Saturday, March 12, 2011

How POV Influences your Book

For starters, I like first person. Yes, there are readers who claim “I won’t read ‘I’ books.” I know one agent who will not rep first person books, period. First person limits the writer because everything is seen through one pair of eyes. Backstory, plot, characters all await to be revealed – to the Main Character and the Reader alike. To me, this is a good thing, for it allows the MC and the Reader to travel together on a journey of discovery.

The key to first person is the voice. If the Writer’s voice is compelling the Reader will be interested. A dull voice will not carry any story, but first person is acutely vulnerable to voice.

Third person frees the Writer from a single POV. Jumping from one character’s head to another can be a joy, if it’s done right. Here are a few tips from Sleuthfest to help keep you on track. First, when changing POV, Meg Gardiner offered this advice. “Don’t spend too much time away from the MC.” If you spend too much time with other characters, the Reader gets drawn away from the MC, and this may negatively impact the Reader’s experience.

Another third person trap is omniscient POV. The story shouldn’t be told as from a camera lens observing the action, but from inside the head of the scene's primary character. Changing POV allows the Writer to provide information to the Reader from different perspectives. But the Writer must take care to let the Reader know which character is commanding the scene. Chapter breaks or a few lines of white space can help the Reader know there is a shift in POV.

One way for a Writer to choose a writing technique is to read - a lot. Which method draws you in? Try the style for yourself. How does it work for you? How will it work for your Readers. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was from Dennis Lehane. "Write the book you would like to read."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meg Gardiner

Snapped this photo when Meg stopped by the Broward County Bomb Squad exhibit. Can't say enough about her as a person and a writer. She is gracious, intelligent, friendly, and has a terrific sense of humor. Read her books, you won't be disappointed.

Dennis Lehane at Sleuthfest 2011. Dennis is not only a great writer, he offered some terrific insights into the world of his writing.

Things I Learned at Sleuthfest

Randy Rawls (JEB’S DECEPTION, JASMINE’S FATE) gave a talk on “Where does your Book Begin”? Not the story, all stories begin at the beginning. “Where does your book begin?” is a slightly different question. I’m going to summarize what I learned from great writers at Sleuthfest 2011.

The obvious answer is to start your book with an opening that draws the reader in. There are no rules, no formulas, to make that happen. Each reader’s experience is unique, right? While there are no rules, I did pick up some tips to help make a compelling opening.

James Born (BURN ZONE, FIELD OF FIRE) gave some great advice. “If you don’t care about the character, you won’t care about the plot.” Make who the bad guy is clear from the start. The flip side of that coin says you should make who the good guy is clear from the start. So if your book starts with a throw-away character or one who gets marginalized later on, re-think your beginning.

Readers have to care about your character as much, or more than you do. To make that happen, tell a little about why the character is in the situation she’s in. Meg Gardiner’s THE MEMORY COLLECTOR starts with a boy riding a bike. Big deal, 99.99% of all healthy boys ride bikes. But by the third sentence, you get the sense that this is no ordinary bike ride and there is trouble afoot. “He never heard them coming.” Five words make up that third sentence, and it hangs like a thunderhead ready to spit lightning. So you’re hooked. You have to read more. You have to know what happens to Seth, and why.

Meg Gardiner (Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett Mystery Series) gave some great tips. “Start your story as close to the end as possible.” As in THE MEMORY COLLECTOR example, we don’t know where in the sequence of events the opening scene occurs. In the analysis of the book, it doesn’t matter. The scene is critical to the story, but it doesn’t matter when it occurred.

Meg offered more advice on what not to do.
1. Don’t explain too much of a story.
2. Don’t start with a dream sequence
3. Don’t do a “story within a story”.
4. Don’t be too introspective.

Will save more for later posts, and I’d love to hear your comments. Hope you find this helpful

Friday, March 4, 2011


Sponsored by the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Sleuthfest is a must do event for mystery/thriller/suspense writers at all phases of their career.

Sleuthfest is a conference for writers, not readers. There are workshops that focus on plot, dialog, characterization, research, marketing. A cornucopia of craft honing by people who really know their stuff. Since it’s so hard to take it all in, the MWA volunteers tape every session and make them available to attendees.

The caliber of speakers and attendees is impressive. Dennis Lehane, Meg Gardner, SJ Rozan, Heather Graham, and that’s where the list starts. Too many to identify, for the entire talented roster, you’ll have to visit their website. With this level of talent at your disposal, how can you not improve your craft?

I got in on Thursday afternoon and hit Randy Rawls' talk on storytelling. Where does your book begin? Not the story, the book. Then Neil Plakcy, president of the Florida MWA chapter, gave a presentation on Writing to Avoid Rejection.

SJ Rozan talked about the industry in general, and focused on genre writing and how much it matters to the story. Afterward, I went to a great little burger shop with Neil Plakcy, along with Dan and Dawn Ash.

Enough for now, have to get back to the conference. I will post summaries of each of the topics I attended along with my own observations in subsequent blog entries. Come back often, leave comments. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Going there tomorrow, should be great. Dennis Lehane is the featured speaker, and I hope to get my copy of Mystic River signed.

This is my first writers' conference, and will try to post every day,