And notice how the overuse of proper names has basically been eliminated? Yes, you need a reference or two to establish characters, but balancing the usage and dotting in Deeper POV allows the reader to stay in the main character’s “head” instead of just the Fly’s sight. Be the character, not the Fly.

Oh, there’s another good one to write down, type big, make a sticky on your computer, post on social media—whatever will help you remember:

BE THE CHARACTER, NOT THE FLY.

One last, quick notation about your main character's identity and proper names involve parents and/or relatives. When parental proper names are used, 90% of the time it is a sure sign the Fly is Telling the story and not your character reacting like a son or daughter would. Do you call your mom by her first name? Your dad? I would be roasted alive if I did that to my parents! Most people don’t call their parents, or grandparents, by their proper names, or even think of them that way in their heads…so neither should your characters, unless his or her life experience includes those issues with a parent--long standing feuds, abuse, adoption, or just because it is established family history, etc. If there is a valid reason for thinking of family members by their first names, then that makes up part of his or her characterization and can work well. But if not, then make sure the way a parent or relative is addressed or thought of by your main character comes from his or her experience with that person, and not just a Fly on the wall Telling the names of the people it sees.

BONUS EXTRA:

I often use the highlighting technique to show clumps of proper names in manuscripts so as to give the author a quick visual of this repetitive pattern. It is an easy way for you to double check if your manuscript is falling into the Fly Zone.

i) Select all text on the page, scene, or chapter(s) that you wish to work with.

ii) On your toolbar, go to Edit—Find—Type the name in the field. For Word 2003, click the box next to ‘Highlight all items found in’—click Find All. For Word 2007/2010 click Find In and choose Current Selection.

iii) You will now see all instances of that name selected. Click on the Highlight button on your toolbar, select a color and all should now be highlighted that color.

iv) Save.

v) Repeat for each character’s name (and possible clumps of overused basic descriptives such as—his mother, the man, the boy, etc.), using a different highlight color for each. If you don’t have a highlight button already on your toolbar, simply review the Help section of your word program for assistance in this and the above.


Over the next week, take a few pages of your story, from the beginning, then the middle, then the end and try this technique. Don’t be surprised if your manuscript lights up like a Christmas tree. But remember, you now have a new tool in your writer’s kit, the fly swatter, so don’t hesitate to use it when necessary and swat that identity thief right out of your manuscript.
If you are comfortable with sharing, feel free to post a Fly Telling "before" and a Swatted version "after" sentence or paragraph of your own in the comments.  We all learn from each other!

Be sure to join me next Wednesday for Demystifying Deeper POV Part Three: Body, Eyes, and Flies--oh my!

And please keep spreading the word to join us here for some good old fashion swatting practice!


All content ©bystacydawn
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side 💟


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Demystifying Deeper POV Part One: Don't Panic!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! 

 I thought today an apt day to start a series with a topic terrifying to a lot of writers…
Do you panic and cringe with anxiety-filled shudders when a critique partner or editor makes a note on your manuscript that there is too much Telling versus Showing…or worse, [insert dark, eerie, crescendo music] lack of Deeper POV?

Don’t worry, because you are not alone—not by a long shot. Many writers struggle with these terms. I remember when I first started, the concept of Telling versus Showing was like a foreign language I just couldn’t grasp, and no one could really decipher it for me, either.

But these concepts don’t have to be scary or big mysteries any longer…and, in fact, I LOVE Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View) because this is essential for endearing readers to your character(s), pulling them into his or her plight, and investing them in your story so much their dinner ends up being late to the table, the laundry gets forgotten, or they stay up into the wee hours of the morning to finish your book.

As you can probably tell from my blog, I am a very visual person, so let’s start by breaking down these obscure terms in a more relatable way…

Over the years, I have come to associate Telling to an impartial, omniscient third party that knows all and sees all…like a Fly on the wall simply watching the scene progress. Sitting there gives the Fly a perfect position to see everything, from the main character crying to the protagonist sneaking up behind him/her. To watch and listen to a covert conversation in a diner or in the bedroom of your heroine as she gushes about the handsome cowboy she just met or as they make love for the first time.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Nope, sorry, there is a HUGE problem with that—the Fly is not a character in your story, not even a part of the manuscript. So don’t let this pesky insect Tell the story, either. [Disclaimer: If you are one of the 0.1% of the writing population actually creating a story about a Fly and/or its hundreds of family members then feel free to go with another omniscient subject of your choice. For the purpose of this series, however, the Fly is heading for the sticky paper😁.]

Let me repeat the important fact here, the Fly is not a character in your story—and, unless you are a Fly, it most definitely is not writing the story, either.

Write this down, type it big, make a sticky note on your computer, post it on social media—whatever will help you remember:

The Fly is NOT a character in my story, and the Fly is definitely NOT writing my story.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the similar term used of Show Don’t Tell. Logically then, if Telling is the Fly you don’t want, then Showing is what you do want, right? So simply ask yourself, if the manuscript isn’t the Fly’s story, then whose story is it?

Your main character’s, of course. And this is why it is soooo important for your main character to Show his or her story.

Let's break it down even a little further...

A Fly just sits on the wall, watching. It simply Tells what it sees—two people talking, someone getting beat up, an argument, or a car crash. Basic action and dialogue—He did this/She said that. Yet, your main character is the one experiencing these moment. He/she has the amazing and unique ability not only to see what is going on, but to feel, think, sense, perceive, theorize, interpret, and most of all REACT internally and externally to these moments/events.

This is the essence of Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View): Showing the specific experience of your character, through your character’s interpretation and reaction.

One more time…
Deeper POV is Showing 
the experience through your character.

This experience, this reaction/interpretation specifically from the main character then is Showing, which, essentially, is the same as Deeper POV.

And, since your character is the one experiencing the moment, he/she has far more details to offer the reader than a Telling Fly—sensory details, internal and external details, attitude, fears, emotions and perspective. Better yet, as each person reacts differently to an event depending on his or her life experiences, Deeper POV is unique and specific to each individual character.

For example, a woman with an abusive past will react differently to a relationship than one raised by two loving parents, or to a woman bullied for her unbecoming appearance in high school, or another raised by a single parent or an elderly grandparent, or any number of different scenarios as each person views their own upbringing differently. Or, setting down a fully cooked, whole lobster in front of one person may get a wide-eyed, drooling grin while another will wrinkle their nose at the offensive fishy odor, cringe, and back away (me!). And this is Deeper POV in a nutshell—describing the moment from your character’s specific perception/experience/sensory details/reactions…and not from an impartial Fly narrator sitting on the wall above everything. Because, remember, as the Fly is not writing the manuscript or a character in your story, then it should not have a point of view.

So, to sum up today:

Telling = what a Fly sees

Showing = what your character experiences 
(being his or her Deeper POV)

But, we are not done yet!

Over the next three Writing Wednesdays, I will continue to Demystify Deeper POV by showing you how to spot that Telling Fly and give you specific tips, tricks, and examples to stop the pest from sabotaging your manuscript. Building strong, character-driven stories will not only engage your readers in the full experience but draw them in and keep them eagerly turning the pages to the very end (not to mention wanting to grab up more of your titles).

Between now and next week, take a few minutes and go over a page of your manuscript--I know it will be hard, but try to step back and read it as a reader would (not knowing anything but what is on that page), then ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” Is it an easy question to answer by just the paragraphs you read? Do you know who the main POV character is right away? Are you experiencing the moment with the character (feeling the chills, the fear, the annoyance, the heartache, the nervousness, the quickening of new love, the stinging scrape across skin or scorched hiss of a burn), or are you just being Told the basic actions and dialogue by a Fly sitting on the wall narrating what it sees?



Now, don’t panic if you’re worried it might be the darned Fly…because we are just getting started! Get your fly swatters ready, because we are going to SWAT THAT FLY right out of your manuscript!

Join me next Wednesday for Demystifying Deeper POV Part Two: Me, Myself, and Fly.

Also, feel free to leave a comment and spread the word to join us here for some good old fashion swatting practice!


All content ©bystacydawn
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

☮ Visit me on social media and at my website~links on the side 💟


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Have you seen this con-artist?!?

Don't let its size fool you!  This con-artist is wanted for impersonating an author and stealing the identify of your characters--if you see it, SWAT IT!  Beware, this crafty crook is sneaky, so don't worry if you can't find him buzzing through your manuscript because I have a full supply of fly swatters at the ready just for you...

Join me Halloween day for the first in my four part series:



 Deeper POV and Telling vs Showing will no longer be obscure, scary concepts for writers as I show you how to take back your manuscript from this pesky identity thief.

Please feel free to tell your friends and fellow authors, critique partners and writing groups to join me on October 31st for the first installment.

The mystery will finally be solved, and I can assure you...

someone won't be getting out alive...



©bystacydawn
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

☮ I'd love to have you visit me on social media and at my website~links on the side 💟