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Posts tagged ‘multiple perspective fiction’

Point of View and Creating Suspense in Your Writing, by Jeff Nelson

Jack opened the bedroom door, walking into the room beyond. The fugitive, hidden behind the door, stepped out and shot him in the back.

Poor Jack. While the reader is likely to be surprised at his potential demise, where is the suspense that will capture the reader and draw them into the story? Particularly if the story is all about Jack and told from his point of view (POV).

Try using a different character POV – say that of the fugitive. I’ll call him Harry.

Harry nervously waited behind the door, his hands sweating, his heart pounding, as he could hear the cop’s footsteps approaching on the other side. He couldn’t let them take him, not again, he was prepared to kill rather than spend time in a cell again.

Jack opened the bedroom door ….

Better? The reader is now wondering what Harry will do, whether Jack will get a bullet or somehow avoids one. This is an example where the reader and current POV character (Harry) know more than another character (Jack). Harry knows the cop is on the other side of the door, but Jack doesn’t know Harry is.

Consider another POV this time from a third character, Steve a fellow police officer of Jack’s.

Steve lay on the rooftop, his binoculars trained on the apartment building opposite. Through a window he could see Jack in the apartment’s sitting room moving towards the bedroom door. Suddenly he saw a shadow move in the next window; someone was in the adjoining bedroom. Steve trained the binoculars on the bedroom window. It was the fugitive and he held a gun. The man had obviously heard Jack approaching and was waiting for him on the other side of the door. Frantically Steve reached for his mic.

Jack opened the bedroom door ….

Now the suspense is created by the reader wondering if Steve will be able to contact Jack via his mike and warn him before he steps into the room. Steve knows that the fugitive is there but Jack doesn’t.

I had an interesting conversation with Steve Rossiter of the Australia Literature Review recently on ways of adding different character point of views into a story to create and build suspense. Those conversations lead me to adjust and see clearer where my novel had to progress too.

We went through a number of ways that POV can be added:

1] Where the reader knows more than the current POV character.

For example the story will have already said earlier that the fugitive is hiding in the bedroom, so as we see Jack (in his POV) going for the door, the reader knows, but Jack doesn’t that the fugitive is inside the bedroom.

2] Where the reader and current POV character know more than another character.

Examples of this are the two given above using the different POV’s of Harry and Steve.

3] Where the reader and another character know more than the current POV character.

Here we could have the story telling how a tenant in the building where the fugitive is hiding sees him run into the apartment but doesn’t inform Jack as he hates Cops.

4] Where the current POV character knows more than the reader.

This is where the POV character knows or is planning something that hasn’t been revealed in the story yet. For example we could have Jack wearing a bullet proof vest, Jack knows he’s wearing it, but the reader doesn’t. It will come out later that he was wearing one.

…and finally

5] Where another character knows more than the reader.

I hope this helps in your writing.

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Jeff Nelson bio page

B is for Burglar: A Kinsey Millhone mysteryMoney RunConflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)Plotting and Writing Suspense FictionHitchcockThe Arvon Book of Crime WritingThe French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers

Writing Multiple-Perspective ‘Seniors Fiction’, by Janet Marsh

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” — James Thurber

This is really good advice coming from a seasoned author because one of the problems facing new or emerging writers is the idea that what we write has to be perfect the first time around. How ridiculous is that? So instead of ploughing on and attempting to get the first draft out we fuss around and try and make each chapter “just right”. Instead we ought to “just write”.

How vividly I remember my university days when, after completing an essay, I realised that  then, and only then, did I have enough knowledge of the subject to write a really decent assignment. Sadly, the deadline was always only hours away so that was never a realistic possibility. Nowadays, with my first novel seriously under way, that is my goal. Hence the urgency to get the first draft done so that I can then begin to polish it up to publishing standard.

Before signing up with The Australian Literature Review‘s I had circles of stories doing the rounds in my head. Sound familiar? It was all very “one day I’m going to write a book”… It’s taken the “deadline focus” of The Australian Literature Review to really get me working – and working hard too.

My niche market is going to be Seniors. People in the seventy-eighty-ninety age bracket. It’s a huge and growing market and I intend to offer stories that will evoke memories, stimulate emotions and provoke reactions. I hope as well that they’ll entertain, challenge and hopefully open doors of conversation that Seniors will have with other generations – like yours or mine.

I already have a collection of published and unpublished short stories written for this age-group but let’s face it shorter fiction isn’t the best entry point for fresh authors. So six weeks ago I began my first novel and have almost completed the first section of around 19,000 words.

This story revolves around the funeral of an old lady. As her family and friends respond to her death and plan the event they begin to realise that she’s not who they thought she was. The onion layers are peeling away and inevitably there are a lot of tears. My tag line is: will your secrets die with you?

I’ve always been an admirer of authors who can write stories from a myriad of viewpoints. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Poisonwood Bible” was one of the first I read and is a stunning example of the craft. The same goes for Iain Pears and his intriguing book, “An Instance of the Fingerpost”. Writers like these are acknowledging the “warp and weft” of the fiction that makes up our lives.

We all have differing viewpoints of the same event. Try reading accounts of the second world war from Japanese, Jewish, German, Russian, British and American perspectives.  Is it the same event? At times one would wonder because the stories are so very different.

My aim is to write novels that acknowledge this interweaving of viewpoints. The greatest challenge I now face is how to make each voice authentic. If, for example, someone was reading aloud from my novel, without revealing the characters’ names, could the listener guess the which character is which by the style of the conversation or the inner dialogue? I would hope so. That’s my aim anyway.

So, back to the writing and forgetting – for the time being – the “righting”.

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Janet Marsh bio page

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