Tag Archives: narrator

Sep 01

“Drop the Words” (Put Your Hands Up! Back Away from the Keyboard!) by Mary Deal

Drop the Words

Colloquialism and slang have their place in diction. That applies to both fiction and nonfiction. However, it doesn’t fit in proper grammar usage when attempting to make your story or book, fiction or nonfiction, the best that it can be.

Consider these:

Eat it up
Where are you at?

Read these sentences again, only this time, substitute the word “down” in place of “up.”

In the first example, how can you “eat it up” if you can’t “eat it down?” Simply put, you “eat it.”

In the second sentence the words “where” and “at” are synonymous as to location. You may as well ask, “Where are you where?” Properly asked, it’s “Where are you?”

When writing, in proper grammar usage, some words need to be dropped from sentences all together. However, if you develop a story character who speaks using these colloquialisms, then his or her diction must be established the first time that character speaks. And further, the character’s language must follow through with similar jargon anytime his or her dialogue is included.

Written dialogue allows for misusages of grammar. It enhances drawls, brogues, and general linguistics found in varying regions and among groups of people. However, in writing narrative, drop the words that make your writing look amateurish and you, the author, unprofessional. Dropping the poor grammar in the narrative portions of stories sets the dialogue apart, which is a must. and draws attention to the uniqueness of each character.

An exception is when the narrator intends to make the narration sounds like the storyteller speaks that way. An example would be when a person from the deep south is telling his life story. We know it’s about him in his own words. We allow for his dialect in both the narration and dialogue. Or a person with a foreign accent tells his or her story; then the narration and dialogue will have great similarities.

With the exception of the above example, and particularly in the editing stage, drop the words that do nothing but distract from the value of the sentence.
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Aug 18

“Choosing a Point of View”…Important Advice from Mary Deal

Selecting a point of view for your stories is the first step in finding your “voice” in writing.

When you begin to write a story, whether a short story or a novel, you first need to know from which point of view (POV) the story will be told. You can always change this once the story is written or just doesn’t work out the way you had intended, but it’s best to plan from the beginning.

You cannot successfully write a story unless you’ve chosen your point of view.

1st Person POV – The story is told through the mind of one character. 1st Person is also used when the author is telling a story or nonfiction experience from his or her own POV. When writing this way, what unfolds in the telling can only be what the point of view character perceives. The author cannot provide a point of view from another character’s mind.

2nd Person POV – The writer speaks directly to another character using “you.” 2nd Person is the least favored and most difficult point of view to use in fiction. The reader then becomes the protagonist; the hero or heroine. Joyce Carol Oates writes in 2nd Person.

3rd Person POV – Stories are usually written through the main character’s POV. Use 3rd person to replace the tightness of 1st and 2nd Person in a story. 3rd Person can be broken down into varying styles of points of view. Here are three:

• 3rd Person Limited – This means that the entire story is written from the main character’s POV and everything is told in past tense. The reader gets to know only what the main POV character knows. I find this stimulating because it can hide the obvious and keep the climax a secret till the riveting ending. This is the POV that is easiest to read and is readily accepted by publishers.

• 3rd Person Omniscient – The narrator takes an all encompassing view of the story action. Many points of view can be utilized. This can be quite an intricate way to write because too much detail needs to be included and may over-complicate the story. A poorly written omniscient story may inadvertently give away the ending thereby deflating a reader’s enjoyment. A well-written story in this POV was And then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

•3rd Person Multiple – The story is told from several characters’ points of view. This has an effect to heighten drama and action if successful at writing from multiple characters’ points of view. Tony Hillerman’s Coyote Waits is a perfect example here.

No set rule for points of view applies when writing. A writer usually sticks to the POV that feels comfortable.

If you are a beginning writer, try writing several paragraphs, including dialogue, from each POV. You will know immediately what feels right for your way of storytelling.

I suggest you stick with one character’s POV to begin with. Even successful writers risk giving readers whiplash when pinging back and forth between points of view.

Nora Roberts head-hops but does it with such skill the reader barely notices the jumps.

Once you have established your favored POV, get busy writing your story. Your “voice” will develop as you write. “Voice” is your storytelling ability; it identifies your style.
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Jul 14

“Know Your Genre” (no, not an article by Sun Tzu) by Mary Deal

Knowing your story’s exact genre is important when submitting your manuscript for acceptance.

Suppose your think you’ve written Literary fiction when, in reality you’ve written Commercial fiction. Your plot makes for a heart-rending true-to-life story. When you send out your manuscript—full of action and a plot that just doesn’t stop—to a Literary fiction agent and get the rejection, you wonder why. And they won’t tell you why. They just don’t have the time to respond to every submission.

For fiction writers, “genre” usually refers to Commercial fiction or Literary fiction. Within these two categories are found many sub-genres.

Commercial fiction is full of action, surprises, and at times, characters that defy reality. This class of fiction is full of excitement as each story propels forward. Story lines are all-important.

Some sub-genres in Commercial fiction are mystery, suspense, thriller, family stories, women’s stories, and adventure.

Another category similar to Commercial fiction is Mainstream fiction, which includes science fiction, fantasy, romance, and some mysteries.

Literary fiction concentrates on the quality of the writing more than the story line. Literary fiction examines the human condition. Unlike Commercial fiction, Literary fiction is not concerned with plot and commercial appeal. How the story is written and elevated prose is all-important.

Many themes can be found in one literary story. They are usually multi-layered, the narration descriptive, with true-to-life characters The narrator is descriptive and characters are as true-to-life as possible.

In that sense, literary techniques may merge with other fiction types to become literary mysteries, thrillers, family sagas and historical.

Be careful to determine into which genre your story fits. It will greatly reduce the number of rejections received when trying to get a manuscript published. Read More

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Jun 30

“Author Intrusion” An Important Writing Tip from Mary Deal

Author intrusion is something I saw a lot of in new writers’ manuscripts when I did a lot of editing.

A story is usually told through the mind of one or more characters. It’s known as the story’s point of view (POV). The reader is only allowed to know what the point of view character perceives and experiences.

Here’s a correct sentence written through a character’s mind, told in 3rd Person POV:

“Sara watched with nerves on edge, unsure of what she was seeing.”

Now told using author intrusion:

“If we look at Sara, we see that she is hesitant about getting involved.”

In the 3rd Person POV, we are in Sara’s mind experiencing hesitation with her.

In the author intrusion example, the author stopped the story to speak directly to the reader, telling the reader what Sara experiences, instead of letting the reader be Sara.

In the past, many stories were told in this manner. The author seemed to speak directly to the reader, as if the writer were addressing a group of people. This method of storytelling has become passé. Readers want to become their favorite characters and experience with them and not simply be told by a narrator.

Author intrusion is easily avoided if the writer stays in the mind of the point of view character. The character will not stop the story to speak to the readers.

Mary is the author of four suspense/thrillers. She can be contacted through her website writeranygenre.com Read More

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Jun 23

Clichés and Jargon…Mary Deal Dishes the Straight “Skinny” on the Subject

Do you know how much of your day-to-day language contains clichés and jargon? The way you speak among your family and peers defines your roots and the person you are. However, in writing, clichés make your story stale and jargon needs to suit the time period of the story.

If you are writing a story that takes place, perhaps in the 1930s or any older time period, you’ll need to capture the language of the day. Whether you have your characters speak these lines or your narrator uses them, similar phrases of the early Twentieth Century may be something like:

A penny for your thoughts
The pot calling the kettle black
Putting the horse before the cart

To include such phrases in a modern-day story tells of an elderly author who has not kept up with language changes, or tells of a younger author bound in family colloquialisms. With the exception of writing a story in a past time frame, the language you use must be the most up-to-date as possible. Read More

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