Tuesday, May 27, 2014

POV Challenges - #amwriting - Writing Tips


In romance writing, the general practice is to utilize two POVs: the point of view of the female main character (the heroine) and the point of view of the male main character (the hero).  These two separate viewpoints allow the reader to experience the emotions of each character and truly understand the internal conflicts driving actions and decisions.  The reader doesn’t need to be “told” how the character feels, because they are connected to the character, living the story through his or her eyes.  A change in viewpoint is usually signaled by a scene or chapter break.  When segueing from one viewpoint to another within the same scene, a flawless transition must be achieved to avoid the sensation of “headhopping” – the reader should not be bouncing between character viewpoints.  Even when the story is written from a third person point of view, the author needs to ensure that whatever is happening to a certain character is being filtered through that character – the sights, sounds, smells, emotions, revelations, etc.  Nothing pulls me out of a story faster than a sudden omnipotent narration—i.e., “As Beth turned to leave, she missed the evil smile lifting the corners of Jon’s lips.”  If Beth didn’t see it, how do we, the readers who are living through Beth at the moment, know about it?

Often in romantic suspense, one more viewpoint is required: that of the “bad guy”.  This helps the author reveal the antagonist’s motivations and plans without having to use the clich├ęd conversation between the captor and the hostage…you know, the one where the bad guy suddenly decides to give his victim a detailed explanation of his motives and actions before actually killing his captive.

I interviewed mediums when
writing GULL HARBOR
There happens to be a bad guy in GULL HARBOR, and so I dedicated some chapters to his point of view.  It’s actually somewhat unpleasant as an author to get inside the head of a depraved and desperate lowlife, even if the character is only a product of the author’s imagination.  And in GULL HARBOR, I had another issue: the ghost.  Too many viewpoints can clutter a story, so I solved this problem through the heroine’s skills as a medium.  Claire occasionally slips into dreamlike visions, during which she experiences the traumatic events which ultimately led to the ghost’s tragic death.  In that way, the reader gets a taste of what the ghost went through, and the suspense is heightened as Claire attempts to interpret these visions and unravel the mystery.
I’m always looking for new challenges, so after writing SILVER LAKE and GULL HARBOR, I decided to explore an idea for a young adult (YA) novel my muse was pushing.  I had a complicated paranormal plotline involving the last living Nephilim building in my imagination.  But most YA novels are written in a first person POV, which I’d never tried.  Basically, every single scene, feeling, and revelation was going to have to be relayed from the experiences of my main character, Jamie.  If she doesn’t experience it, the reader can’t either.  If I was looking for a challenge, I got it…but I enjoyed my research, which basically consisted of reading YA book after YA book, noting methods other authors used effectively to relay the story without straying from the all-encompassing POV.  I discovered a number of really great books along the way.  My finished product, DIVINE FALL, is available now, and this title recently won the Reader's Choice Award over at The Romance Reviews!

I love when readers and reviewers say “I felt like I was right there” after reading one of my books.  That means I’ve done each character’s POV well.  Romance is the most popular genre for a reason – people love happy endings.  But a happy ending is boring without plenty of tension and conflict.  The characters go through a lot as they fight to overcome both internal and external obstacles.  When POV is done well, the reader gets to feel each and every emotion along the way.  And while some of those emotions may not be pleasant, romance readers know they will be rewarded, in the end, with a happily-ever-after that makes all the trials and tribulations worth it!

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