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Random thoughts about writing and reading
L'ecrivez
only_more_love
I'm going to have to come back and add to this post later, but I wanted to jot this down while it was still fresh in my head. 

1.  There is nothing inherently wrong with first person point of view in fiction, but I am so tired of seeing it in so many of the novels I browse through at the bookstore. I know it lends intimacy to a story, etc., but at least right now, I would strongly prefer to read third person point of view writing.  "I, I, and more I."  No thanks.   

2.  Second person point of view--why?  I just don't get it.  The thought of trying to read a story or book that is filled with sentences like "You walk through a dark forest without a guide," makes me nauseous.  Reminds me of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that were out when I was a kid.

3.  Maybe I'm being too picky, but it bugs me when I read fanfic or fiction where there are sections like this:

The doorbell rang, jarring Booth from the rather pleasant dream he'd been having.  As he got up from his chair in order to see who was on his doorstep, he felt Brennan's eyes linger on the long, lean lines of his body.

OR

Her neck hurt because she had been poring over bones all day.  Sighing wearily, she brushed a strand of silky brown hair off her face and tucked it behind her ear.

[ETA:  I made up those sentences; I didn't snag them from someone else's stories.]

I don't know if other people notice point of view slips like that, but they make me cringe.  Why?  Because unless they're really vain, people don't think of themselves that way.  In the first example, we're clearly in Booth's head, and I'm positive Booth doesn't think of "the long, lean lines of his body" at random moments.  Just as I'm sure that Brennan, whose head we're in in the second example, doesn't think of her "silky brown hair" when she shoves it off her face.  Do you think about your hair color when you tuck your hair behind your ear?  I seriously doubt it.  People might look at other people and characterize their bodies and features that way, but they rarely think of themselves similarly.

I'm not saying this is an unforgivable error.  But it is something I notice and worry about having pop up in my own writing.  I have no idea if it will ever happen, but I would like to aim for publication at some point, and there are so many bad habits one can develop as a writer.   It's much harder to break a bad habit than it is to avoid developing it in the first place.

It is, of course, difficult to maintain whatever point of view you choose for a given work.  Still, I believe it's worth the effort. 

4.  "Go away," she hissed. 

This mistake always makes me laugh.  There are no sibilants in "Go away," so she couldn't have hissed it.

5.  "Honey, I'm home," she grinned. 

I see that all the time in fanfiction, and it's just plain wrong.  An action isn't a dialogue tag.  A person cannot grin or smile or frown a sentence.  

This works:

She grinned.  "Honey, I'm home."

So does this:

"Honey, I'm home," she said, grinning.

There are reasons why writing is considered a difficult exercise.  *g*

Be back later to edit this post.

####

If you've recently read an enjoyable novel, would you mind commenting with the title?  I need something to read.  I don't read horror, but every other genre is fair game.  The only other restriction is that the novel not be written in first person point of view.  There's nothing wrong with first person POV; I just don't want to read it right now.

And yes, I know tastes differ.  I won't blame you if I don't like the book. :)

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Did you ever notice that second person POV is far more prevalent in fanfic than it is in the world of printed fiction? Not to say that it's an inferior POV but that fandom seems to love its 2ndP-POV the way Hodgins loves his microscopes.

There does seem to be a fair amount of second person POV in fanfic, and I do my best to steer clear of it. I don't mean to imply that second person POV can never be used well; "always" and "never" are dangerous words to use. ;) However, I generally don't read 2nd person POV stories--the same way I generally don't read pregnant!Brennan fic. Too much can--and often does--go wrong.

Second person POV can make for a really interesting effect in short fanfics - the operative word being SHORT. Reading a whole novel like that gives me a headache just thinking about it.

I'm so with you on point number three. It's really funny too because it makes the characters seem really vain! Like they go around all day just thinking about their silky hair and lean muscles. :) While most published books don't have examples quite that obvious, I've seen professional authors slip around between third person omniscient and third person limited many times too.

I find second person POV highly irritating to read. I'm not saying it can't be done well; it just tends to bother me.

I'm so with you on point number three. It's really funny too because it makes the characters seem really vain! Like they go around all day just thinking about their silky hair and lean muscles. :)

Exactly my point. :)

Professional authors make mistakes just like everyone else. All kinds of spelling, grammar, and syntax errors make it past editors and into published books. You can break all kinds of "rules" and still have an interesting story, but it is much easier to be noticed if your writing is relatively clean when it hits an editor's desk or a fanfic reader's computer screen.

Second person is very hard to pull off, but when it's done well, it's awesome.

You Oughtta Know by evil_little_dog is a particular fav of mine.

Thanks for the rec; I'll have a look. As with everything else, I have no doubt that it can be done well. Generally speaking, though, I hate to read second person POV stories. It's not a question of right or wrong in this case--just personal taste.

I consider 2nd person fics the gifted writers trade and the bad writers posion. I have a friend who writes in 2nd on a semi-regular basis, but she can pull it off. There aren't many that can. And its even harder the longer the story is. Drabbles - One shots, yeah. Anything over a one shot is too much.

I don't know if you know the House fandom, but this is one of the better ones of my friend's(faith_chaos) 2nd person fics: A Story Of Your Own Making.

Hi there. :) I've never watched House, but thank you for the rec regardless. I don't doubt that 2nd person POV can be done well; it's just that it generally bugs me. Not a question of right or wrong--just my personal taste.

BTW, I saw that you tagged me with that writing meme. It might take me a while to finish it, but I'll get to it. :) I also need to finish reading your responses.

Hiddy. I can completely understand that, and in most writers hands I do agree with you. I've only read about 3, maybe 4 authors that have managed to succeed with it.

No worries. Take your time ;) Most tag-ees haven't responded with their answers and they probably won't so if you don't get to it, don't worry about it.

I think you're right: POV is one of the hardest part of fiction writing! There are so many ways to approach it--it's not just 1st person, 2nd person, there are so many variations and options. Selecting the right character to explain critical plot points....what should be narrative and what should be dialogue...and how to handle POV shifts--that's a whole other ballgame!


POV is extremely tricky. And I agree that there are more options than just first, second, or third person; this wasn't intended to be an exhaustive list. I just jotted down some random thoughts that happened to be swirling 'round in my mind. :)

and how to handle POV shifts--that's a whole other ballgame!

Oh yeah! I love when the POV changes in the same paragraph, for example. *g*

ETA: Hello, by the way. :) I don't think we've chatted before.


Edited at 2008-03-05 07:54 pm (UTC)

Wow, I'm apparently very naive - I never even knew people could write whole stories in 2nd person narration. I guess it's personal preference, but it seems kind of unnatural to me; the only place I've seen it done is in really old epics (e.g. Homer) where the narrator will step out of third person to address one of the characters and it always seems odd.

And I totally agree on point 5. Same goes for shrugged too. Words are not shrug-able. :)

Yes, it seems totally unnatural to me, too.

And I totally agree on point 5. Same goes for shrugged too. Words are not shrug-able. :)

Yes. Actions aren't dialogue tags.

BTW, your icon is killing me. It's so cute. And knowing me, I probably did eat its cookie. *g* Was it chocolate chip?


Ah, this maybe helps me explain better what I was on about below... to me it's as if the action and the dialogue are all a part of the response from the character. Therefore it seems to work. Am I completely crazy? ;)

Of course you're not crazy. :) Different people like and dislike different things. I notice those actions-as-dialog-tags bits, and they take me out of the story. They call my attention to the writing--in a bad and distracting way--because they don't make sense to me. I can't conceive of someone grinning or shrugging a line of dialogue. To me it seems physically impossible, so it doesn't work for me. Other people may not even notice.

Opinions are a dime a dozen. ;)

My five most favorite books - Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Persuasion, To Kill a Mockingbird and Rebecca (Can you tell I was an English major???) - are always great to read. It's like visiting with an old friend.

I just finished Atonement (haven't seen the movie yet, wanted to read the book first) and I just started The Thirteenth Tale (which is first person, sort of, but so far so good).

If you want a good suspense novel, check out Shutter Island from Dennis Lehane, or his Kenzie-Gennaro mystery series.

I know what you mean; I was an English major, too. *g*

I've read The Thirteenth Tale, but I haven't read Atonement or the Dennis Lehane books you mentioned. Thanks for the recs!

(Deleted comment)
Thanks for the book recs, and welcome. :) I read The Handmaid's Tale many years ago -- what a chilling tale -- but I haven't read Oryx and Crake.

A good book or two

(Anonymous)
The last good book I read was Atonement by Ian Mcewan. Also Paint It Black by Janet Fitch is good too.

Enjoy!

Amy

First off, I totally agree on the so much first person POV in published stuff right now - you can't find a novel without it. That said the only thing I've read lately and would recommend was first person POV - The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Nifenegger...

As for Booth thinking about the long, lean lines of his body LMAO. I hear you. I also get annoyed when he gets one whiff of Brennan's perfume, or the soap she just used in the shower and is an immediate olfactory savant - 'she smelled of jasmine and sandalwood with a hint of wild orchid' - like Booth would know what any of those things smelled like (well, maybe the sandalwood but who doesn't get knocked over at ten feet by that stuff)... anyway, I digress...

As for the, "Honey I'm home," she grinned. I do that! And I realise it's not strictly speaking correct, but I'm not sure it matters either. It's one of those grey areas for me where the rules of language butt up against my liking for stuff being a little off the wall... and my tendency to want to bend the rules at all times (not just in writing). One of my favourite writers is Irvine Welsh. He writes in a kind of stream of consciousness way, without even speech marks etcetera. Somehow it sucks you in to the real human behind the dialogue.

I'm not sure that made any sense now!

Lastly.. "Go away," she hissed... hee :) So true!

x


The Time Traveler's Wife is on my list. Thanks for the rec. I just can't stomach reading first person POV right now.

I also get annoyed when he gets one whiff of Brennan's perfume, or the soap she just used in the shower and is an immediate olfactory savant - 'she smelled of jasmine and sandalwood with a hint of wild orchid' - like Booth would know what any of those things smelled like (well, maybe the sandalwood but who doesn't get knocked over at ten feet by that stuff)... anyway, I digress...

LMAO I think I've got sandalwood in Brennan's bath gel in Unwell. And you didn't digress. :)

Re: Irvine Welsh, I haven't heard of him. Will have to check him out.

This post was less about rules and more about things I've noticed and disliked in stories. I doubt there's a single "rule" that every single person can agree on when it comes to writing. Rules and perfectionism can stifle creativity. I struggle with my inner editor every day. Some people like to write in all caps. Some people like to write without any caps. Some people disdain punctuation. I personally find it difficult to read stories like that; those authorial choices interfere with my enjoyment of a story. You can break all kinds of writing "rules" and still have lots of people think your story is fantastic. Even the stories I consider horrible!fic have an audience. There's ultimately no right or wrong. And that's as it should be, I think. Just because I don't like something doesn't mean other people shouldn't like it.

For me, part of the issue is that I would like to publish a novel at some point. That means that I am trying not to pick up bad writing habits that many, though not all publishers would frown upon. I want to increase my chances of getting through the piles and piles of manuscripts out there. Now, lots of stuff that breaks rules gets published, but the industry does have some general standards, and if you follow those standards, you're less likely to just have your manuscript rejected right at the start. Those standards may obviously vary from publisher to publisher and genre to genre.

It depends on your motivations for writing, whether you're targeting a particular audience, what genre you're writing for, etc. I once worked as an editorial assistant at a romance novel publisher, so I have some sense of how the industry works. I've also worked in other kinds of publishing--magazine and online--in an editorial capacity. That means I'm used to looking at text in a certain way and trying to get it to conform to certain publishing standards. I notice certain things; I can't help it. I am a writer, and I have edited in the past. Both those things inform my perspective as a reader. That is a blessing and a curse.

All that said, I absolutely write for myself first and foremost. We each have to make our own artistic choices--and no one will like all of our choices. It's just not possible.

I have no interest in making the rules or beating writers over the head with them. But I do have opinions, and without them I wouldn't have much to write about in this journal. *g*

Damn. That was a long reply. :D Sorry! Perhaps I should turn this into its own post.

Edited at 2008-03-06 03:07 pm (UTC)

Hee :) I spawned a new post...

I read a fic all in lower case the other day. It freeeaaaked me out :)

I'm too tired to comment on the parts of the entry about writing. But I can do book recommendations!

The Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster Bujold
Doomsday Book - Connie Willis
Temeraire - Naomi Novik
Sunshine - Robin McKinley
American Gods - Neil Gaiman

All sf or fantasy - I do read non-sf/f books, but the books I've enjoyed recently are all first person POV!

I've just remembered that Sunshine is first person POV (and technically horror, as it's about vampires), so that one should be taken off the list!

1. There is nothing inherently wrong with first person point of view in fiction, but I am so tired of seeing it in so many of the novels I browse through at the bookstore.

Ya know, when I first started writing, all I did was write in first person. Incessantly, even. Now I just can't do it. I find I can describe much more by using third person. This way lets me let the auidence see what I see (however big a picture as I chose to reveal) versus what a single character sees.

Unless you have a story (like a lot of fics) that changes first person POV's every chapter. Or changes points of view in the chapter. That just seems to jerky and unfocused to me.

I can only read very short 1st person POV stories, whether in fanfiction or published works. And 2nd person is so tricky, it takes true talent to pull it off. When I'm surfing ff.net and I come across a story with weird formatting, too many caps, too few caps, or even paragraphs that are too long - I just keep on cruising. The long descriptive paragraphs really turn me off - probably my number one reason to not finish a fic.

Hmm... I know these are two COMPLETELY different books (reading level, genre, etc) but both The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas are extremely well written. Yes, I am a bit of a romantic. :D

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