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Sunday, December 09, 2018

Definitely that time of year LOL


©bystacydawn
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☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side πŸ’Ÿ


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

A bit of inspiration

I was looking for an inspiring writing quote to put up this week, and I came across this one which ties in beautifully with the last few weeks of the Demystifying Deeper POV series.


 “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; 
show me the glint of light on broken glass.” 
~Anton Chekhov


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☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side πŸ’Ÿ


Sunday, December 02, 2018

Wow, it's December already?!?


Will be busy this month trying to get all the editing on my desk done and in between preparing for the holidays and doing some lettering gifts like the one above.  I was actually quite tickled how this one came out!

My goal is to be able to take some time off over the Christmas break this year.  Just sit in my pjs for a day or two πŸ˜„.  Sounds heavenly!  How about you?


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☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side πŸ’Ÿ


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Demystifying Deeper POV: Behind the Scenes

First, I want to thank you so much for joining me the past four weeks for Demystifying Deeper POV.  I have placed the link to the start of the series on the sidebar if you want a little refresher or to recommend it to friends and writing groups.  It will remain there until I get the ebook finished--which will include even more explanations and examples, tips and tricks, and a bonus or two...including the full version of the Dane and Kathleen short story, Marry Me, Cowboy.

Speaking of which, the story itself was just one of the fun parts I had with this series. Example-wise, I really wanted a consistent reference to use, rather than just random examples here and there--I wanted an actual story, feeling it would be better for more relatable, cohesive, and interesting examples.  Marry Me, Cowboy was a free read I wrote a few years ago and which received a lot of good comments with respect to the point of view. I recently received my rights back for this manuscript (very fortuitous timing) and it was exactly what I was looking for...except for one thing--there was a lot of "after" examples, "Swatted Version" as I like to say, to use, but what about the Telling/Fly examples?

Have you ever written a story backwards?  I think I both laughed and groaned the whole time going sentence by sentence and/or paragraph by paragraph and revising using every point of view issue I've come across in over ten years of being an editor.   Let me tell you, it takes just as much effort writing backwards to a rough copy as it does revising and fine-tuning for a good copy.  The bonus is that not only does it work for this series, but I now also have a base go-to manuscript for other examples of mechanical issues I have been planning to do tips and tricks posts about for upcoming Writing Wednesday blogs.

The series itself was a long time percolating in the back of my mind.  Originally, I had it as Finding Mooore in Your Manuscript--as in Mooore, because I love cows.  This is a mock-up cover I had created for inspiration. 

To me, cows are such a relaxed and a happy animal LOL.  I've been collecting them for years--my kitchen has one on almost every surface and my office is pretty close to the same.  Let's just say friends and family have kept me with a full herdπŸ˜„. One of my favorite is this cow tape dispenser my mom gave to me for Christmas ions ago.


But, even as I doodled cows and tried to bring them in to represent a series of sorts, something just didn't feel quite right enough to put it all into play.

Over the years, the more I explained the concept of Telling versus Showing and Deeper POV to authors, the more the Fly POV became my go-to reference for examples and understanding.  Then one of my authors sent an email thanking me for "swatting" those pesky flies out of her manuscript, and I just laughed at how hilarious yet appropriate the term was. So I began to doodle flies.

    


You can see the progression from my first ideas to the Fly you recognize from the series.  I still plan to fine-tune him a bit more for the next version and will post some progress as I do.

And, let me tell you how difficult it was to figure out a flyswatter.  Long handle and squarish end--what could be hard about that?  At least that's what I thought until I started sketching them out page after page after page after page.


But, just like writing, drawing takes practice, and you just keep working at it, studying, and practicing until you come up with something you are happy presenting to others.

As for the title of the series, that was the last to come around--which is funny, because when I write fiction, I always need to have a title before I can really get going on the first draft and usually have it by the end of the second chapter at the latest.  However, I was determined that this was the year I would get the series out there, and decided on October 31st both for time to get it finished, but also because there has always been this confused, fearful reaction where Telling versus Showing and especially Deeper Point of View were concerned, so Halloween seemed perfect.  And as all the mystical, magical and mystifying elements of the season got underway, the title finally hit me with that wonderful, elated and contented feeling of everything coming together just as it should be.

Demystifying Deeper POV is my passion project because I am able to incorporate all my creative joys--Writing, Editing, and Art-- to help writers grow and reach their dreams of publication.

I really hope this series has helped and inspired your writing, and will do so for many others as I continue to revise and fine-tune it.

So, don't forget to keep your fly swatters close by on your desk...and most of all, keep writing and following your dreams, because I for one can tell you, dreams don't always come quickly, but they do come true if you just keep working hard and believing!



All content ©bystacydawn

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☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side πŸ’Ÿ


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Demystifying Deeper POV Part Four: No-Fly Zone

How did last week go? Did you find any strings to cut from that Fly trying to puppeteer your main character? If you are just joining us or want a refresher, you can pop back through the series here:

Part One: Don’t Panic
Part Two: Me, Myself, and Fly
Part Three: Bodies, Eyes, and Flies—oh my!


For this last part to the series, we are going to talk about REACTION.

Reactions are one of the most important areas where Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View) is concerned, yet the one missed more often than not.

EVERYONE has a reaction to whatever is happening to them in the moment, whether a perception/thought—Hey, that’s cool/That guy is a jerk—or an emotion—anger, embarrassment, love—or a physical reaction—pain when burned, full chest when feeling loved and appreciated, cold chills when freaked out, tight jaw when holding back a verbal reprimand, etc. Each and every person has a reaction from the smallest thing to the biggest event…and, most important, every person’s life experience determines said reaction.

This is a big separation between Fly Telling and Showing the experience through your main character using Deeper POV.

Let's look at a physical reaction first. Once again, Dane will be our main character for example purposes.

Fly Telling:

          Dane McCord squinted one eye open as the dust billowed up from where he’d landed flat on his back in the dirt.
          A whinny of the chestnut mare that had just thrown him mixed with feminine laughter growing nearer.
          He blinked both eyes open to find Kathleen leaning over him. Kathleen’s blue eyes sized him up from his Stetson-bare head to his cowboy boots. She smiled, and Dane smiled back. Dane wanted to roll the beautiful cowgirl in the dust with him.

I don't know about you, but seems to me getting thrown off a horse would hurt, plain and simple.  But there is nothing in the above example that lends to a physical or sensory perception of the actual experience of falling off a horse.

Swatted Version: (Character Experience)

          Squinting one eye open, Dane McCord winced and held back a groan as the dust billowed up from where he’d landed flat on his back in the dirt. Painful, short breaths only enabled him to get enough air into his lungs to ensure he wouldn’t pass out.
          The gleeful whinny of the wild chestnut mare that’d just thrown him mingled with raucous feminine laughter growing nearer in a shadowed form against the glaring noon-day sun.
          He blinked both eyes open to a waterfall of raven hair leaning over him. Kathleen’s twinkling blue gaze sized him up from his Stetson-bare head to his prone cowboy boots. A small lift of rose-red lips caused instant heat to seize his gut—if he wasn’t still straining to replace the air into his knocked lungs, he’d have rolled the beautiful cowgirl in the dust with him.

Fly Telling:

          He stood and brushed the dust from his butt, and his hand felt the ring in his pocket.

Again, after landing on your back in the dirt, surely standing would have consequences to your body, too.

Swatted Version:

          Muscles groaning their complaints far beyond his thirty-two years, Dane heaved himself to a standing position. The scrapes on his arm stung as he brushed the dust off his backside in a ruse to make sure the ring was still in his pocket.

Swatting the Fly by layering in Deeper POV from Dane’s specific experience of the moment Shows the reaction of falling off a horse and lets the reader feel his discomfort at the same time.

And that is what you want…to make the reader experience the moment with your character. This connection is what endears him or her to the reader, grows empathy, and gets them invested in the character's life so they want to keep turning the pages instead of turning off the light to go to sleep.

Now, let's try an emotional/internal sensory reaction:

Fly Telling:

          A wide grin spread over his face as he thought he could give her the horse as a wedding gift.
          Kathleen got closer to the horse. Dane was nervous. He didn’t want her to get hurt.
          He tried not to worry and focused on Kathleen.

Why is he nervous? There is no actual validation given for Dane being worried--the Fly is simply Telling the reader that he is.

Swatted Version:

          Hmm, maybe I’ll give her Flamin’ Jane as a wedding present.
          Grinning at his brilliant idea, he watched Kathleen, one of her slender hands extended as she approached the wild chestnut mare. The cool breeze brought to him her gentle words, soothing the agitated beast…and gripping his heart.
          What if she gets hurt? The words snuck into his mind, and his spine stiffened. He’d never worried about her with a horse before, why now? Folding his knuckles in a tight fist, he forced back the disturbed thoughts.

Both sensory and physical action are used to mirror his concerned thoughts, filling out the tension of the moment, drawing the reader directly into his concern.  Notice how validation for his worry isn't simply Told to the reader but rather woven into the moment through his short, yet specific, visual descriptions of the "wild chestnut mare" and "agitated beast."

(Did anyone also notice how this Swatted Version layers in other forms of Deeper POV we have discussed over the course of this series?😁)

Simply revising in a few specific descriptive sentences quickly changes the scene from Fly Telling to Showing the main character’s experience.

Each and every person—each and every character—is unique, so it is important that A) you make sure your character has a mental and/or physical reaction when they should, whether to a minor moment like someone touching their arm to a major moment like getting tossed off a horse, and B) the reaction is in character for him or her.  For instance, a vain woman all about high fashion and perfecting her look wouldn’t have the same reaction to a smear of dirt on her cheek as a country girl working on a farm.

Now, remember last week we talked about how the Telling Fly buzzes into a manuscript when a voice or tone is described BEFORE the main character hears the words spoken? The same thing goes when a reaction is described BEFORE the event actually happens to the main character or something is described that he or she can't see/know in that moment.

Fly Telling:

          Jake stood in the barn doorway behind them. “Well, you sure did good there, Miss Kathleen.” 
          Dane turned to see his foreman and grinned.

This is Fly POV because...how can Dane describe what is behind him when his focus is in front of him?

Swatted Version:

          “Well, you sure did good there, Miss Kathleen.”
          At old Jake’s rusty voice, Dane turned and grinned at the ranch foreman leaning against the barn door frame.

As a side note, this also goes for introduction of new characters (and refers a bit back to Part Two). If someone the main character has never met walks into the room, then he or she cannot describe this newcomer by name until introductions have been made, whether formerly or by a secondary character giving him or her the information. The main character can have a perception/reaction to the person—the cranky old man or the snobby debutante—but it would be Fly Telling to use an actual name the main character has no knowledge of with respect to that person.

Another big Fly POV buzz ringer is a page or more of dialogue with minimal to no actions and no reactions by the main character to what is being said.

Fly Telling:

          “Okay.”
          “Okay?” Kathleen asked.
          “Yes.”
          “Do you mean it?”
          “Yes already. Go on, give ‘er a try,” he said.
          "Don’t look at me like that. I mean it—I ride her, you give me your word you’ll marry me.” 
          “You have my word.”
          “Not the way a lady wants a proposal, but sometimes we gotta take the bull by the horns to get through a man’s stubborn head.”

Not only is the image promoted as just two people standing face to face, hands at their sides, staring at each other and speaking, but Fly Telling is prominent because there is no reference of how the main character is perceiving the conversation, reacting to it. In fact, there is no sense of a main character in that example at all.  Let’s face it, everybody has a point of view on almost any topic of conversation. That especially goes for your main point of view character. Simply dotting in a bit of his or her specific interpretation and a mirrored action here and there as the conversation progresses layers in Deeper POV to the whole scene.

Swatted Version

          “Okay.” 
          “Okay?” She eyed him warily.
          He nodded and held a hand out toward the horse. “Go on, give ‘er a try.”
          “Don’t be giving me that cocky brow, McCord. I mean it—I ride her, you give me your word you’ll marry me.” 
          He put his hand to his chest, over the heart she’d owned since the first moment he saw her. “You have my word.”
          Her cute little chin snapped in a sharp nod. “Not the way a lady wants a proposal, but sometimes we gotta take the bull by the horns to get through a man’s stubborn head.”

One last note on the topic of reaction, as there is a specific type of scene unrelated to these characters but happens so often I feel it needs to be mentioned--the car crash. I see the most Fly Telling and lack of physical reaction in these scenes. Often is it simply Told to the reader that the character saw blood on their hands from a head wound or crawled out of a broken window. And that's it.  Ummmmm, would a cut bleeding that much not hurt like the dickens?  If crawling out over broken glass, wouldn’t the pieces slice or sting or poke through your jean-clad knees, not to mention muscles protesting from being banged around so suddenly? SO MUCH awesome potential for physical/sensory reaction is often ignored for the Telling Fly when only an added sentence or two could really make the reader experience each shard of glass on their bare hands as well.

The main trick for understanding Deeper POV is to simply put yourself in the place of your main character. Wait a minute—let me clarify…I mean doing so at your desk or wherever you write, NOT actually being your character and say, staking out a dark back alley, jumping out of a moving vehicle, taking down terrorists, or going up to a handsome man and kissing him senseless, LOL. Just in your head, please.  Simply ask yourself some important questions related to the moment, such as what would it feel like to fall off a horse or watch the love of your life risk hers by getting on the same wild horse that just threw you?  What would you experience if you crawled out of a window with shards of glass sticking out and splayed on the ground all around?  What would be the internal/external sensory, physical, or mental reaction of your character to the moment on your computer page in front of you?

This is the most important part of perspective, because a good, character-driven story isn’t about what you as the author or the pesky Fly sees and Tells, it is about what your character experiences in that moment, and at every turn, and Showing that in order to make the reader experience the same thing at the same time. Remember…

Be the character, not the Fly.

Well, that about rounds out this initial series on Demystifying Deeper POV.

To sum up, the essence of Deeper POV is swatting out the Telling Fly in order to Show the experience of your character, through your character’s specific perception and reaction.

One more time…

Deeper POV is simply Showing the experience of your character 
through his or her specific perception and reaction.

And, as I’ve mentioned briefly before, remember that Deeper POV doesn’t mean adding gobs of internal detail and emotional descriptives—sometimes just a well-placed sentence or phrase, very specific to the reaction or moment, is often all that is needed.

Thank you so much for joining me over the last four weeks. Writing is a learning curve for new and/or established authors, and finding what works for you is important. I can only hope you were able to take away some tips and ideas to try out with the goal of strengthening your manuscript. Feel free to let me know what you thought of the series in the comments or by email at bystacydawn @ gmail . com (no spaces).

Be sure to join me next Wednesday for Demystifying Deeper POV: Behind the Series as I share a bit about how this actually came about plus some fun stuff it entailed along the way...such as, have you ever written a story backwards?

For those curious about Dane and Kathleen, their full short story will be a bonus addition to the ebook version of this series I plan to work on in the new year, adding even more explanations and examples. Until then, I will be adding links to the sidebar soon so the series can be easily referenced again by you or anyone you may want to recommend pop over for some swatting practice.

All content ©bystacydawn

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☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side πŸ’Ÿ


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Demystifying Deeper POV Part Three: Bodies, Eyes, and Flies--oh my!

How did the swatting practice go this past week? Did your pages light up like a Christmas tree, or are you on the right track in keeping your character’s identity intact? If you are just joining us or want a refresher, you can pop back to the beginning of the series here:


This week, we are going to swat the Fly’s Telling POV by snipping its puppeteer strings so your main characters can take back control of their own own bodies and descriptions.

Disjointed body parts are the first sneaky way the pest tries to pull those marionette strings. This occurs when the main character’s appendages, etc., are described as if moving all on their own. Two of these descriptions I see most often are with respect to hands and eyes.

For example purposes, let’s continue with another excerpt from Dane and Kathleen (Dane having just fallen off a temperamental horse):

          Kathleen bent to where he lay on the ground, and her eyes glued to his as she looked at him. “I will...on one condition.”
          Dane smiled as his hand raised to push a strand of her hair behind her ear. “And what would that be?”

Now remember, Dane is our main character, so picture his description for a moment in your mind.  If you were describing yourself...do you watch your hand rise all by itself without you knowing? Think about it, just sitting there while watching your own arm rise and your fingers wiggle and wave at you. Kinda freaky/creepy, right?

Your hands don’t move all by themselves ➔YOU move them. Your arms don’t float up out of nowhere to wrap around someone➔YOU physically, purposefully raise your arms, wrap them around someone, and squeeze for a hug. YOU decide where you are going and physically lift and move your legs to walk there. These are conscious actions.  Okay, maybe we don't think, Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, but we do actively perform the movement.

Same goes for your character. The Fly POV Tells the reader what it sees--a hand moving. Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View) Shows the moments through your main character’s specific experience, consciously—actively— making the movement.

Let’s revise the above example from Dane’s specific experience of the moment (and also adding in some revisions based on what we learned last week):

Fly Telling:

          Dane smiled as his hand raised to push a strand of her hair behind her ear. “And what would that be?”

Swatted version (Character Experience):

          Damn, she’s beautiful. 
          He couldn’t help his lips tugging up in a grin as he fingered a silky strand of her hair. “And what would that be?”

As you can see, using stronger, active verbs helps to transform the sentence into Dane's specific perspective of the moment.

Two quick side notes with respect to the above:

A) When the main character is describing someone else, then yes, he or she would naturally describe the other character’s movements as “her hand reached” or “his head turned,” etc., because the main POV character is the one observing/describing the scene around them; and,

B) There are always exceptions to the rules. Certain genres such as fantasy or horror, for instance, would lend to the odd, fantastic, magical and/or horrific descriptions where main character’s body parts are moving all on their own. But even in general contemporary, there may be certain moments when the main POV character might be traumatized, stunned, or in a fog or trance-like state depending on the scene (anything from a car accident to getting unexpected news) and wherein they are not fully aware of what is going on or “on automatic pilot” so to speak because their brain can’t cope with whatever event may have just happened. Simply ensure that these areas are described as such from the main character’s perspective of the emotional event so as to validate what might be considered disjointed body parts. But again, these situation are the exception, not the norm—make sure to use them sparingly, so when they do arise the action helps further the tension rather than focuses on an odd description of your character.

Now, time to talk about those eyes.

It is a basic, physical trait that eyes can’t leave their sockets. They don’t drop, rolling down your cheeks to clunk onto the floor, or leave the face to dart around the room, or pop out, etc. And glued to another set of eyes? Ewww, gross visual! Unless you are writing a horror story, not recommended at all. “Gaze” is a more appropriate, general term to use when describing visual movement of any character, not just the main one. Plus, there are plenty of better ways to add visual description including using stronger verbs.

Fly Telling:

          Kathleen bent to where he lay on the ground, and her eyes glued to his as she looked at him. “I will...on one condition.”

Swatted version:

          Kathleen dropped to her haunches and studied his face, one thin, dark brow raising. “I will...on one condition.”

Speaking of visuals, the annoying Fly has another way of sneaking its own Telling POV into your manuscript by false physical descriptions of the main character...

          Dane’s honey-brown eyes grew round as his mouth dropped open, and his face turned red.

General description of his surprise, right? So, how is this Fly POV you might be asking? Well, let’s try a little experiment…describe your eyes exactly as they appear in the light around you right now. No saying just the basics, either—I know they are blue, etc.—you need to describe exactly as they appear. Right. This. Moment.

Can’t do it? Why? Ohhh, because you can’t actually see your own eyes, can you?

Same with your main POV character—unless in front of a mirror or reflective surface, how can he or she see their own eyes, or face for that matter, to describe it?

As we discussed last week, Deeper POV is simply staying in your character’s specific experience/perception—this includes only what they can see, hear, smell, touch, taste, or already know, etc. So, in this case, if he is not looking in a mirror then descriptions of eyes, face, facial expression, etc. shouldn't be described in visual detail.

Don't fret, though, because there are ways to get around personal descriptions by using other sensory details instead. Even if they can’t see themselves, the main POV characters still experience the movement of the expression. Yes, "he smiled" or "she grinned"  works if they are doing so purposefully, and describing the action, not the visual. But if it is more of a sudden, involuntary smile, then they can feel their lips tug up and/or lift their cheek in an involuntary smile. He or she can also quirk their lips if it is a purposeful, twisted grin reacting to something someone else said.  As for a red face, this is more often than not from embarrassment or anger, and which is caused by a sensation of an overheated neck or burning cheeks (which causes the coloration someone else can observe on your character's face).

Another quick side note: Try hard not to actually use the words “feel/felt” to describe sensory reaction as the use is often considered passive writing. You want to ensure the sensory description is active.

Fly Telling:

          Dane’s honey-brown eyes grew round as his mouth dropped open, and his face turned red. How did she find out?

Swatted Version:

          Dane gaped, his brows stretching his forehead as his cheeks heated. How did she find out?

Just out of curiosity, did anyone notice the other example of this type of description revised in the swatted version we used earlier for Dane?

          Damn, she’s beautiful.
          He couldn’t help his lips tugging up in a grin as he fingered a silky strand of her hair. “And what would that be?”

The above concept of what the main character can and can't see, also goes for what he or she can or can't hear--voice descriptives.

          Her voice was full of frustration. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.

There is that know-it-all Fly POV again, because unless the main character actually hears the words, how can he know to describe how they were spoken?  Moving the descriptive and using stronger verbs to convey frustration, swats that Fly and gives the moment a more dynamic draw...

          “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she muttered and gave his chin a hard chuck before rising.

One last, big buzz signal of Fly POV in main character descriptions is when he or she is grouped in with the masses—the women, the men, the cowboys, the ranch hands, etc. The Fly on the wall sees a group, that's all. The main character, however, is experiencing the moment in the group, so the observation needs to come from his or her specific perspective from within.  This also goes for the use of "they" when including the main character.  They stood or they walked hand in hand, for instance. Yes, the term can be handy, especially for quick transitions, but it can also be lazy Fly Telling when overused.  So whenever possible, Show the main character's personal experience of the moment.

Fly Telling:

          They stood.

Swatted Version:

          With muscles groaning their complaints far beyond his thirty-two years, Dane heaved himself to a standing position.  

Similar to this is using a third party descriptive for the main POV character.

          Kathleen reached out to grip the cowboy’s chin and said, “If I ride Flamin’ Jane, you marry me.”

If this was Kathleen’s POV scene, then sure, the description of Dane works. But, this is Dane’s POV. Do you think of yourself by your occupation? Time for the mother to pick the kids up from school. Man, the corporate assistant rocked that meeting today. LOL, probably not. So make sure descriptions are kept specific to your character's way of thinking

Fly Telling:

          Kathleen reached out to grip the cowboy’s chin and said, “If I ride Flamin’ Jane, you marry me.”

Swatted Version:

          Kathleen grip his chin. “If I ride Flamin’ Jane, you marry me.”

Or, using characterization descriptives for secondary characters like we talked about last week, an alternate Swatted Version might be:

          Slender fingers reached out and held his chin firm. “If I ride Flamin’ Jane, you marry me.”

To sum up today’s post, don't let the Fly pull your character's strings.  Swat right through them and let your main character Show the moment through his or her active experience.

          Kathleen dropped to her haunches and studied his face, one thin, dark brow raising. “I will...on one condition.”
          Damn, she’s beautiful.
          He couldn’t help his lips tugging up in a grin as he fingered a silky strand of her hair. “And what would that be?”
          She gripped his chin firm. “If I ride Flamin’ Jane, you marry me.”
          Dane gaped, his brows stretching his forehead as his cheeks heated. How did she find out?
          “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she muttered and gave his chin a hard chuck before rising.
          With muscles groaning their complaints far beyond his thirty-two years, Dane heaved himself to a standing position.

Pop back up and compare the very first example to this one and see how layering in Deeper POV--giving the main character the ability to Show his or her experience--can draw the reader in to experience the moment with them.

Over the next week, try a quick "Find" in your manuscript for phrases such as “her hand” or “his hand” and “her eyes” or “his eyes” and “voice” or “tone” to check if the Fly is pulling the strings or not.

Be sure to join me for the final part in the series: Demystifying Deeper POV Part Four: No-Fly Zone.

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

All content ©bystacydawn
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☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side πŸ’Ÿ


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!


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


All content ©bystacydawn
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☮ Visit me on social media and at my website ~ links on the side πŸ’Ÿ


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 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 πŸ’Ÿ