Wildcard Wednesday: I need POV help

Everybody has a point of view. If you don’t believe it watch a Final Four basketball game this weekend. The players, the coaches, the fans, the commentators all have a POV, but the only POV that counts is that of the referees. When I was growing up my dad refereed high school basketball games and I’d sometimes go with him and sit in the stands. It was difficult as a child and teenager to sit there and listen to strangers call your father every name in the book (and some I hope were no where near the book). There were times when I broke and told the monsters surrounding me they were yelling at my father. They generally stopped for a moment of stunned silence before they resumed.

When we write we have to decide the point of view in which we’re going to tell our story. It’s not a problem if we’re writing in first person or third person omniscient, but third person limited–whew. It’s easier said than done. We generally go with the point of view that is going to move the scene forward.  But once we get started, all these other characters start jumping in with their points of view. It’s called head hopping. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes less so.

Some talented, famous authors get away with it and do just fine, but it’s not something I recommend. Generally one point of view per scene or it muddies the waters for the readers. That’s my writing rule. But what if the POV character leaves the scene for a moment, what happens then? I had that situation come up recently, on that all important first page no less. What would you do? My main character, who was also the point of view character, stepped out of the scene and while she was gone her other characters shared some gossip about her. I shifted the POV to a new character who entered as the MC departed and gave it back to the MC as soon as she returned. But did I do the right thing? I don’t know. Do you?

I’d really like some feedback on this. It’s my first page, after all.

Thanks,

~Kay

Manic Monday

I appreciate some of the characters from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW giving me a week off to try and get well last week. Of course they’d take any opportunity presented to blog, especially Loralee, so I was pretty sure I could take a week to get back on my feet if only I asked.

I wish I could say I’m back to 100% but this blasted cough won’t go away (though it is better) and I’m still so fatigued I’d cry if only I had the energy. I’m forcing myself to do some things, like my tap dance class, but I swear I have to sit in the car and recoup my energy afterward just to drive home again.

It’s pretty frustrating to be zipping along ninety to nothing, then BANG, all of a sudden you can do nothing. And I mean pretty much, absolutely nothing. I’ve moved past that stage, but the coughing and fatigue lingers. Coughing jags throughout the day are bad enough, but throughout the night—that’s got to stop.

Worst of all it’s affecting my attitude. I’m grouchy. I know it’s hard to believe, but mild-mannered, sweet, little-ole me is down-right, not-think-twice-about-it, snap-your-head-off grouchy. Don’t get in my way or I’ll mow you down—if only I had the energy. . . which I don’t . . . because if I did I’d write a decent blog post.

I think I’ll leave it at that. I just made another appointment to see the doctor. This is what my sixth? seventh? since this all began in December? I’ve missed Christmas. I’ve missed my birthday. Okay, now I’m whining . . . Let’s hope some miracle cure has been discovered in the last two weeks ‘cause I’m ready to get back out there and conquer the world. This being sick is for sissies.

~ Kay

Friday Favorites: What’s in a Name?

Guest blogger: Emmarie Katrina Morgan, character from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW

Hello everyone,

It’s been a rather eventful winter. We moved the girls to a new school. We tried the public school system and but it didn’t work out. Imagine my surprise when four of the mothers in a class of sixteen were named “Kat.” These are girls my children could go to school with through high school and I don’t intend to have the same first name as more than 25% of the class mothers.

I made an on the spot decision to use my first name—well part of it anyway. My given name is Emmarie Katrina. Growing up teachers tried to call me Emmarie because it was my first name. Most ended up shortening it to Emma or even Em and that’s what I’m going back to now. It wasn’t until I was in college that people started calling me Kat. I kind of liked it — made me feel like I was the black cat of the family but Lord knows I’m not, no matter how hard I try I’ll always be the good one–in my family, with my friends, everywhere. I’m so boring. And now I’m going back to a boring name, but it’s better than answering with a pack of other mothers.

We had a hectic holiday season as all families with small children do. We’re blessed to have the means to provide for our girls and we continued some family traditions of volunteerism by having them clean out toys they no longer play with to give to other children before they could get new ones. I don’t want my kids to grow unappreciative of their good fortune or to take it for granted.

I’m glad spring is finally here with the trees and plants blooming. Winter is always difficult for those of us who suffer from depression and this one was particularly tough. At least they have medications for it now and there aren’t the stigmas attached that  once were–well not as many.

I think my space is about up. I’m delighted to be back. Have a wonderful weekend.

~Emma

Note from Kay: My friend and former guest blogger, Phoenix Sullivan, has just released her Extinct Anthology e-book.  Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever Check it out!

Wildcard Wednesday: Loralee’s back

Guest blogger: Loralee Anderson, character from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW

Hey y’all

It’s about doggone time she let me start posting again. I never did get why she got her panties in a wad and pulled us off like she did without even a hoot or a holler as to what we’d done. The others said it was me, but if it was me why’d she pull them too? I reckon that answers that.

Everybody’s been freezing there kahoonies off up here in Nashville while I’ve been down in south Florida singing with a little house band all winter. I guess it more rightly would be called a shack band or beach band ‘cause there weren’t a house anywhere near us, but you could get a cold one or three and listen to our music until the wee hours of the morning. And look at this tan. Well, I guess you can’t see it, can you? You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it’s pretty spectacular and it’s all over, if you know what I mean.

I didn’t get paid nothing but a place to stay and tips, but the tips were decent and the place to stay was better than nothing. At least it had air conditioning and a T.V. Because we performed at night I had all day to sit by the pool and relax. I met some girls who had a condo with a rooftop pool and I hung out with them a bunch. We pretty much had the place to ourselves most days. It felt like we was living the lives of the rich and famous—until I had to go back to my little dump to get ready for my sets. I ain’t complaining. Work’s work and I was glad to have it.

I better stop. You know the pre-post lecture about word count and cussing and all that jazz. Goodness gracious it’s good to be back. Take care…you hear?

~Loralee

Note from Kay: My friend and former guest blogger, Phoenix Sullivan, has just released her Extinct Anthology e-book.  Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever Check it out!

Manic Monday: The Girls are Back in Town!

Guest blogger: Nan Macomb, a character from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW

Hi everyone,

The girls and I are back from our involuntary sabbatical and are blogging this week to hopefully give our author a chance to get well. She’s been sick since December and boy can she get cranky when she’s ill. But since these are probationary posts, that’s about all I feel at liberty to say. We still aren’t quite clear what our probation was all about in the first place so we’re minding our p’s and q’s and keeping within our word count. And we’re watching Loralee. Oh, we’re watching Loralee.

Boy, have I been busy at work. Even though it’s been the coldest winter since the 1940’s, people are still getting out having their hair done. Maybe they’re just tired of staying cooped up all winter, but I tell you when they get here they’re ready to talk.

As you know I only take one client at a time in my home salon so most people open up pretty quickly even if they’re a new client and have never met me before. Lots of times I’m the first to hear about engagements, affairs, divorces, pregnancies, new jobs—all sorts of things. I swear if I could bill insurance companies I’d charge for therapy too. Not that I don’t enjoy it. It’s kind of cool being the first to know stuff. And of course their secrets are absolutely safe with me. Just like with a priest or a nun. Nuns have to keep secrets too don’t they?

It’s almost time for my first appointment and my word count is creeping up on me so I’ll run for now. I just want you to know it sure is good to be back and I look forward to seeing you guys lots in the future. It’s true you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til you lose it. I’ve missed you and your comments. It’s good to be back.

Loralee will be here Wednesday. Watch out!

~Nan

Friday Favorites: Update on MOMR

I finished MURDER ON MUSIC ROW about a year ago. I’ve spent the last year editing, polishing, loving, hating, ignoring, then finally deciding to move forward with the novel. I took a six-week Revisions class in January and February where I tore my manuscript apart scene by scene and then put it back together.  It was kind of a Humpty Dumpty exercise only the ms went back together again better than ever.

All of that’s been done as well as my paper edit. I’ve gone through and made the corrections I caught, though it was extremely difficult to catch my own errors. I know what it is supposed to say so I read it that way whether it says it or not. I have my beta readers lined up–a hair stylist, an attorney, a cop, a singer … all characters in my book plus a couple of writers whose opinions I value.  (Drum roll please) they’ll have their beta copy next week.

In the meantime, my critique group will continue to work with me chapter by chapter so who knows what will change. They see big picture things like Nan, Kat, Lor, Amy — all three letter names, could be confusing for the reader. Kat will now be using her first name, Emma, and we won’t shorten Loralee’s name. Emma (Kat) can tell you about how her name change came about when she next blogs which will be next week, by the way.

The characters are off restriction sabbatical and ready to blog again, with supervision of course. It’s been a while and they’re anxious to tell you what they’ve been up to while they’ve been away.

Until next week, have a safe and happy weekend.

~Kay

Wildcard Wednesday: Wow, Wow and more Wow!

I never met my husband’s father; he died long before I became a part of the family. I’ve heard stories, lots of stories from lots of points of view, and the best I can figure he had the swagger of James Dean and the personality of Dean Martin. No, his name wasn’t Dean, though that would’ve worked nicely for today’s post.

My image of him is based mostly on my imagination with the aid of a few faded photographs. As I understand it he had a keen sense of flair though not necessarily a keen sense of fashion. I surmise he walked to the beat of a different drummer, and while that drummer drove some crazy, to others it was like a heartbeat that sustained life—steady, necessary, wanted.

I think all would agree he was creative. He convinced the kids to spend a summer building a geodesic dome in their back woods one year. It kept them out of trouble and they learned a few things too. He thought big and dreamed bigger.

He and my mother-in-law started their family in 1955 with Hubby. Thirteen months later came Hubby’s first brother. . . then another brother . . . and a sister. Four children under six before MIL was even 25. Whew! It makes me tired just thinking about it.

My MIL stayed home to “raise the kids” while my FIL was out slaying dragons to put food on the table.

Through the years I’ve heard the same stories multiple times. Earlier this week I heard a new one I thought I’d share.

Earrings, 1956

It happened on Hubby’s first Christmas. His parents had moved to Lansing, Michigan where his dad managed a shoe department in Arbaugh’s department store. It was his parent’s second married Christmas and they couldn’t come home for the holiday. Unbeknown to my MIL, Hubby’s Dad purchased and mailed a pair of earrings to her mother for Christmas. He signed the card from Hubby, the first grandchild.  Again, I could get an unanimous vote this was uncharacteristic behavior for FIL.

Hubby’s grandmother loved the earrings and wore them often until the back clip fell off of one. Even so she kept them in her jewelry box because her son-in-law had picked them out, all by himself, just for her, from her first grandchild.

Fast forward fifty-five years. Hubby’s dad is gone. Hubby’s grandmother is gone. But the earrings with one broken clip are still around and in the possession of Hubby’s mom. She and Hubby’s sister decide to split the pair and have them redesigned as new pieces of jewelry. The earrings are kept intact on two stunning pendants created by local designer Shelbi Lavender.  

Monday was my 56th birthday. It was also the 20th birthday of our niece (Hubby’s sister’s daughter). Niece and I have had a special bond since soon after we met and she invited me to marry her uncle. Hey, he’s the one who left us in the car without supervision. She had the wedding planned right down to what she would wear before he returned. He and I were already working on the big picture plans; we didn’t care what she wore.

But I digress as I so often do. Back to the story of my father-in-law and the 55 year old earrings he gave to his mother-in-law who left them to my mother-in-law who, along with my sister-in-law, had them redesigned into the beautiful custom pieces pictured below.

Guess who got the heirloom pendants. Happy birthday to my niece and me. A more treasured gift could not have been imagined. Thanks to all who had a hand in making this happen.

Pendants, 2011

~Kay

Manic Monday: Happy Birthday to Me

It’s my birthday and I’m sick. I know I’ve been sick since December with fatigue and a nasty cough that won’t go away. Well, apparently while in Seattle, Hubby and I both picked up a local virus. We’ve been pretty pitiful for the past few days.

He missed 3 1/2 days of work last week.  By the time we went to the doctor on Friday we were coughing in harmony which did NOT amuse her. We’re on antibiotics and I’m on some heavy-duty stuff since I got this on top of the other infection and they think my immune system in pretty much on vacation.

Saturday night we had dinner with my youngest step-son, his girlfriend, and our ex-wife. We do this not infrequently and most of the time it is a lot of fun. We never know what to expect from the kids. Know what I did? I fell asleep at the table.  AT THE TABLE. At least I didn’t snore. (I don’t think.)

I’ve tried to work, but my chair was too comfortable and I kept falling asleep. (Might have something to do with the meds.) When I had enough energy I’d move from my chair to  a nearby bedroom,  but it wasn’t my bed. If I’m going to sleep I want it to be in my bed. Yesterday I moved my laptop downstairs and I have it, a box of tissues, cough drops, the phone, a bottle of water, a remote for the lights (we don’t have a TV in the bedroom) and my medicine piled in the bed with me. This way I can write until I get sleepy and then roll over and go to sleep. When I wake up I can start writing immediately.

I was asleep when Hubby came to bed last night and he moved my laptop to my night stand, but left the rest of my stash. We have a king-sized bed and he’s accustomed to me claiming most of it with books and pillows anyway.

I think I’m moving into a sleep phase. Where’s that remote?

~Kay

Friday Favorites: PC or MAC?

Monday is my birthday and Hubby thinks I need a new computer…immediately.

He’s been home with bronchitis most of the week and has been checking his work e-mail from my laptop. (The netbook he normally uses won’t hold a charge and our desktop blew up. Therefore I’ve reluctantly handed over my laptop, but I knew we’d be having this discussion.) Just because my delete key won’t work (highlight enter will do the same thing), other keys stick, it’s difficult to type upper case letters (but it can be done) and the panel covering the CD/DVD door is bent, he was highly uncomplimentary of my Toshiba.

I’d already planned to get a new one soon, just not now. I thought I’d buy one, bring it home, make sure everything is installed and transferred over the way I want, then take this one to be sent in for a new keyboard and whatever else it needs. It is under warranty until August, so I might as well take advantage and have an extra laptop at home.

Hubby has been eyeing  those all-in-one i-Mac’s. They are totally self-contained and I have to admit, it is amazing with its 27” screen and magic mouse. Our godchild’s family had one when we visited them in Seattle last week, and our godchild showed us his files, his folders, his artwork…he was all over that thing. I suppose if we got that I could use the wireless mouse and keyboard to work at home and travel with our laptop or netbook. Apple now has Microsoft Office Suite and from what I hear one can go between the two operating systems without a hassle.

Hubby knows I’m a laptop kind a gal and thought if I wanted a Mac laptop I’d like the Macbook. I do like it weights 4.7 pounds, but I could never go from a 17” laptop screen to a 13” one. The MacBook Pro (at more than twice the price) has a 17” screen and weighs 6.6 pounds. My Toshiba weighs a pound more. What I really like about the MacBook Pro—the keys and the screen are backlit. How cool is that?

My reasons for looking at the MAC in the first place were it was less likely to get a virus and because of the writing program Scrivener. (I think Hubby wants one because his business partner has one. You know boys and their toys.) But I understand there is now a PC version of Scrivener. I’ve been using MS Word and keeping a detailed Excel spreadsheet with a page for each of the characters’ particulars (eye color, habits, quirks, etc.), settings, and other descriptions. I don’t write with an outline so I have a master spreadsheet where I have brief chapter summaries and list all of the scenes as a way of quickly finding something when I need a reference. But just this week I discovered One Note. It was already on my computer—just hiding. Oh my gosh, have you seen it? I can see how this and Word could easily work to be a writer’s dream. I’ve got to find this Scrivener and see how it compares so if you use it, please give me the lowdown.

All of my information about the computers is coming off the Internet. I haven’t started shopping yet so I don’t even know if I’ll like the feel of the MAC. How about you? What kind of computer do you use? Do you love it? Hate it? Has anyone gone from a PC to a MAC and how did that work? What software do you use to write and are you happy with it?

Lots of questions…I sure hope someone will come up with lots of answers.

~Kay

Wildcard Wednesday: Guest Blogger — Phoenix Sullivan

Hi everyone,

I told you Monday you were in for a treat today and you are. I was catching up on my blog reading a couple of weeks ago (it seems I’m always catching up), and I found this blog by one of my favorite on-line friends, Phoenix Sullivan. I’ve told you about her before. She’s an author who has a blog where she (and her faithful following) will critique queries and synopsizes until you get it right. In addition, she is about to publish an anthology of about twenty short stories titled Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever which she edited. As if that isn’t enough she has a 27-acre farm. I wonder if she sleeps. Anyway, here’s a post she gave me permission to repost because it reminds us, as writers how many basics we tend to forget along the way. Enjoy. ~ Kay


What Makes A Story A – You Know – Story

So why do some stories get accepted and some rejected? Frankly, for the same reasons we’re warned about over and over for any piece of fiction. You’ll get no surprises here, just pointed reminders of what to look for in your stories before submitting.
Even if you skip reading the rest of this, please do read the last bullet under “Reasons for Acceptance” below, because if you don’t start writing with this premise in mind, you might as well not even start at all.

Disclaimer: The examples used here are actual examples except they’re not. They’re representative of things that were submitted but none of the details are from the actual stories. I’ve changed up characters, professions, situations, and any other identifiers, and made sure none of the pertinent identifiers pointed toward any of the stories submitted. For example, I use Bigfoot in one of my examples — no story submitted featured a Bigfoot. And remember, these issues made the list not because they were things I saw in one story, but because I saw them multiple times.

Rushing It

Spinning out the story, then sending it on without really thinking about what you’ve just written. Dare I conjecture that deep down the writer believes 1) it’s just a short story – who cares if the internal logic holds together, or 2) it’s just some non-pro publication – they’ll take anything.

The competition out there is fierce. Every effort simply must be your best. No exceptions.

The “As you know, Bob” and How It All Works Syndromes

Most of the stories submitted were speculative fiction and while Bob can show up anywhere, he tends to show up more in spec fiction “helping” to explain how this world works. The main culprits: Characters needlessly explaining stuff to other characters, infodump paragraphs, and sentences where characters adjust their binocular-vision plexiglas vid-specs before taking a look at the fission-powered timepiece surgically embedded in their wrist and then hopping onto the robo-driven solarbus that’s hovering at the curb.

I get it. You’ve built a cool world and want your readers to experience the full awesomeness of it. But there are smooth ways to impart this information. A pro will take the extra time needed to more subtly work such info in. That doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional lapse. Sometimes there just isn’t any other way to work it in smoothly. But please, no more than one or two lapses per story.

Dialogue Tags

More often than not, there were simply too many of them. They got in the way of the story. Substitute some stage business in place of them. Skip them altogether when it’s clear who’s speaking or thinking. If there’s only one animate object around in a locked room, the reader will figure out who or what is talking/thinking without repeating that’s who’s doing it.

And think about it. How often do you really use a person’s name in conversation?

Dialogue

There are people out there who can write really good narrative, but when it comes to dialogue they can’t seem to get the right words out of their characters’ mouths.

Just-doesn’t-ring-true (aka Stilted): The word choices and rhythms aren’t natural. Usually this applied to all the characters in the story, but sometimes it would be just one or two characters in a profession it was obvious the author didn’t have a good handle on. There are certain protocols and expectations in language when, say, military folk are addressing one another or a journalist is giving a rundown on a situation.

Repetitive: Having a character either tell someone step-by-step what’s going to happen right before the narrative takes the reader step-by-step through the event or having a character recap blow-by-blow what just happened. This one’s not so much unrealistic as simply unneeded.

Over-dramatic-in-that-cliche-way: Who doesn’t love a good scenery-chewing villain or a tearful good-bye scene? Well, most readers won’t if it’s the same speech we’ve heard a million times. Cliches are lazy shorthand for characterization. Invest the time to elevate the cliche from “Good-bye cruel world; you’ll be sorry when I’m gone” to “Screw it; I’m outta here. And while you’re weeping in your hanky, remember you’re the one pulled the trigger here, not me.”

There’s nothing new in writing except the execution.

Motivation

A lot of characters just seemed to do things spurriously. Sure, we all make spur-of-the-moment decisions to take a walk, have chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla, or go out with friends when we’d planned a quite evening at home. But when a character whose life revolves around attention to duty decides to play hooky from work, there needs to be a reason for such uncharacteristic behavior. If not, the reader’s obviously going to have a hard time believing the character would do that, but, just as importantly, the author is neglecting an opportunity to build tension, challenge a belief, overcome an obstacle, or otherwise flesh out a character.

With the possible exception of stories based on really bad science, stories where characters were simply placed into a situation and then manipulated into actions whether they made sense or not were the easiest passes. If your anthropologist has spent the past 30 years hunting Bigfoot and then traps one, they aren’t going to just turn around and let it go because they’ve just now realized others will probably try to exploit it. While they ultimately may indeed let it go, the reader needs to be given clear reasons why someone would abandon training and principles and 30 years of dreams and work.

Motivation is a huge part of story development.

Is It Really A Story

Action by itself doesn’t make a story. Observational pieces without conflict don’t make stories. No matter how good the writing, there must ultimately be a story in your short story. If I go fishing in a lake, catch an ‘extinct’ fish, ooh and aah over it, throw it back because it should be left to its own devices and hope no one else will catch it, then row to shore when the sun goes down, that’s not a story. If two buddies are on a road trip and they’re attacked by a herd of wooly rhinos that comes out of nowhere and both buddies are killed after a long but valiant fight, that’s not a story either.

As ever, there will be brilliant exceptions, but in general, a short story needs to follow the same rising and falling actions that a novel does, there needs to be conflict along the way, and the characters must change in some way for good or ill.

Other Reasons for Rejection

  • Internal Inconsistencies
  • Bad Science / Vague Science
  • Stories That Just Didn’t Make Sense To Me (this could be my failing, but really, probably not)
Reasons for Acceptance
There’s no surprise why a story got accepted. A handful of stories got EVERYTHING right. The majority did not commit any egregious sins that couldn’t be covered over in editing, and while they might have been a little weak in an area or two, they were so strong in the other areas it compensated.
A difference between what might be accepted in short story form vs. novel form is that in the novel form weaknesses are compounded over a longer period. What might be an annoying gnat in a short story (a lapse in pacing, some weak dialog) would become an elephant in the room in a novel. This, I think, is especially true for humorous stories. The reader is willing to endure a bit of a trade-off in quality if they get a pay-off smile or laugh in the end. In this case, the short length works in the author’s favor.
Stories were accepted because they demonstrated strength in a majority of these categories:
  • Killer voice
  • Strong storytelling skills (meaning pacing, structure, word choices, etc.)
  • Well-developed ideas and characters
  • Plausible science
  • Believable story line made so through proper motivation
  • Natural-sounding dialogue
  • Internally consistent
  • Satisfying ending (doesn’t feel rushed or wrong)
  • A feeling that ultimately there was a reason the author wrote this story, that it has a purpose, that it isn’t just being told to the reader but is asking — and sometimes demanding — a response from the reader. In essence, that it has the reader at its heart.
I finally understand that when I talked about stories being too “on theme” last week, what I was getting at in a not-well-communicated way, was that those stories felt like they were written for this anthology. They were stories that felt like they had no life outside of existing to serve this venue. And they fell flat because the authors seemed to forget that even in themed anthologies, the star of the show isn’t the theme — it’s always, always the reader.