Thursday, June 15, 2006
through a lens darkly
I usually avoid talking about writing basics because every story is unique and what might not work in one could very well work in another depending on how it's handled. I HATE to say something should be done a certain way, especially now when one of the biggest problem in publishing is that too many books are the same, but that's another topic for another day.
I've been seeing a lot of what I consider viewpoint mistakes in some otherwise good writing. Many people think they get and understand viewpoint when they really don't.
This is pretty basic stuff - you don't want to say your viewpoint character is ugly and lazy unless he thinks that about himself. Otherwise you're introducing the opinion and viewpoint of somebody who isn't even in the book. Or he could have the thought that his sister say's he's ugly and lazy. There are ways to get it in there just as long as it comes from him.
Some beginners tend to step out of viewpoint in the narrative, which can be jarring for the reader.
Ack. This is such a broad statement. That's the problem, because there are so many exceptions. One example: I sometimes employ a technique that probably has a name. I open the scene as if viewing it through a camera lens. I start with a long shot, then move in closer until I'm in the viewpoint character's head. Once I'm in there, I stay there.
Ack. Not always. In PLAY DEAD, I sometimes ended a chapter by moving the camera back out of the viewpoint character's head to suddenly focus on a group of girls jumping rope and chanting.
If you're having trouble with a scene, if it seems flat, you might not be utilizing viewpoint. How can you personalize what's going on? Once the depth of the viewpoint is found your problem is often solved.
Another thing I've been seeing is fantastic deep viewpoint - with a random sentence that's way outside the viewpoint. Watch out for those sneaky things.