Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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Point of View, Whose Head Should I Be In?
by Sharla Rae The first thing writers learn about Point of View or POV is that it refers to whose perspective through which the reader experiences the sounds, smells, actions and emotions of a story/scene. Seems simple, but sometimes knowing which character’s head to be in isn’t simple.  Most of us in the romance genre use third-person or first-person. First-person isn’t easy to write, but when it comes to choosing POV, it’s easy. The story is always viewed from one person’s perspective, the character who is telling the story. If the book is in third-person, especially in a romance, it’s not unusual to see three or more character POVs.  It’s the third person stories with multiple view points that we’re discussing here. How does a writer choose the point-of-view character in any given scene? In some scenes, there’s only one character on stage so no problem. In most cases there’s at least two.  The reader may not understand a character’s actions/reactions unless they are in his head or have been at some point. The motivation and action/reaction elements tie into the whose-head decision.  In critique, we decided the most important POV element determining whose POV should be used is emotion -- the character’s and the reader’s. A scene has more “pow” if we’re in the head of the person who is emotionally involved and/or has the most at stake.  Again, sounds simple. But maybe not.  Sometimes two characters are experiencing major emotions in the same scene and both have a lot at stake. Simplified examples: 1)Two people are on stage arguing. Both have reasons and motivations behind their opinions. Both have something at stake. 2) A woman streaks naked through a shopping mall. What in the heck is going through her head? Why would she do such a thing? But wait! What if her husband is coming out of the pet shop? He can’t believe his eyes! His sophisticated, genteel wife would never do such a thing!  See what I mean? Whose head should we be in?  Ask these questions:
  • Whose story/scene is this? Or, who has the most at stake? (Instigating circumstances)
  • What kind of emotional impact is needed?
  • Whose POV will engage readers and drag them along for the ride?
It’s not always an easy choice. Sometimes we need to write the same scene from two different prospectives, before we know what’s right. No harm in that. The important thing is this: Always involve the reader’s emotions.   All this POV talk begs the question; can we skip from one person’s head to another’s, that is, head hop? Yes, but -- and this is a big but – you gotta have skilz and that’s another blog. Okay, let’s talk. How do "you" choose whose head to be in?   Websites: The Writer’s Craft Website: http://www.the-writers-craft.com/point-of-view-in-literature.html     The Dummies.Com website: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-point-of-view-in-literature.html  Books: David Morrell’s Lessons From A Lifetime of Writing
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Track Changes - A Critique Group Lifesaver

Keeping Track
by Jenny Hansen

Do you have critique partners? Editors? Agents? Family and friends that look over your Work in Progress?

I’m betting that you trade manuscripts with these people and that, for those of you who don’t know how to use Track Changes, you buy a lot of paper. And ink cartridges. And red pens (or whatever friendlier color you use to write in the margin and remind your critique partner to use an active verb).

Consider this blog my Summer gift to ease the bottom line on your purchases at the office supply store. We’re going to talk about how to use one of my favorite word processing features.

 Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature can be activated a few ways:

  • Go to the Tools menu and choose Track Changes (older versions of Word)
  • Hit Ctrl+Shift+E (remember, you don’t type in the plus sign for keyboard shortcuts)
  • For those of you who are now using Word 2007, you do not have menus anymore –you have the Ribbon. You may add buttons and features to the Ribbon with the right-click method described above. Additionally, all the old shortcuts like Ctrl+Shift+E will work. Your Review Ribbon is where the Track Changes feature is located.
  • Double click on TRK in the status bar at the bottom of your Word window.

 Note: Your status bar is the area that starts with “Page 1” and “Sec 1.” On the right side of this status bar there is an area that says REC and TRK – these are grayed out unless they are activated. You may double-click on the TRK to activate the Track Changes feature (the REC is to record a macro, which is not covered here). You may double-click on the TRK again to toggle the feature back off. The darkened TRK in the status bar is the easiest way to tell at a glance that Track Changes is on.

In older versions of Word, when you turn on Track Changes, a Reviewing toolbar will appear. (In the later versions, it lives on the Review Ribbon all the time.) If you would like to turn this toolbar on and off separately from using Track Changes, simply go to the View menu and choose Toolbars --> Reviewing, or right-click on any existing toolbar and then choose Reviewing from the shortcut menu. Since the Insert Comment and Reviewer Pane buttons are also accessible here, as well as a button to turn on Track Changes, this is an extremely great toolbar to keep on your screen.

While the Track Changes feature is on, everything you do to a document is being recorded. The Reviewing toolbar has a great button that allows you to choose things like Original, Final or Final Showing Markup. This button is invaluable if you want to print out the manuscript without all the changes showing.

If you have set up your User Information in the correct tab in Options (located at the bottom of the Tools menu in the old versions and in the "Circle" menu in the newer versions) your initials will even appear next to the changes you make. If your critique partner decides to print up the document with the changes he or she will be able to tell your manuscript changes about transitions from that of your other critique partner who might be wild about head-hopping and adverbs.

My favorite part about the Track Changes feature is that the person receiving the critique can activate it on his or her own computer and choose to Accept or Reject Changes. Every change offered by a critique partner, editor or agent does not have to be accepted, as you know. At the end of the day, this is YOUR book.

Be sure to turn your Reviewing toolbar on and play with it – pass your mouse across all the buttons so that the yellow tool tip will tell you what each button means. If you have more questions about the content in this blog, go to Microsoft Word's Help and find out more.

In the meantime, Happy Writing! I hope your muse has been kind to you this summer.

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Have you ever tried to take up a new sport?  Master a new skill?  Do you remember how frustrated you became?   I’ll use my learning to cast a fly rod, just as an example.  I took lessons and at first, I just focused on trying to keep the line in the air.  The rod moves from ten to two position (think of a clock) and timing is critical to keeping more and more line feeding out and in the air (hopefully without hitting yourself in the back of the head with a fly!).  All that seemed hard enough, but then I had to actually aim at something in the water and be able to hit it, without slapping the water and scaring the fish!  Or snarling the whole mess in an overhanging tree branch (where did that thing come from?)  Seemed impossible in the beginning.  Being a neophyte in writing feels a bit like that; how do I remember all the things I need to do, all at the same time?  Everything feels awkward, and just…. not comfortable.  I’ll learn a new skill - say plotting.  I end up focusing so much on that that my characters become flat and uninteresting.  What makes it harder is that, at first, I don’t realize what’s happened.  I just know that suddenly, I’ve lost interest in the story, and can’t make myself sit down and write.  I spent a month flogging myself, accusing myself of being lazy, and questioning my ability to become a professional writer.  A month wasted.  Well, maybe not wasted completely, because I now understand what was wrong, and maybe next time I’ll recognize it more quickly.  This road to being a good writer is a long and convoluted one.   Much more so than I realized when I began.  It’s like giving birth – if you truly knew what you were getting yourself into, would you do it?  I think it depends on when you’re asked…when they put the baby in your arms for the first time?  Of course!  In the middle of labor?  When the hormones hit at eleven?  Maybe not so much . . .
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