Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Point of View

Very useful, must-read post here on Nicola Morgan's blog on Point of View.

Now we all know and understand POV don't we? But it never hurts to be reminded, and to do an exercise to prove you really understand it.

At my writing class last week, Della Galton talked about POV, and then had us do a really interesting exercise. We wrote a short snippet (3 minutes-worth) in third person POV. Then we each read our work out, and discussed at what point does it become irrevocably the character's point of view.

Here's the very rubbish piece I wrote at the time:
Skirt, blouse, jacket. Mary had laid them all out the night before. With shaking hands she dressed, then cursed as she put a fingernail through her only pair of un-laddered tights. Never mind, she'd wear her long boots instead of shoes, that would cover the ladder. But would boots seem too casual, she wondered. Maybe she would have time to buy a new pair of tights on the way to the interview...

So, when does this become definitely Mary's POV, and can no longer be someone else's, or omniscient? Fourth sentence, I'd say - the point where we go into her thoughts with 'never mind'. Before then, it's possible there could be another character in the room, observing Mary, shakes, curses and all, and there's nothing to prevent the story continuing in his POV.

With short stories, it's essential to get into POV as quickly as possible. It anchors the reader, and sucks them in. You need to know who you're reading about, and who the main character is within the first few lines. Generally speaking the first character mentioned needs to be the main character, and the story should be in their POV (there are exceptions to every rule of course!)

I found this an extremely worthwhile exercise. The better writers in the group all seemed to establish POV in their first sentences, and that is something I will try to do with the next story I write.

Another tip, to make a story stronger and more emotional, is to write it in first person and then change to third person afterwards. You'll end up with a very close third-person story, probably closer than if you'd started out writing in third person. I must try this too!

21 comments:

Jenzarina said...

Oh, interesting exercise! Thanks, I'll be looking at my own stories with that tool now.

Old Kitty said...

Hi

I've never tried the writing in first then changing to third! I might try that to see if it works for me.

I enjoyed your three minute exercise - so not rubbishy at all! Better than what I'd have come up with if it were me. I can never ever support enough the reasons why sticking to POV is a good thing! It really, really works.

Take care

x

T

Geraldine Ryan said...

Sounds like a great class, Womag!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sorry if this is not the right place to put this but...

I just emailed a story to PF and had a reply saying that they no longer accept emailed submissions and asked for it to be posted instead. Has anyone else heard about this change of policy?

Sonja

Bernadette said...

Anonymous, they changed in October.

Subs should be sent to

The Fiction Team
DC Thomson & Co ltd
80 Kingsway East
Dundee
DD4 8SL

If you have been published by them before mark the envelope K/A (for known author).

Enclose an SAE for the story's return, or let them know they can recycle it and give them your e-mail address for the decision.

womagwriter said...

Thanks Bernadette for the update re PF. I will add that to the PF guidelines here. I don't often sub to them so was not aware of this change.

Lydia said...

Interesting. Like the idea of starting 1st person and changing. Not ever tried that and I'm not sure how smoothly the transition would go. I love writing 1st person because of the intimacy it provides and the way it gets you straight into character's head.

Ellan said...

Enjoyed this post. I enjoy flitting between 1st and 3rd for different stories. But, whichever I choose, I *am* the main character. Fun, isn't it?

Rob Innis said...

Regarding POV - Very useful information. I wrote to Lorraine Mace's page - Question Corner featured in the new online mag. Words with Jam and her reply is printed in their current edition.

I have posted a link to this blog from the Torrevieja writers Circle blog.

Jumbly Girl said...

A really interesting post - thanks. And I am definitely going to try that write in first person then change to third person exercise

Cathos said...

POV exercise very useful. Sometimes, I've written in 1st and changed to third, because the magazine I'm aiming it at prefers 3rd! I think it is often easier to 'write yourself' into the story using 1st person.
Thanks for info about People's Friend too!

Tickle said...

If I am struggling with a character in one of my novels I always write myself 'in' my writing in the first person and then swapping to the third. It's a good idea to write a story from third to first sometimes too. It's a further case of 'what if?' As a writer you need to explore every angle to see what makes for the strongest story.

Anonymous said...

Hi Can I just ask if anyone knows why You magazine in South Africa has sent back two of my short stories unread. I've been published in the UK nearly 30 times so after reading on here that You take previously published subs, I thought I'd give it a go. I don't mind being rejected but I'd like to know why they aren't reading. I have to send my attachments in Rich Text Format. Maybe they can't open them? I have sent an email asking why but if she takes as long to reply as she does to reject I will waste a lot of time submitting. Any ideas anyone? Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sorry for crashing a post, but
I'm a new writer and a bit confused. I've just had a story accepted by TAB but I have no idea when it will be published. Do they let you know when it will be out? I haven't had any payment yet either so I am assuming it's not going to be soon! Do any experianced writers have any suggestions?

womagwriter said...

Anon1 - I don't have much experience of subbing to You myself so can't help there I'm afraid. Are you sure the stories were unread and not read but rejected?

Anon2 - well done on your sale to TAB! Unfortunately TAB are not very good at letting you know which issue your story will be in, so it is a case of checking each issue. Your acceptance email should have said whether the story is destined for the TAB weekly mag or Fiction Feast though. TAB pays on publication so you should receive a cheque in the post around the time the story is published.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to the Take A Break post - I've sold several to them lately. I agree they tell you whether it is the FF or weekly issue but they don't tell you when. Payment is after publication but this seems to be about the 28th of the month it is issued. So a story in Feb's issue seems to be due around 28th Feb. Hope this helps. Well done on your sale!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for veering completely away from the original post, Womagwriter, but I have a question/suggestion about market research.

I'm in Australia and by various means have obtained copies of all the UK magazines but two: The Weekly News and Take a Break.

I wondered whether any of your blog readers is desperate to get hold of Woman's Day and That's Life. If so, I could post them, and they could reciprocate with TWN and TAB.

Is this a good idea? Anybody interested?

Claire

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the replies about Take a Break, I was starting to worry that I had either missed the issue, or they had changed their mind! Gives me a good excuse to keep buying the mag each week.

womagwriter said...

Interesting idea, Claire - I will write a post suggesting an international magazine swap then we can see what kind of interest there is...

Rena said...

Re the TAB queries. I had a story accepted for the weekly mag and received a cheque almost immediately. I am still, however, (months later) waiting for it to appear. I emailed Norah asking if it had been sheduled in yet but didn't get a reply...so I suppose its just back to watching out for it. Wouldn't it be great though if they would just let their contributors know?

christine said...

Mmm, yes, something my tutor, Dinesh, was very hot on. A fascinating exercise to do! cheers