Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Me, Myself, and I: First Person POV

A First Choice
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week we went over the kinds of POV. This week we’re going to be talking about first person POV in greater depth for both the reader and the writer to understand if this is the kind of POV they want.

What constitutes first person POV?

First person POV is defined by dictionary.com as: “the grammatical person used by a speaker in statements referring to himself or herself (first person singular) or to a group including himself or herself (first person plural).” In other words, it can easily be recognized by the types of pronouns used in the prose, namely me, myself, I, we, our, and us.

What are the advantages to first person POV?
That’s a very easily answered question: because we already speak in first person POV. It’s one of the easier points of view to write in because it comes naturally, no matter your skill with language. Not only is it a natural extension of yourself, it is an effective tool to bring your reader into the story and have an immersive experience starting at the first sentence. Another advantage is that you’re stuck in a single point of view. This allows you to really develop your narrator with a far more intense relationship to the reader than you would in second or third person point of view.

What are the disadvantages to first person POV?

The two biggest disadvantages that I’ve found in writing first person POV are that the writer has more difficulty describing the narrator and is stuck solely in the narrator’s mind—that is, unless it’s a multiple first person POV book. You can certainly tell a beautifully crafted and compelling story in the point of view in a single person, but that generally is the case of a seasoned writer honing their craft.
Now, for descriptions of the narrator...that issue is a tricky one. When we describe ourselves, it’s not nearly as flowery as the way a writer would describe their characters. For example, if I were to describe myself, I would tell you I have brown hair and blue eyes and leave it at that. If I were writing myself as a character, I would say: “I have long flowing dark golden brown hair that swishes against my lower back as I walk and penetrating blue eyes that pop out against skin so white it glows in the moonlight.”  The first description is pretty standard information, whereas the second description sounds like I’m trying to score a date with someone who called the wrong number and has never seen me before. The writer has to find the perfect balance of sneaking in descriptions without making their main character sound vain or awkward.

Is first person POV right for me?

If you enjoy reading or writing something that you can self-insert into the work, then it absolutely is the POV for you. Everyone has a different experience when they read first person; some people can’t get enough of it, and other want to escape into the lives of what others are doing like they would in third person POV.

Conclusion

No matter what point of view you write in, you must know the rules for writing in it and stick to them, no matter how frustrating it can get.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Kinds of POV

Points of View: what are they?
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week we finished up our Genre series. This week we’re starting a new series on points of view (POV) to help readers and writers to find the POV they’re most comfortable with.
One of the biggest issues that a new writer will have is choosing which point of view to write in and how to stick to it. It’s an ongoing struggle even seasoned authors deal with in their rough drafts. Today we’re going to be going over the kinds of points of view, but we’re going to be limiting it to first, second, and third person points of view for the sake of ease in this overview.

First Person POV

First person point of view is the one most writers start with because it comes the most naturally. We speak in first person point of view almost exclusively—except perhaps those who enjoy referring to themselves in the third person. (I’m looking at you, Elmo.) The POV can be easily identifiable for the reader as a work that uses personal pronouns such as me, my, I, myself, we, and our in the prose rather than solely remaining in the dialogue.
While it might seem the easiest to write in, it comes with its own set of problems. When writing in first, it can become difficult to describe the narrator. Often we don’t talk about ourselves the way that we describe our characters—for example, “I have full, luscious pink lips that part slightly when I think,” sounds more like you work at a 900-number than the way a real person would describe themselves. Another difficulty that presents to both the reader and the writer is that you’re boxed into one point of view, which can limit the readers’ understanding of the broader story and the writer from being able to tell them.

Second Person POV

Second person point of view is the least used form for novels, in part due to its difficulty to master. Second person POV is identified by the use of the pronouns you, your, and yours in the prose and the reader being addressed directly. This point of view is in the same field of first person POV in that it can draw the reader closer to the story because you are told what you the character are doing. Pieces written in second can be compelling if they’re done right, and the reader will feel the emotions more intensely because they’re being told what to feel, but it is a very difficult point of view to master. More often than not, editors and publishers alike will tell you not to write a novel exclusively in second POV because it can ask more of your reader than they’re willing to give, and thus you alienate your reader.

Third Person POV

Third person point of view is the most commonly used point of view out there and is identified by the he, she, they, and it pronouns used within the prose. There are four ways to write in this point of view: close/limited, distant, multiple, and omniscient. Close/Limited third person point of view is reminiscent of first person, except it still uses he, she, and it rather than I and my. The narration is told as though inside the head of the main character. Distant third person is just that—it’s zoomed out of the head of the main character and narrated to you by some unseen figure. With multiple third person, you can combine it with close or distant, but that simply means that you’re telling the story from multiple points of view. Think A Song of Ice and Fire; it’s told in so many viewpoints I can’t remember them all! The last technique is omniscient, which is the hardest of them all to get right. Often omniscient third is compared to head hopping, and it’s a fair comparison. However, head hopping is parading as omniscient but doing it in the character’s voice (close/limited) rather than the narrator’s voice (distant).Omniscient exclusively speaks in the narrator’s voice while being able to tell the entire casts’ thoughts and feelings.

Conclusion

No matter the point of view that you choose to write in, you have to stick to it. Head-hopping is something authors easily fall victim to because we want the reader to know what every character is feeling in relation to each other and to their surroundings, but alas, we much rely on contextual clues we scatter about to lead the reader to the correct conclusion about our work.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Genre: Thriller

What is a thriller? What makes it different from similar genres?
Madison Wheatley, A4A Author and Just-Us League Writer
Last week, we talked about the action genre. This week, guest writer Madison Wheatley is here to tell us about the thriller genre.

What is a thriller?

They keep up us reading well past midnight. They hook us in and keep us engaged with their dark, twisty plots. They keep us guessing (or even dreading) what will happen next. In some ways, though, the thriller genre is hard to define. After all, don’t stories of all genres have the potential to thrill us in one way or another? And what’s the difference between a thriller and a mystery or a thriller and a horror story? Nonetheless, the thriller is a distinctive genre with unique traits that both set it apart from other types of literature.
History
According to many experts, this genre dates as far back as ancient Greece, with Homer’s The Odyssey being the first example of a thriller; throughout the epic tale, the reader follows Odysseus as he battles the raging sea, faces dangerous creatures, and overcomes challenging obstacles on his journey home. Despite its archaic form, The Odyssey exemplifies many characteristics of the modern thriller.
While stories like The Odyssey, fairy tales, and other early legends have thrilling elements, the thriller novel as we know it would not emerge until the mid-1800s with “revenge thrillers” such as The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. In the early 20th century, spy fiction by authors such as Edgar Wallace and Robert Erskine Childers helped to further define the thriller genre.
Today, the thriller is one of the most popular genres among adult readers, and some young adult thrillers are gaining popularity, as well.

Elements of Thrillers

What makes a thriller a thriller? Well, it’s all in the name. While a thriller can center on a number of different scenarios, its primary purpose is to thrill the reader. Authors do this by employing a variety of tropes and literary devices.
  • Suspense: Suspense is a natural part of everyday life; whenever we find ourselves hoping that something will happen and fearing it won’t at the same time (or vice versa), we’re in a state of suspense. This mixture of fear and hope is what Plato refers to as the Paradox of Suspense, and it is an effective motivator to keep readers turning the pages.
  • Plot twists and red herrings: Good thrillers have plots that leave the reader shocked. While a skillful author may drop hints pointing toward a plot twist, she may also include red herrings to intentionally mislead the reader. Plot twists and red herrings keep the reader guessing, never knowing what will happen next.
  • High stakes, danger, and adventure: Although not every thriller will include car chases or serial killers, all thrillers are known for having high stakes and a sense of danger. Danger can take many forms, some violent and concrete and others more psychological and abstract. Regardless, in a thriller, authors will ramp up the tension as the story progresses, making it all the more readable.
  • Emphasis on plot over character (sometimes): While good fiction depends on good characterization, some genres emphasize plot over character. This is the case with many thrillers; it’s the twisted plot threads and the action that keeps us reading. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, though, and there are plenty of exceptions. Psychological thrillers, for example, heavily rely on character.

Thrillers vs. Horror and Mystery

While many people confuse thrillers with horror, again, the difference between the two is all in the name: the purpose of horror is to horrify you while the purpose of a thriller is to thrill. The two genres may share similar elements, but they each evoke different literary moods. In the same way, thrillers and mysteries are not interchangeable; a mystery novel may have thrilling elements, but it will focus on the mystery itself more than a thriller would.
While there are plenty of things that set the thriller genre apart from others, I found in my research examples of books that are called thrillers by some and horror novels by others. Genre is not always clean-cut, though, and is ultimately up to the reader’s interpretation.
Subgenres
The thriller is a genre with a number of unique subgenres. Here are just a few examples:
  • Crime Thriller/Forensic Thriller/Police Procedural: These are examples of fiction that center on a criminal investigation. Crime thrillers, however, are often written from the criminal’s point of view while forensic thrillers and police procedurals center on detectives or forensic scientists trying to catch a criminal. (Example: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.)
  • Psychological Thriller: As its name suggests, the conflict in this subgenre exists within a character’s own mind. While psychological thrillers may have scenes of action or violence, the main problem should be solved by a protagonist’s wits and mental stability. (Example: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.)
  • Action Thriller: While psychological thrillers emphasize mental conflict, action thrillers on the other hand heavily utilize physical action. This subgenre, more commonly seen in movies than in novels, is known for its fast-paced, action-packed plots. (Example: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.)
  • Spy Thriller: One of the first examples of the modern thriller, this subgenre is known for combining the high adventure of an action thriller and the mental elements of a mystery. (Example: The Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum.)
  • Supernatural Thriller: Supernatural thrillers include otherworldly elements; a protagonist may have a psychic ability, or the antagonist may be an entity from another realm. This subgenre is a good example of one that blends fantasy and reality. (Example: The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.)
  • Disaster Thriller/Eco-Thriller: In a disaster thriller, the protagonist must protect himself from or prevent a natural disaster. Similarly, in an eco-thriller, the protagonist must stop a threat to the environment. (Examples: Twister and State of Fear by Michael Crichton.)
In addition to these subgenres, there are also examples of thrillers combined with other popular genres. Examples include romantic thrillers, mystery thrillers, sci-fi thrillers, and others. There are also thrillers that center on specific professional fields, such as financial thrillers, political thrillers, and legal thrillers.

Conclusion

Although thrillers can be difficult to classify and are easily blended with other genres, remember that their mood is what sets them apart from other books. When writing a thriller, keep the reader on the edge of their seat with plenty of twists and turns, engaging conflict, and an exciting conclusion.
Do you have a favorite thriller? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Madison Wheatley is an author and middle/high school English teacher from Northwest Indiana. When it comes to writing, she has a love for genre-blending; her current projects are an urban fantasy police procedural and a paranormal psychological thriller novel. Her YA horror short "All That Glitters" is published in Seven Deadly Sins, a YA Anthology: Avarice. When not writing, Madison enjoys reading, video games, and spending time with her husband and her Mountain Feist. You can connect with her on Twitter or on her website.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Genre: Humor

What makes a novel comedic? What makes humorous writing different than other forms of comedy?
B. C. Marine, CAO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Humor is subjective. We all have friends and family who will laugh themselves silly at things we don’t find funny in the least. And we’ve all been baffled to see someone greet a hilarious joke with a blank stare. How can something so subjective be used as a fiction genre?

Form and Intent

While people may not agree on what’s actually funny, most of us can recognize a joke, regardless of its quality. Comedy follows well-worn patterns and forms, most of which depend on what culture you belong to. For the sake of my sanity, I’m only going to look at Western, English-speaking humor. If you think there’s a lot of variation in sense of humor between your friends, the variation between cultures amplifies that!
Even if we don’t know the proper name for elements like irony or the difference between black comedy and blue comedy, we’ve been socialized to know that laughing is the expected response to them. In the humor genre, stories are packed with moments that are intended to be funny. While every genre (and I mean every genre) can be funny, in a humorous story, joke-telling is the primary purpose. For example, a romantic comedy tells the story of a couple falling in love, like all other romances, but instead of emphasizing feelings, it might escalate absurdity for the climax.

Types of Written Humor

Without the inflection and timing of a live comedian or the sight gags of comic strips, television, and movies, written humor has some limitations. Slapstick, physical, prop, deadpan, music, improvisational, and cringe humor can be difficult, if not impossible to translate into written form.
So what are some forms that work well?
Wit and Wordplay
This is the bread and butter of written comedy. Since the humor comes from the language itself, there’s nothing that needs be to translated to the page. In fact, clever wordplay can sometimes work solely in written form.
Satire and Parody
Most humor novels are cross-genre. They take a popular genre like fantasy, sci-fi, or romance and play with it by twisting the usual premise or exaggerating it. Satire is usually meant to be a biting mockery of society and may or may not actually be humorous. Parodies borrow popular elements from and require a deep level of familiarity with their genres that tends to come from a loving fan and are always comedic. Fantasy and sci-fi are popular cross-genres for parodies because they already push the limits of reality, and it doesn’t take as much effort to stretch them to the absurd.
Black and Blue
Both black and blue humor deal with taboos and can overlap, but are distinct. Black humor draws comedy out of tragedy, making light of serious and painful subjects like death or violence. It’s common in many genres but especially horror or action. Blue humor is vulgar and crude, using bodily functions or sex for laughs. Children’s humor and romantic comedies tend to have more toilet humor and bawdy jokes respectively.

Conclusion


Though the quality of humor is wildly subjective, it’s easy to identify. Have you ever read a humor novel? Let us know some of your favorites!

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