Uncategorized, Writing Basics

The importance of style in college writing

Once upon a time, a young high school graduate signed up for two courses at her local community college extension center. She was eager to be the first person in her family to go to college, while also not wanting to commit too fully to something she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to do. She also wasn’t quite sure it was something she was even capable of finishing.

Typewriter image made using Sandbox app in Android.
Typewriter image made using Sandbox app in Android.

So, the young woman took a computer class, which she enjoyed, where she learned all about a new phenomenon called the internet, and chat rooms, and all manner of exciting new things. And she also took an English class, which she thought she would enjoy because she loved to write, but instead she ended up in an unwinnable argument with an ignorant instructor and soon dropped out of college altogether. Continue reading “The importance of style in college writing”

Writing Basics

Characterization and exposition in fiction writing

Characterization is the process of using words on a page to transform a figure of the writer’s imagination into a living, breathing, whole person in the imagination of a reader.

Characterization meme
Characterization is the process of using words on a page to transform a figure of the writer’s imagination into a living, breathing, whole person in the imagination of a reader.

Exposition = Narrative Summary

In the context of characterization, exposition is a comprehensive explanation of a character, consisting of a list of physical attributes, historical background, psychological profile, or a combination of some or all of these elements. Continue reading “Characterization and exposition in fiction writing”

Writing Basics

Writing interior monologue: A god’s-eye view

The omniscient narrator can explain what’s going on in the heads of all these people. But, does the reader really need to know what everyone is thinking?

In many ways, the rules for writing in omniscient point of view are almost the exact opposite of those for writing in a closer perspective. In omniscient POV, the narrator isn’t stuck inside the protagonist’s perspective, but instead sees and knows everything. The omniscient narrator can tell the reader what happened five hundred years ago before the protagonist was born and what is happening inside the head of a random lady crossing the street in front of the protagonist’s car (that is, if it’s relevant to the story!)

The more distance you put between the narrator’s POV and the main character’s POV, the harder it is to write interior monologue without using thought tags. In omniscient point of view, the narrator might just need those thought tags to tell the reader what other characters are thinking. But not always, so do ask yourself if there is a better way each time you insert a thought tag! Continue reading “Writing interior monologue: A god’s-eye view”

Writing Basics

Writing interior monologue: Up close and personal

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that writing interior monologue can be easiest when writing in first person and third person limited. Today, let’s delve a bit deeper into that perspective.

As I said before, it is quite simple to write interior monologue in first person point of view, as long as you remember that the narration is already something of an internal monologue in itself. Consider yourself in the situation you are writing. If you are wondering about something, how often does the monologue occur in your head as, “I wonder what he thinks he’s doing.” Or, is it more like, “What does he think he’s doing?” without adding an unnecessary explainer? Continue reading “Writing interior monologue: Up close and personal”

Writing Basics

Interior monologue in fiction writing

Interior monologue is the expression of a character’s thoughts, feelings, and impressions in a narrative. It is much like the internal monologue that runs through all our heads pretty much every waking second of every day. (Though writers should only share the thoughts that are relevant to the story!)

An excerpt from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
An excerpt from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

Writing interior monologue can be difficult to do well. You may be tempted to use trigger words and phrases like “I wondered,” “he thought,” and “she felt like” to express your point of view character’s internal monologue. You may also be tempted to use quotation marks around the character’s thoughts or italicize the font to show that the words are being expressed inside the character’s head rather than with her physical voice. However, if you use these tactics regularly, you should probably stop! Continue reading “Interior monologue in fiction writing”

Writing Basics

Stop the head-hopping: Picking the right POV for your story

The cover of the children's book, "Eulalie and the Hopping Head."
For some reason, the topic of head-hopping always makes me think of this book!

How do you know what point of view is right for your story? Honestly, the degree of intimacy your story requires is completely up to you. It comes down to artistic choice. Whatever POV you choose, the important thing is to keep it consistent to avoid confusing your readers.

Head-hopping is one of the many distractive elements of writing that can remind your reader that she is reading, thus pulling her out of the story. To avoid head-hopping, if you need to switch POVs, you should include some sort of visual indicator to tip readers off to the fact that a POV switch is about to take place. This could be as simple as providing a new header that includes the name of the POV character to let the reader know a POV switch is coming. Continue reading “Stop the head-hopping: Picking the right POV for your story”

Writing Basics

Point of view basics: Third person and omniscient POV in fiction

the front cover of Valley of the Bees
My first novel, Valley of the Bees, is written in third person point of view. The entire story is filtered closely through the perspective of the protagonist, Valley Bickerstaff.

So, we’ve discussed first and second person points of view in this series. Today, let’s talk third person and omniscient. In third person POV, a narrator tells a story about characters who are outside himself. From a logistical perspective, both the third person narrator and the omniscient narrator tell the story using, “he,” “she,” and “they.” The difference between these two POVs lies fully in the amount of narrative distance created by the writer.

Third person point of view can be as intimate or distant as you like. You can make it intimate – like first person – by picking one main character and filtering the entire story through his or her POV, using language that character would use and only showing what that character knows. Continue reading “Point of view basics: Third person and omniscient POV in fiction”

Writing Basics

Point of view basics: Second person POV in fiction

me pointing at a rug on my wall
You: You are but a tapestry on the wall. But, what have you seen? What stories can you tell?

Yesterday we discussed first person point of view. Today, let’s focus on second person. This will be a short conversation as second person POV is not used much in fiction or creative non-fiction. When you do see it, it mostly occurs with characters like Deadpool who are known to occasionally break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience.

In second person point of view, the narrator speaks to “you,” whether “you” be the reader or another character or even the protagonist. I have only seen this once in recent memory, in N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo Award-winning Broken Earth series. Continue reading “Point of view basics: Second person POV in fiction”

Writing Basics

Point of view basics: First person POV in fiction

I’m teaching a creative writing workshop this semester at my local community college, and I just had an epiphany as I was writing notes for our next class. I thought, “Hey, dummy! As long as you’re typing all of this writing stuff up, maybe you could use the content for a series of blog posts!” Of course, I’m a huge fan of re-purposing content, so I replied, “Okay, cool. Let’s do this.” So today, here’s blog post #1 of a series I have written to provide a brief overview of the basics of Point of View (POV) in fiction writing.

According to Self-editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print, there are as many as 26 flavors of point of view. For the purpose of this series, we will focus on four basics: first, second, third, and omniscient. Today, let’s start with first person POV. Continue reading “Point of view basics: First person POV in fiction”