Friday, September 28, 2018

My Point of View

I've always written in third person. Recently, I've read several books written in first person, and I'm starting to rethink how I view Point of View (POV).

 

If you're like me and your school days seem to be a distant memory, then a little refresher in Point of View may be in order.

What is Point of View? In a novel, the POV shows the perspective of the narrator. In other words, who is the narrator of the story? For instance, if the narrator refers to him/herself as "I" or "me", then the story is written in first person.

Points of View:
  • First Person
  • Third Person Limited
  • Third Person Omniscient
  • Second Person
A sentence written in first person would look like "I drove to the store." and makes the reader adopt the perspective of the character. You are the character. First person is used for fictional or autobiographical material, but it's considered too subjective for academic writing.

Third person, limited or omniscient, is the most commonly used point of view. In this view, the narrator does not refer to him/herself as "I" or the reader as "you" and uses pronouns like "he" and "she" to describe the characters or subjects. A sentence like "He drove to the store." The third person limited is written from the perspective of one character where the reader has access to his/her thoughts. Using the third person omniscient provides the reader with full access to all characters.

Second person is not commonly used, although you may see it in nonfiction. An example would be "You drove to the store."

Identifying which pronouns - "I" "you" "he" "she" - are used is a quick way to determine the POV.

As a reader, the POV selected by the author very much influences my overall feeling of the book and its characters. First person lends to a more intimate, emotional experience.

As a writer, I have always written in third person limited. I usually write from the removed viewpoint of the female protagonist and include a portion of the novel from the male protagonist's perspective. I choose the POV by assessing which character has the most to lose at that point of the story. Head-hopping (switching characters too frequently) is cognitively avoided. Since reading several novels written in first person, I am contemplating doing the same and perhaps I will. Reading in first person has literally given me a new perspective on Point of View.


*** May contain spoilers ***



'Outlander' series by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander (and the seven books (so far) that follow it) is written in first person from the perspective of the heroine Claire Beauchamp Randall. I found the TV series first, but after I watched season one I had to buy all eight books—in trade paperback format—published between 1991 and 2014. The popularity of the TV show made finding the older books, especially, a bit easier. It still took stops to several bookstores over the course of a summer to find the books I wanted in the format and condition I wanted. Yes, I became a little obsessed with everything Outlander. The investment is worth it as I know these books will be reread—and often.


'Percy Jackson' series by Rick Riordan
The Percy Jackson books, five novels about a young demigod and his adventures, is written from the perspective of the main character Percy Jackson. I originally picked up the series to read with my sons, ages eight and ten, but I've enjoyed them as much (or more). The writing is compelling, the concepts are original, and the characters are realistic (as real as characters based on Greek mythology can be). As I read the books, I referred to the Greek god family tree and learned some fascinating facts. The first two books were also made into movies which I watched first and also liked. Fingers crossed that books three, four, and five will also find their way to the silver screen.

'50 Shades' series by E.L. James
The 50 Shades trilogy is written from the perspective of Anastasia Steele, the love interest of the main character Christian Grey. To say this is a controversial series of books is probably a grave understatement. Fortunately, I am an open-minded reader (and movie viewer) so I didn't miss out on this beautifully written series. I had watched the movie so, when I read the first book, I knew what to expect or thereabouts. However, I didn't expect to enjoy the writing so much or that the ending would leave me in an emotional wreck. The movie was okay—perhaps a little cheesy—I guess they had to Hollywood-it-up—but the books were exceptional.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Writer's Google Search History

The Internet has made research so much easier.

When I was a kid, I remember trudging down to the library (don't get me wrong, I love the library) every time I had a research paper. Instead of poring through the countless books in the fiction section, I would gingerly carry the heavy tomes from non-fiction back to my table. I would painstakingly write notes, include the information I would need for the bibliography, or carefully select the pages I had to photocopy at the cost of ten cents per page.

If I was lucky, I found the information I needed at the local library. If I wasn't—I spent many of my formative years in small towns—then my amazing parents would drive me to the next closest library—a two hour plus drive away.




Today, through the advent of the world wide web, I have access to an enormous amount of data. This excess is not without problems of its own. Too much information means difficulty in... narrowing searches; discerning reliable sources; and avoiding distractions.

The Internet, and namely social media, is a major distraction. Have you ever picked up your phone or logged into your computer to check email and...




Raise your hand. Be honest.

I often put my phone out of arm's reach in order to get any decent writing done. Sometimes, I even turn the wifi off on my laptop. Too much information. Unless you manage your notifications. And, even then, my devices always seem to be ping-ing about something.

But I need the Internet. I use it for research. How else would I know how long it takes to drive from Evanston to Chicago or what a group of vampires is called? Seriously. You would probably be surprised (or perhaps not) at the things I google.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The 'Happily Ever After' of Your Dreams

Why do you read?

I love the written word. To say it has impacted my life is a vast understatement. I read many different genres, but the main pull of fictional novels for me—other than the progression of the story itself—is the happy ending. Reading is a source of pure pleasure. It's escapism at its best. You can be anyone, and you can be anywhere. If you read historical novels, then you can be in anytime as well.




Life sucks. Reality bites. Shit happens.

The same rules don't (usually) apply to fiction. Yes, the hero or heroine will have conflict as facing trials and tribulations—like in real life—is necessary for growth and development. But fiction offers (usually) a tidy happily-ever-after (HEA) or, at the very least, a happy-for-now (HFN). Anything less is very unsatisfying. And, dare I suggest, emotionally devastating to the reader.

Perhaps the typical romance novel plot is slightly less than realistic—who wants to read about someone's ordinary life—but there's a reason we see reoccurring tropes—surprise baby, arranged marriage, alpha male, fake engagement, marriage of convenience... It's because we want to read them! Every author will add their individual tweaks, and we, the readers, want to see how their story will proceed.

I think reading books allows you to vicariously live multiple lives and experience drama that would otherwise be unwelcome in real life. What do you think?

At times, I come across a scene so powerful, so moving, that I become simply absorbed and enthralled. This type of writing makes me want to scream, "Yes! I want to write like this!" and also hope that someone, somewhere, is reading my work and thinking the same thing.

I'm reminded of a Barry Manilow song "I Write the Songs" in which he sings:

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs.

Those lyrics summarize perfectly the emotion I wish to invoke in my readers. I want to make you feel love...and hate. I want you to root for my characters...and bet against them. I want you to rejoice in their triumphs and grieve in their sorrows. And, at the end of the journey, I want to give you the HEA of your dreams. Until next time...

Keep reading. Keep dreaming. And never stop believing.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

We All Feel Pain

Is it really 'better to feel pain, than nothing at all'? –"Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers

So much of life is pain. A child's entry into the world is often a painful experience for the mother. As children, we injure ourselves learning to walk or ride a bike, and we suffer ear infections and strep throats. As teenagers, we face the emotional pain of rejection and heartbreak. As adults, we share in our children's pain as they make their own way. As we age, our feeble bodies fall victim to disease and decay.

Preventing pain—physical or emotional—is futile. Unless you live in a bubble, there is no surefire way to insulate yourself.

***

"Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word." –George R.R. Martin

"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown." –William Penn

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." –Buddhist proverb

***

So, what do these adages tell us about the human perspective on pain? "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." (William Goldman's The Princess Bride).


Pain is an integral part of life. We all face trials, but it is our response which defines us. Every day we live is one day closer to the day we die. What a morbid, albeit realistic, view. It is our responsibility to live each day to the fullest, to bring meaning and purpose, despite our personal difficulties and tragedies.

I am no stranger to adversity. Ten years ago, my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. This incurable disease stole my husband's ability to work, leaving him in unconscionable, chronic pain. Five years ago, I was harassed and assaulted at my workplace. The trauma I suffered, and the stark absence of support after, led to development of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, manifesting in chronic physical symptoms.


I am no stranger to pain. I know many of you share similar experiences and difficulties. I am sympathetic to your plight. I have connected with many readers whose lives are impacted by chronic pain. Most people do not understand the misery that accompanies lingering disease or injury. They cannot begin to comprehend the feeling of loss and frustration, the isolation, and the devastation. A health crisis takes from your life. When you become ill and unable to work, you lose more than financial stability. You lose friends. You lose ability. You lose purpose. These things are stolen from you. You are the only one who can take them back.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." A harsh observation indeed. What I have learned is that I am much stronger than I ever thought possible. I struggle to complete ordinary daily activities and endure unfathomable agony for my efforts. I am limited in what I can do. Even pleasurable activities come at a cost. The requisites to writing—clear mindset, ability to concentrate and focus, being in a good emotional place—I often lack and cannot implement at will. My mind is at war with my body.

My internal war is not the only one I am fighting. I have also spoken up against the abuse—the systematic torture—I experienced at work. With the hope of preventing what happened to me from happening to anyone else, I have taken my employer to task with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal. This fight exacts a high price. One I have paid with my health.

I must do the right thing. I cannot do less.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's story is an apt illustration of the cost of standing up for your beliefs. In 2016, he knelt during the national anthem in protest against social injustice, especially for the police brutality of African-Americans. Kaepernick opted out of the final season of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017 to become a free agent, but no other NFL team has signed him, most likely due to his activism.


Life is precious. Life is not perfect. Life is made to be lived. And, at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and the choices you've made. I can live with myself. Can you?