Writing Compelling Stories: Point of View

It has been a while since I did one of these posts to help the writers with some of the intricacies of writing fiction or  non-fiction.

So today, let’s talk about the Point of View in your writing.

To understand what is it in a story, let’s start with a few examples.

“I DON’T CARE!” Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. “I’VE HAD ENOUGH, I’VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE!”
“You do care,” said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Here we have a narrator that tells the story that is external to him. He is merely an observer of the things that happen.

“Somewhere inside me is a merciful, forgiving person. Somewhere there is a girl who tries to understand what people are going through, who accepts that people do evil things and that desperation leads them to darker places than they ever imagined. I swear she exists, and she hurts for the repentant boy I see in front of me.

But if I saw her, I wouldn’t recognize her.”

― Veronica Roth, Divergent

Here we have the character telling his own story.

As you can see these two books are written in a different point of view. So, let’s talk about the points of view most commonly used in writing.

First-person singular

“I’ve found that human beings learn from their misdeeds just as often as from their good deeds. I am envious of that, for I am incapable of misdeeds. Were I not, then my growth would be exponential.”

― Neal Shusterman, Scythe

As in the previous example from Divergent this piece of text is written in first-person singular. The narrator of the story is the main character. Usually, but not always. 

The character narrates their experience, but also their view on things.

This Point of View can be unreliable. It can lead the reader to see things differently from what they truly are. It is also limited as it will only talk about the things the character saw or did.

Mistakes:

While writing in the first person you have to watch out for these things:

If your character is not interesting and detestable, no one will want to stick with it for 300 pages or even 20.

And you should avoid telling all the things that happen, all the feelings and thoughts that  cross the character’s mind. In other words telling, not showing. A post about this trap for writers can be found here.

Second-person singular

Ana Iris once asked me if I loved him and I told her about the lights in my old home in the capital, how they flickered and you never knew if they would go out or not. You put down your things, and you waited and couldn’t do anything really until the lights decided. This, I told her, is how I feel.”

― Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her

Here, the narrator is speaking with the reader. This way, the story becomes very personal to the reader because he is the protagonist of it.

But even if you don’t write in the second person, breaking the fourth wall can be exciting. It happens when the writer briefly uses the second person in a narrative that is in the first or a third person point of view.

The most fun usage of it that I have ever seen is in Deadpool. Each time, he turns and looks into the camera and speaks to the viewer, he is breaking the fourth wall.

Third-person

“The lockpick gaped up at Adamat from his knees. “You’re making enough noise, you might as well have knocked on the front door,” Adamat said.”

― Brian McClellan, Promise of Blood

The narrator is outside the story. He is not one of the characters, and he is only telling what happened to the protagonists.

The third person can be limited or omniscient.

Third-person limited

The narrator is either an outside observer, unaware of the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists, or he follows one of the characters closely and has access to his/her thoughts.

Third-person omniscient

The narrator knows everything. He is the God of your book. He knows every thought, every feeling, every hope, and shame, desire and fear of the characters.

But this distinction is too black and white. There are a lot of grey areas. The writing in the third person can be more or less omniscient. Hide more of the characters’ feelings for the sake of creating a mystery for the story.

Mistakes:

The most common mistake made in the third person omniscient is head-hopping
This refers to the writer hopping from one characters’ head to the other. Thus, the head-hopping. This will break the intimacy created between the reader and the character.

In conclusion. You should use any point of view you prefer. The first person or third person limited are the easiest to understand and get right when you are a starting writer. But you should always try new things, push the boundaries and most importantly write.

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Artemis, Andy Weir

A 5*

“On a scale from one to ‘invade Russia in winter,’ how stupid is this plan?”

First disclaimer, I haven’t read the most famous book by Andy Weir, The Martian.

Second disclaimer, I did see all the bad reviews this book has gotten.

And I must say, this was an awesome read. The bad reviews I saw were mostly about the immature, childish and annoying main character and a bit too much wielding and too much science in this sci-fi book. But, even if sometimes I would agree, for me it didn’t change anything about my impression of this book.

At around 50% I asked myself wasn’t all of this too easy, too predictable and going too fast, knowing that I had still more than 100 pages left to read. But boy, was I wrong. A few explosions, a few murders, and an incredible plot-twist happen.

The story is interesting, with a lot of turns and developed characters, especially Jazz. We know her flaws, we see her fight for what she wants and deal with difficult situations she finds herself in.

For a first-person POW, that I don’t usually like, this was an exciting, snarky and enticing story.

There is a lot of work done behind the pages, to present the reader with interesting science that you wouldn’t even doubt for a second.

Even if sometimes there are one too many stereotypes, especially about Ukranian scientists, but those stereotypes do get born somewhere.

In any case, this was an incredibly good sci-fi, with a differently constructed society.

This was a first book in a while that made me shed a tear, when you are so invested in a character, that you are surprised how selfless and deep she can be.

I recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t yet read it and I would advise keeping an open-mind while reading it.

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Heir of Lies, Mallory McCartney

A 2*

I got a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions included in this review are my own and are in no way affected by the exchange.

I regret to say that I didn’t like this book. I didn’t like the story, I didn’t like the characters and I didn’t like the way the story was told. That doesn’t mean the writing was bad per se.

M. McCartney builds a world and inhabits it with characters with a few strokes of a pen.

But…

I found that the characters were presented in an incredibly fast fashion and each detail of their stories told starting on the first pages.

The story flows slowly, too slowly and the constant switch between the characters didn’t help with me being already bored with the story.

I want to say again that the writing was good, but it is the story that didn’t click with me and I just wanted to skip through it all to get to the end of the book.

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Grave Peril, Jim Butcher

A 4*

“So?” Bob said. “Hat up, go kill her. Problem solved.”
“Bob,” I said. “You can’t just go around killing people.”
“I know. That’s why you should do it.”
“No, no. I can’t go around killing people, either.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

Grave Peril is the third installation in The Dresden Files series. I fell in love with Harry Dresden, the wizard, from the first pages of Storm Front. I enjoyed all the books and I found that the story was as captivating in the 3rd book as it was in the 1st.

This is an urban fantasy that spins lore, myths, magic, faith, and ghosts in a beautiful story. Most of the reviews I checked said a lot of negative things about the book and I don’t understand why.

Yes, the story is a bit too cheesy, but that is what you might expect from a narrative where the protagonist is presented as Harry Dresden, the wizard. In the modern-day Chicago.

There are new characters introduced that we’ve never seen before, and that adds more spice to the story. Dresden is himself an interesting character. Witty, snarky but always a gallant gentleman who ends up in a lot of bad situations because of it.

But I can agree with the fact that the story is a tad too long, with always the same thing happening. But there are major cliffhangers happening throughout the story.

It took me a while to finish, but only because of some major personal problems not related in any way to the attractive narrative this story is.

For those who love snarky urban fantasy, this will be an awesome read. The whole series will be.

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A Better Quality of Murder, Lizzie Martin

A 4*

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I was searching for a good detective story outside the circle of the famous classic detective writers, such as A.Christie or A.C.Doyle. And I was extremely satisfied with Ann Granger’s writing in this genre.

The plot was interesting and the premise of the murder mystery not too obvious. Yes, you can guess who the killer is, given the amount of details dropped throughout the story, but there is still a surprise at the end of it all. And a few that you will get during the story.

Now, to the characters. Some of them are not developed enough, as the detective and his wife, even though they are the protagonists. On the other hand, those who played a part in the crime are the most memorable even after the weeks that passed between the moment I finished the book and I am writing this review.

Which is fine, but I would have loved to see more depth to the protagonists who did not allow me to root for the detective during his investigation, nor for his wife who was doing her amount of sleuthing.

All in all, this is an easy read to take with you on a plane or on a short holiday when you don’t want to submerge yourself into a complicated story.

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Divergent, Veronica Roth

A 3*

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

So here comes my unpopular opinion about the book that sold over 6.7 million of all the books in the series combined, got a movie and tons of positive reviews.

I must say that when the author can write a good dystopia, make it believable and then crush it in his/her own book… That has no price. That is why Red Rising, Hunger Games, Scythe are such good books and such good series.

But… That the genre is popular and good, doesn’t mean that every book in that genre will be good.

What I liked in this book,

It was an interesting way to divide the society. The factions, the control and the hidden strings pulled from the back scene.

The characters are interesting, attractive and so believable. Everyone gets hurts; everyone grows; everyone reveals their true nature and intentions.

Now, to what I didn’t like.

There are so many stereotypes in this book. So many twists, which are easy to foresee. 

There is not enough action… Yes, the main characters are going to get beaten and trying to survive the hard process on initiation in Dauntless faction, but besides that, every bit of action happens on the last 100 pages of the book.

And don’t start me on Four… I said don’t… Okay, you know what? You asked for it. It was just so obvious. Four’s identity was not surprising and at the same time looked more like a coverup of a big plothole.
And since his identity is uncovered, the book was ruined for me. Four’s story is just too thin, and all of it is such a big coincidence.

Now, with that out of the way…

I want to say that this book is as addictive as you can find. Even if it seems like a slight rip off of Hunger Games, I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

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Editing Like a Badass: Be Concise

You are editing and feel like your manuscript is lacking, but you not sure what to do, what to add and what to cut out.

There is no secret that some of the paragraphs that you’ve written are cumbersome and useless, and you agree on that. But what about those that don’t stand out? They are there but don’t add anything to the story.

So let’s talk about the conciseness of your story.

Kill your darling

When editing ask yourself, does this scene adds anything to the story? Is there something mentioned that is advancing the plot? Or is it just a filler scene you like so much?

As you can guess, the last one needs to get out of the story, no matter how much you like it.

Avoid Repetitive Phrases

You don’t need to tell the same thing twice or thrice. Use variety in your sentences. Cut the phrases that describe the same action.

I didn’t need three of those to get the point across. So don’t you!

Cut the filler words

There, here, it cut them out, you don’t need them. Your writing will only be weaker with them.

There were three soldiers standing next to the gate.
Three soldiers guarded the gate.

Avoid long sentences

No need to tell all the action of the scene in one long sentence. It will bore the reader and make him/her confused.

Cut useless details and description from it. And if there is none, just divide it in a few different ones.

When there is some action happening, you need your reader to feel it. Short, fast sentences will get your reader on edge. And even better if you can combine sentences of different lengths.

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The Edge of Reason, Damien Concordel

A 4*

I got a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions included in this review are my own and are in no way affected by the exchange.

The Edge of Reason is a collection of short stories, some of them linked between each other.

There were some stories I liked, others I didn’t, but it was a matter of my personal taste and not the quality of the writing.

The writing is compelling and interesting. The characters appealing and profound, even if we see them for a few pages.

I read the book on the plane and The Return of Malaysia Flight 370 made me shift in my seat, thoughts of plane catastrophes rushing through my mind. I find it beautiful the way Damien Concordel decided to commemorate the victims.

There were a few stories where the writing seemed a little bit off and the quality of the stories were not as good. I am not sure what didn’t work for me in them, but they were a bit of a drag to read.

Overall it was a good read. Each of the stories has its unique flavour making it a good journey.

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Christmas Giveaway Winners

Awesome bookmarks by @irenadams

The winners of this year’s Christmas giveaway are the following:

1st prize (On Writing, by Stephen King and a pack of bookmarks) – Gabriel Andronica ( @AndronicaGabri1 )

2nd prize (a flowery notepad, a cute pen and a pack of bookmarks) – Taryn The Dragon

3rd prize (a flowery notepad and a pack of bookmarks) – athousandbitsofpaper

4th prize (a pack of bookmarks) – laurabooksandblogs (@lsmith335)

5th prize (a pack of bookmarks) – @InkySilenceRecs

Contact me with your address, so I can send it to you.

And stay tuned for the new content and other giveaways!

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Writing Compelling Stories: Show Don’t Tell


Let’s talk about something that every writer had heard a thousand times, but not always followed the advice right away.

Yes, we are going to talk about the famous statement “Show don’t tell“.

All of us sin sometimes and make a sentence that doesn’t show the scene to the reader. The reader will inevitably glide over it, but won’t remember anything about it.

Here are some examples:

Sam was shocked by Ron’s statement.
After Ron’s words had reached Sam’s ears, she widened her eyes and gasped.

Lila started crying and tried to hide it.
Tears wielding in her eyes, Lila turned away. Let them think she was disgusted rather than crying.

There is no other way to say it. Making your scenes more vivid will appeal to the reader and make them feel powerful emotions for your protagonists.

The reader will know Sam is shocked because you’ve shown it to them. They will know Lila was ashamed to be crying in front of others because she turned away.

When writing a scene you don’t need to tell what you saw your character do. You have to create the same image you saw in the mind of your reader.

You will not achieve it if you state the actions. The reader needs to half-guess, half-see.

Your story has to start in your mind and end in the mind of your reader. And there is no other way to do that, but by showing it to them.

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