Flashback: My Point of View (or how important is pov anyway?)

When you see “Flashback” in front of an article, it means it is an article that originally appeared on Word Museum in the beginning before it was sold and then regained by Lori. We have reposted these articles, because we feel they add great value to the site. Where possible we include the date of the original article.

Written By: Pamela S Thibodeaux
Date: 11/15/2001

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Recently I received the score sheets from a contest I entered earlier this year. My writing was raked over the coals due to point of view. I got comments such as “frequent change of POV is distracting,” and “POV is very confusing.” One judge went on to say that I needed to concentrate on plotting, pacing and the rules of romance writing. C’mon I’ve had MANY people read my work (I’ve even paid for a professional, detailed critique) and NO ONE has EVER led me to believe it was THAT bad. Maybe they were just being nice. <g>

A bit confusing to me was the fact that, out of 3 judges, one gave me a score of 4 (almost there, needs a little polishing) in the area of POV. The other two gave me a 2 and a 1 respectively. Anyway, it got me thinking. Just how important is point of view? How could POV be such an issue with two judges and one say that it only needed a “little” polishing? Was it really that bad that it distracted from the story?

For research, I read (or should I say re-read for the umpteenth time) a book by one of the most popular authors of our time, Nora Roberts. What did I discern? If POV is REALLY such an issue, this lady would not be published today. Every other paragraph, two at the most, is a different POV. Now granted, there are huge blocks of text in her books where Ms. Roberts focuses on one character’s POV, but for the most part this is not the case. Now, I’ve heard it said that you can do anything when you’re Nora Roberts. Frankly I agree. The woman happens to be one of my favorite authors, top of the list, top in the industry. Let’s face it, Nora Roberts is the Top Gun of romance writing. And why? Certainly not because her POV is perfect. She’s top because she has an incredible knack for telling a beautiful story. One in which we all sigh longingly at the end because we know her characters will live happily ever after and pray that we have even the slightest chance of emulating her success in doing the same.

What’s Ms. Robert’s story-telling talent got to do with my point of view? My point of view is this: If the story is great, POV isn’t such a big deal. It’s like a group of people having a conversation; if we focus on the POV of only one person what do we have? Someone monopolizing the conversation! Think about your favorite TV show, they are constantly switching scenes to include what’s going on with all of the characters. Some call that cliff hangers, some call it hooks. Whatever you call it, it’s what keeps the audience hooked, it’s what keeps them tuning in, it’s what keeps them turning pages. When you have a scene involving several characters, how will you know how they all feel if you don’t explore their POV on the subject at hand? How is it possible to do this by focusing on one character’s POV per scene? Please, don’t misunderstand me, there is NO excuse for sloppy writing!! I just think too much unnecessary emphasis is put on POV.

We’ve heard it all: He/she can’t see the angry glint in their own eyes, she can’t see the blush on her cheeks, etc, etc, etc. But, pick up ANY good book and you’ll find sentences such as this one from Nora Robert’s book Second Nature “The frown in his eyes came too quickly to be noticed.” The paragraph goes on with the hero wondering how the heroine knew something about him that no one else did. Now you tell me, how did he know there was a frown in his eyes? EXACTLY. And while reading the book I couldn’t care less whether or not HE knew there was a frown in HIS eyes!! So what did I do with my critique from the contest? I thanked the judges for their efforts. I value their input and I’ll take EVERY bit of advice I can get to improve my craft. Feedback was why I entered the contest in the first place. Then I read and re-read my manuscript, cleaning it up where possible.

What did I learn? POV can be distracting. However, if re-writing the scene while keeping EVERY rule you know in mind takes away from the story or in any way impairs the flow, LEAVE IT ALONE! What’s the point of this article? Just this: We should be mindful of the rules of writing, we should do our best to abide by them, but in the end, our only obligation is to the story within us. The rest, as they say, will take care of itself. What’s your point of view?

Overcoming Self-Doubt and Naysayers

by: Lori Soard

Ever hear that still little voice that whispers into your ear, “You’ll never be a real writer!” ? Perhaps your little voice is a family member who thinks you’ve “gone off the deep end” to pursue writing. Whatever the source of the doubt, it is at times difficult to overcome. Here a few tips for keeping positive in the face of naysayers.

1) Write down your goals. This will make them seem more concrete and will give you specifics to work toward. Be realistic but challenge yourself.

2) When writing, make a conscience effort to say, “I’m working.” If someone calls, never say, “I’m writing.” They often take that as a sign that you aren’t doing anything <ha ha> and keep right on chatting. Tell them you are “working.” Not only will this show your family and friends you’re serious about this path you’ve chosen but it will help you remind yourself.

3) Try to set a schedule for your writing. Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, make it clear that those are your 15 minutes and anyone interrupting does so at their own risk.

4) Surround yourself with peers who will support you when you’re down. Online networks are wonderful for this. There are many chat rooms, online chapters, listservs and much more to help you through your down times.

5) Read stories about others’ successes and how they overcame self-doubt.

6) Rent an audio tape from your local library on self-improvement. Something like “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It can motivate you and give you a new outlook on life.

7) Invest in your career. You don’t have to be rich to invest in a fantastic new ink pen that feels comfortable in your hand and you enjoy writing notes with.

8) Submit your work. Be brave. Yes, you might get rejected. But, you also might get some wonderful comments from an editor and grow as a writer.

9) Join a critique group. Attend a conference. Read a book on writing. Improve your skill at every opportunity.

10) Never give up. Perseverance does pay. You might not sell yoru first book or your seventh, but what if you give up after number seven and number eight was the one that would have sold?

Flashback: Everything I Need to Know About Writing I Learned from Disney Movies

When you see “Flashback” in front of an article, it means it is an article that originally appeared on Word Museum in the beginning before it was sold and then regained by Lori. We have reposted these articles, because we feel they add great value to the site. Where possible we include the date of the original article.

Written By: Lori Soard
Date: 08/02/2001

Article

EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING, I LEARNED FROM DISNEY MOVIES by Lori Soard August 5, 2000

Remember when every Sunday the family would gather round the TV for the Disney Family Movie? Movies that were filled with heroes, heroines, honor and the good guy winning.

Every Sunday was training for me as a writer. While I munched on popcorn, I also learned the fundamentals of a good story.

1) There must be a hero. Someone who stands out above the crowd. Examples: Peter Pan, Bambi, and yes even Goofy has his own heroic qualities.

2) The villain must have sympathetic qualities as well as flaws to be believable. The best example is Peter Pan’s “Hook.” Who couldn’t relate to Hook’s very real fear of the crocodile? While we despise his tactics, we relate to his fear. It makes him more real.

3) Start with a bang. With the exclusion of “Fantasia,” most Disney movies start with a major event. Some sort of action. Little Mermaid’s concert or Lady and the Tramp’s birth of “baby.”

4) Keep the middle moving. The best example is 101 Dalmations, which is sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-and-chew-your-fingernails action.

5) Always have a happy ending. The good guy always wins. Example: Any Disney movie. This rule applies to genre fiction.

Over the years, I’ve picked up 1000’s more tidbits from those movies. It just goes to show that writers learn from every experience. Be open to new challenges. Look at the world like a writer and you never know what you might learn.