Ask the Editor – Historical Accuracy & POV

Ask the EditorToday continues our Ask the Editor series.

I write historical romance. How important is it that all details be historically accurate versus making it understandable to modern day readers? For instance, most people nowadays think of dinner as an evening meal. Not so in the 1800s when it was the midday meal.

The degree of historical accuracy can vary from publisher to publisher. I know this only because of the books I read from various houses. I’m not privy to their rules.

But I advise my clients to be accurate. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the verbiage more understandable or smoother. Contractions weren’t widely used until the early 1900s, but I find it very tedious to read a book that doesn’t use them. In all things, it’s finding a balance. Let your dedication to accuracy lead you. If you want to be faithful to the language of the day, then be so (and I say kudos to you). You can put other clues into your story to help people know it’s the noon meal.

Where I insist on historical accuracy is [Read more…]

Who’s Telling Your Story?

little girl looking through paper towel roll

Perspective makes a difference.

Should I write my novel in first person or third (or get totally wild and use second person)?

Am I limited to a single character, or can I use multiple point of view (POV) characters?

Who should my novel’s POV character be?

You want to write a story readers can’t put down, but how do you decide what point of view is the best for your particular story? In fact, how can you even begin to write without having decided this basic element of your story?

There are so many choices. How do you decide what’s best so you can increase your chances of writing a best-selling novel? [Read more…]

Point of View Defined, Part 2

Point of view. Think about those words and it will help you.

From whose perspective are you viewing your scene? Whose feelings and thoughts are being expressed in the scene?

Example from my present WIP:
Chase stared at Karl with what he hoped was a questioning, please-continue look in his blue eyes, but Karl just sat there like a dog refusing to fetch. He took a deep breath, clearly concerned and struggling for words.

We are in Chase’s POV. He is describing what he does (stared at Karl), and because he can’t see his own face describes what he hopes he’s trying to convey (a questioning, please-continue look). Chase goes on to describe Karl’s behavior (doesn’t respond, takes a deep breath, Chase sees concern on Karl’s face and discerns that Karl is struggling to find his words).

Practice: Whose POV is this in?
The breath Chase had been holding escaped violently, involuntarily. Abby’s mouthful of coffee came sputtering out all over her lap and across the corner of Karl’s desk. Karl pulled a handkerchief from his suit coat breast pocket and handed it to Abby. She wiped her mouth and then swiped away the coffee from Karl’s desk. (Leave your answer in the comments section.)

Review several pages of your work in progress. Are you showing the observations and feelings of more than one character in one paragraph, one page, one scene? Rework accordingly.

Would you like some feedback or help? Copy a paragraph from your WIP into the comments section and we’ll discuss.

Related articles:
Point of View Defined

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

Do You Really Understand Point of View?

I regularly notice that writers incorrectly shift from one character’s point of view (POV) to another. That is, they give us more than one POV in the same paragraph. I know I did when I first began writing fiction, and I continued to struggle until I got my brain wrapped around what POV is.

Nancy Kress in her book Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint defines it thus: “whose eyes we view the action through, whose head we’re inside of, whose feelings we experience as that character feels them.”

Let me show you how it works with something from my current WIP.

POV done wrongly:
Leslie sat directly across from Chase, her head down, elbows on the table, face in her hands. Her silky brunette locks fell forward, brushing the table. Chase could see the slow rise and fall of her shoulders and hear the deep breaths she took in, held, and then released.

Because Leslie’s name comes first the reader falls into in Leslie’s point of view without even thinking about it and sees Chase sitting across from her. The reader may even imagine herself in Leslie’s face-in-her-hands position, her silky hair softly brushing against her face, and feel Leslie’s emotional discomfort. But in the third sentence the POV shifts to Chase because now we are seeing what he is seeing, hearing what he is hearing.

POV done correctly:
Chase watched Leslie directly across from him, her head down, elbows on the table, face in her hands. Her silky brunette locks fell forward, brushing the table. He could see the slow rise and fall of her shoulders and hear the deep breaths she took in, held, and then released.

The difference is minor in actual words, but where point of view is concerned it now all comes from Chase’s POV. We are seeing and hearing what he does.

It’s best to keep each scene in one character’s POV. When shifting it is best to do it at the beginning of a chapter. If you shift within the chapter, you’ll want to add a line space with a few asterisks centered on the line to help the reader know there is a shift coming.

Do you have a question about POV? Would you be interested in attending a webinar on point of view? Leave your questions and comments below.

Related articles:

Point of View Defined, Part 2

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

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