Friday, June 29, 2012

Rules and How to Break Them

A guest post by Scott Bury

There sure are a lot of rules when it comes to writing, whether it's fiction or non-fiction. And theyre driving me crazy.

I know you cant break grammar and spelling rules. Unless you really want to. And you know that you're doing it. And you know why you're doing it.

But those other rules are starting to bug me. Like Elmore Leonard's ten (or is it eleven?) rules for writing ficion like "never start with weather." And never use the word "suddenly."

Genre fiction has even more rules. In many ways, these rules make the genre. Consider spy fiction: CIA agents always call their agency "the Company." And there's always a convenient computer wizard who gets critical information to move the plot forward, when there's no other plausible way to get said information.

In epic fantasy, the old mage knows everything, and either the hero or the heroine is a prince or princess. Maybe a lost royal, or a hidden royal, but definitely a royal. Fantasy always features a crude, childish map of an imaginary land.

In romances, the good girl always gets the guy. And the guy is always intimidating at first impression. But hes ruggedly handsome, and athletic. And if hes not obviously, fabulously rich, then he lives in a house he built by himself and keeps his substantial wealth well hidden. And one of the pair is smokin hot in bed, while the other has undiscovered sexual talents that yearn to be released.

And Im not talking just about erotica or even the soft-porn that calls itself 50 Shades of Grey. Youll find these tropes from Bridget Jones to Jane Austen.

You gotta have those things, right? I mean, them's the rules. Apparently.

I hate rules.

Why do the hero and heroine have to be beautiful? Next time youre on the busor train, or in a food court or sports stadiumlook around you: how many of your fellow humans are beautiful? How many are fabulously wealthy? Think about your own partner: have you discovered the sure-fire trigger that turns them into lustful tigers in seconds, every single time?

Writing is an art. As artists, were not giving ourselves or our audience what they deserve if we dont explore new ideas, try new ways of writing, write new plots. In other words, break rules.

But as I said, you cant just write down whatever comes out of your head and expect an audience to finish reading it. It just wont happen.

The English languages has rules of spelling, punctuation and grammar for a good reason: they enable us to understand one another.

And those rules for plot, characterization, setting have evolved because they work. A story has to have a beginning, a middle and an end, or its just not a story. Why is the plot of The Lion King the same as Hamlet (except for the last scene)? Because that old, old story, the story of Cain and Abel, touches something deep inside all of us. There are ideas in there that are still to be explored.

But then there are ideas that are so worn out, theyre kind of nauseating. Like the couple who cant get married, because at least one of them is afraid of commitment. Or anything else that has been in any Julia Roberts movie.

Story-telling requires some rules. But writers should not be afraid to break them, as long as
-       they know theyre breaking a rule, what that rule is and why it exists
-       they have a good reason to break it.

Elmore Leonard is a great writer, but why couldnt I start a book with weather? And not just it was a dark and stormy night.

How about this?
Rain again. Grey, dark, cold. Not enough to keep plants alive. Not enough for the farmers, said the voice on the radio. Just a fine, chilling drizzle from clouds that seemed to get stuck in the power lines. Nadia wondered if that’s what had happened as she blew across her coffee and waited for the phone to ring. She sipped her coffee: still too hot. She shivered as a rusty pickup truck sloshed along the street, wipers going too fast for the amount of rain. She blew on the coffee again. Ring, dammit.
Her breath was fogging the window. She turned away and put the coffee beside the phone. Why won’t you ring?
There. Started with the weather, moved right to the character. I think it works. I have no idea where to go with it, though. If anyone reading this wants to use it, feel free.

Rules apparent in fiction today:

1.    Heroines, especially young ones, are always beautiful. Heroes are ruggedly handsome.
2.    The good boy always gets the girl.
3.    Bad boys are really good, underneath their rough exterior.
4.    Cops have English, Irish, Scottish, Italian or Polish names, except for a token Spanish name.
5.    Couples initially hate each other and do awful things to each other, only to mask their irresistible sexual attraction to each other. Eventually, they end up in bed and then married.
6.    Heroes are always dead shots, and villains never hit anything.
7.    In epic fantasy, good guys have vaguely Celtic-sounding names; bad guys have Germanic-sounding names or, if theyre REALLY bad, Turkic.
8.    The background information source, whether its a magician, and ancient mystic, someone with second sight, a street-wise information with his ear to the ground or an ingenious computer hacker, is always 100 percent reliable and NEVER wrong.
9.    The blonde bombshell the hero is dating at the beginning of the book is always wrong for him or her. The mousey, shy  and faithful co-worker is always the soul-mate.

Those are just a few of the common ones I notice, and they drive me crazy. What about you? Which rules would you like to break, or to see your favourite writers break?

Scott Bury has been writing about publishing, computers, and communications for over 20 years. And he has won awards for it. Read his blog, Written Words. Follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Scott Bury. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Good, Bad, Even Ugly: A Guest Post

FYI, I'm guest posting at Scott Bury's Blog today. You'll find him over at Written Words, and here's a link to my post there: Good, bad, even ugly: defining your writing. I recount my most embarrassing writing critique ever, with a sample of why my writing deserved the critique it did. (It was bad, believe me.) And I include a little sample of how my writing has improved since then. What memories! Check it out.

And tomorrow, Scott's guest post here goes live, talking about rules for writing and when maybe you should break them and why. Look for it, because it's going to be good!

~The Chipper Muse

Friday, June 22, 2012

Let the Story Rule: Determining the Best POV

I've said it before and it bears repeating: The best point of view is the one that works best for your story. Now, I definitely think we tend as writers to gravitate toward what we feel most comfortable with, and our instincts can often be right. As a friend, Amber West, put it:

"I automatically always write first person. I think I approach it like acting. I become a character, making it so much easier to write in first person."

That makes sense, doesn't it? I act scenes out too, but somehow for me, I still end up writing in third person, unlike Amber. So, go figure.

Another friend, literary agent Nephele Tempest, has pointed out that she considers first person harder to work with. She says:

"Personally, I think the first person is more difficult to write and keep consistent, but regardless of your choice, it should flow smoothly and have a distinctive voice." (Find her whole post here; it has a lot of advice beyond POV, too, and it's worth reading.)

Of course, keeping your POV consistent, writing in a smooth flow, and having a distinctive voice to your fiction are all things that "work best" for your story, which brings us back around to the main point of today's post:

How do you figure out what is the best point of view for your story?

Pauline Baird Jones shared with me that in figuruing out what to do with point of view, she asks the question, "Whose head is this?" That's a good question both for deciding what to write and how to write it. Remember, readers see the story world through one person's interpretation, noticing the things that character notices, ignoring the things he ignores (or noticing them and wondering how the character could ignore it).

It's like "looking around" through someone else's eyes. (Being John Malkovich, anyone?)

And it's important to bear in mind that POV has two manifestations in your writing. One, it relates to the viewpoint character, the one whose vantage point we're looking from. And two, it is connected to the grammatical tense you choose to tell it in, first or third person, and all the things that using first or third person entails.

Also, as you settle on POV, consider the points that writer Nancy Kress addresses in her article, "The Best POV for Your Story" (included in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, 2nd ed. Copyright 2010 by the Editors of Writer's Digest, a book worth buying). Among other things, Kress notes that:
  • Your point of view character (the person who tells the story) doesn't have to be the same as your protagonist (the hero or star of the story)
  • Consider all potential POV characters, and see which one will give you the story you want to tell
  • Try to choose a POV character who will be affected emotionally by what happens in the story
  • Pick a character who is present at the climax (which is one thing I hate about Twilight; Bella passes out before the big fight happens, and that equals a big letdown)
  • Make sure your POV will have good scenes to be present in
  • And (echoing what Pauline Baird Jones said above), whose head do you want to be in as you're writing?
I'd add that as you decide which point of view to use, you should consider your theme and who might express that theme the most effectively. Let that person be your POV character. Kress suggests that in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout has an innocence about racism that no adult would have, which allows Harper Lee to address the issue in a special way.

Do the same with your story. Use the character who best raises the issues you want your readers thinking about. 

Imagine, for example, how different The Hunger Games would be if told by Peeta, who is relatively naive yet has a set of principles he lives by, and who would die for the girl he loves. But he isn't the viewpoint character. That's Katniss, who is also the hero. She's cynical, tough, willing to play the audience, and yet not completely sure of herself. With her telling the story, the reader definitely sees the irony in how Katniss despises the cameras and the crowds, yet is pragmatic enough to use them to survive rather than being idealistic enough to refuse to change, even if it means dying, which Peeta nearly does.

As far as choosing the grammar and style of POV, if you use first person you'll want to choose a character who likes to talk or at least has a reason to share the story. Be sure your speaker is appealing enough that your reader won't want to put the story down; you can achieve this through voice as much as through what's happening.

Let me show you an example of how voice reveals character and influence the tone of a first person POV. I asked friends on my personal Facebook page, "What do you think of when you read or hear the phrase point of view?" Here are their answers, and they all sound unique to the person:
  • Punto di vista (this is from my non-writing but Italian-loving friend Regina)
  • Man-on-the-street interviews, and getting people's opinions (Karen, who used to work in TV news)
  • From the perspective of... (Andrell, my editor friend)
  • Stepping inside someone else's shoes, whether that someone is fictional or real (Rebekah, who is both a writer and a pastor)
  • Vantage point. Since we are all unique individuals, we see things from different perspectives (Erick, who is studying to be a life coach and consultant)
  • I should pay more attention to it, but I've never been critiqued poorly for how I handle it (Joe, a fellow writer and a down-to-earth guy)
  • Grace Jones...or the scope of a gun. Get to the point and let's move on (Phyllis, an artist, a realist, and a no-nonsense type. I believe she's referencing James Bond, A View to a Kill. Which I love!)
You see how each person brings something different and interesting to the discussion, and your point of view character should do the same. Even if you decide to go with third person instead of first person, embrace the things that make that character unique, and let it come through in the writing. A character's voice can still be heard in third person limited.

This is a lot to mull over. But it's well worth taking the time to give point of view serious thought. It can open up the story to you in a new way. It can illuminate theme. It can add flavor to your fiction. It can help readers connect to the character and keep them turning pages. Point of view is a tool like any other, and the more adept you become at wielding it, the better your writing will be. And that's what it's all about.
Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Whole Lot of Points Of View: Multiple Viewpoints in Your Fiction

Hi, everyone! I hope you have been enjoying my recent posts on point of view. Today, I want to answer a question raised by Lynette Sharp on The Chipper Muse Facebook page“If you have multiple POVs, does it have to be equal or close to equal?”

The short answer is: No, it doesn't have to be equally done. In fact, in most stories, one character is going to get far more attention than others. Though it's possible to split viewpoints equally if your particular story warrants it, that's not the most common approach.

In most stories, you have one protagonist at the center of the action, and his or her scenes are going to outweigh everyone else’s. This is the person we relate to most as readers, and we want to know what they are doing, so it makes sense that this central character will dominate the scenes in a story, even one in which you’re sharing more than one character’s point of view.

A perfect example of this is the Patrick Bowers series of thrillers, written by Steven James with multiple points of view. I just finished James’ second book in the series, The Rook, so I did a rough count of chapters/scenes as told from the different viewpoint characters. (There are a total of 8 viewpoints shared, and a rough total of 211 scenes.)
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The protagonist, or primary character, in The Rook is Patrick Bowers, an FBI agent who solves crimes. As the main character, he vastly outweighs every other viewpoint character, weighing in at roughly 111 chapters/scenes. It is also worth nothing that his is the only POV told in first person. He is the person we’re meant to identify with most. Everyone else’s scenes are told in third person.

The character with the next highest number of scenes is Patrick’s step-daughter Tessa, with whom he is trying to build a relationship in the wake of her mother/his wife’s death. Tessa’s scenes weigh in at 30. That means Patrick has nearly four times as many scenes as anyone else who is a viewpoint character in the book.

This is normal. Your central protagonist, the person who drives the action and without whom there is no story, always gets the most scenes, even when you are using multiple viewpoints.

Other characters in The Rook get even fewer scenes. Lien-hua, who is Patrick’s colleague and a possible love interest, has 26 scenes. The primary villain, Creighton, has 23 scenes. Victor Drake, a player in a subplot, has 10 scenes, and in that same subplot, General Biscayne has 4 scenes and Hunter has 5. The villain in the background (Shade), who is pulling the strings and will show up as the mastermind in a future book, only has 3 scenes, the least of all. Just enough, in fact, to let us know that there is a mastermind and let the reader know he will show up later as a bigger problem.

If you think about this breakdown from a story standpoint, it makes sense that the protagonist, Patrick, has vastly more scenes than everyone else, because we as readers need to know what he is doing and thinking. The characters he cares about, Tessa and Lien-hua, get the most scenes out of the rest of the cast, because they add complications to Patrick’s story. After all, his main goal is to solve the main crime, but his secondary goals revolve around his relationships.

Patrick’s relationship with Tessa, though troubled, is extremely important to him. And she often comes across as a surly teenager from his point of view, especially since dealing with teens is not his strength. So, the author gives us a good number of scenes from Tessa's point of view, which accomplishes several story goals: It helps us to like her because we can see what she’s thinking, which she doesn’t always share with Patrick and which he often can’t intuit. It allows us to see Patrick at his weakest, when he's trying to figure out his stepdaughter but is blowing it. And it creates a diversion from the main crime plot that Patrick is trying to solve.
Strategic breaks like this can ratchet up the tension in both main plot and subplot when done properly, because we’re forced as readers to wait and see what happens to Patrick. And if Tessa is also in danger, then when we switch away from her and back to Patrick, we’re both satisfied to be back with Patrick and worried about what is happening to Tessa, which keeps us reading. And that's your main goal as a writer, no matter what you write: to keep the reader turning pages instead of putting your work down.

As a love interest, Lien-hua’s viewpoint can be helpful. And as an FBI profiler, she is much more adept at reading people than Patrick is, which adds a refreshing nuance to certain situations in the book that Patrick doesn’t quite understand, but that Lien-hua does. Or that she sees differently than he does, because of her area of expertise.

Of course, if you’re doing multiple viewpoints, it helps to show the antagonist’s point of view. This gives your bad guy more depth, making him more believable and in a thriller, more scary because you know he's about to do something evil but you are a mere reader, so you can't stop him.

Scenes from the antagonist’s point of view also provide information to the reader that the crime solver, Patrick, doesn't know. It increases tension when you know the bad guy is about to do something that Patrick either doesn’t know about or isn’t there to stop. This creates the same effect that you get when watching a horror movie, and you’re screaming at the characters, “Don’t open the door—crazy Freddy is standing behind it with an ax!” As I said earlier, this technique increases tension, which is what a thriller is all about.

And frankly, tension exists in all stories because tension means the situation isn't resolved. No resolution equals a need for resolution, which keeps readers turning pages. So you can see that multiple viewpoints isn't something you do just to do it. You do it as a deliberate writing technique with the goal of ratcheting up the story tension that will keep readers reading.

Now, back to The Rook to finish the analysis...

There are some other side characters, whose point of view scenes serve to share information that the reader needs to know, but that Patrick doesn’t know. In a multiple viewpoint story, this technique is an easy way to give information to the reader, especially when executed well. And Steven James is good at doing it, if you’re looking to study the writing of someone who is making this technique work for his stories.

I could look at other examples of multiple viewpoint fiction, but that would make this post even longer than it already is. So what I’ll do instead is suggest that you look at books like The Lord of the Rings for fantasy multiple viewpoints, and books like my friend Ellen Sherrill’s Treasure from the Storm, for multiple viewpoints in a romance. For the most part, you will find that the central characters get the most scenes, even in a romance, in which one lead will usually get more scenes than their romantic interest. Secondary characters with subplots always get fewer scenes.

In some cases, you may have two characters with almost the same amount of scenes, though to be honest, I can't think of an example. It's theoretically possible, yet you don't see it much. Once you get beyond two characters, you’re not going to find the breakdown being equal very often because too many viewpoint characters dilute the story and confuse the reader. Imagine five characters all getting equal footing. Who is the story really about? Who knows?

This is one thing that weakens George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series for me. The more viewpoints, the harder it is to stick with the story, especially since there are characters I don't like and feel tired of and frustrated with, as well as characters I care a lot about and I hate it when their part of the story is delayed by multiple stops into other characters' viewpoints. One thing to consider when you're thinking of using multiple POVs is that if you go with too many, it can create reader frustration.

Of course, many, many people like Martin's work (even I admire his ability to write strong scenes and make characters memorable), so you can take my objections with a grain of salt. But I wonder how the scene breakdown in his series works out. I won't add it up because it would take too long to go through the five books he has so far and count how many scenes have gone to each character. But my reasonable guess is that the highest number of scenes across the series when completed will be a short list of Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen, because they seem to be the three central characters in the story to me. Other characters wax and wane.

Use of multiple viewpoints, in short, is a common technique in fiction, and you're going to give more scenes to the players that are more important and central to the story. If you want to see what another author has to say about this, one who has published a lot of work, check out Holly Lisle's Notecard Plotting Technique, in which she suggests a specific mathematical formula for breaking down scenes per character. I don't follow her technique exactly, but the idea is sound enough, and clearly it's working for her. So it's worth a look.

Now, you share: After all this, you probably have a lot to say. Maybe you know of a book that breaks down multiple POV evenly or almost evenly. Let me know what it is. Or maybe you have a different opinion of George R.R. Martin's technique than I do. Share it. I don't mind. Or maybe this post has created other questions in your mind. Ask away. I'll see what I can do to answer them.

In the meantime, happy writing!

Read part 1, From a Certain Point of View.
Read part 2, First or Third: Which Point of View Should You Use?

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 8, 2012

First or Third: Which Viewpoint Should You Use?

When I asked my writer friends for ideas they wanted me to talk about in this blog series on point of view, my Nanowrimo buddy Lissa Clouser raised this question:

"Would love to know people's real opinion on first person point of view, especially in fantasy. It's a hot topic in some circles. Do they like it or not like it? Is the limited point of view more interesting to the reader, or more annoying?"

Choosing between first person and third person is a daunting topic. I tackled it a bit in the first post on this series, From a Certain Point of View. And I'll talk about how I personally choose point of view in a minute. But first, let's address the issue that first vs. third person is a hot topic.

A quick Google search brought up a conversation on the Absolute Write forums about this very issue, particularly in urban fatnasy. And it appears that yes, indeed, making a decision about which point of view you use for your book might make the difference between whether your book is accepted or not. (The conversation is here if you want to check it out...after you finish reading this post, of course!)

In a nutshell, here's what you need to know: At least one agent out there believes the market is too glutted with first person urban fantasies, and was willing to turn down a book because of it. Now, one agent does not equal all agents. But it's a fair point to acknowledge: A lot of urban fantasy, maybe most, is first person. It seems to be expected. But is it effective? Is it likable? Is it more interesting, as Lissa asks?

The answer, to me, is that it depends on the story and the writer. And it especially depends on the voice and personality of the character doing the talking. After all, first person is like listening to someone tell you about their experiences over a cup of coffee. And if you're going to sit there listening for hours, you want to be entertained.

Jim Butcher is the paragon of a writer who does first person fantasy right. His character, Harry Dresden, is super appealing for a number of reasons, including his sense of humor, his self-deprecating speech, his sincere and rather charming lack of insight into how dangerous and intimidating he can be, his heroism, his cleverness, and his overall likability. All of these traits you pick up clearly through his tone and speech as he tells his story first person style. Can you tell I like Harry? Actually, I love him. And it's because I do that I love to read him as he tells story after story, 13 and counting, and I'm not tired of him yet. He can talk to me in first person all he wants to.

But not all first person stories are equally compelling. This may partly be in the eye of the beholder (the reader). Several readers in the Absolute Write forum mentioned that they prefer third person, while others prefer first person. But I think it's also a matter of how the writer writes the story. Some writers are much better at telling a compelling story in third person, and this is perfectly acceptable, even beloved. Amazon's customer discussions board also raises this question, and the people who commented came up with quite a few third person fantasy stories worth taking a look at.

Take Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. This is young adult urban fantasy, told in limited third person point of view, and it is fantastic. As a reader, I feel just as attached to Clare's characters as I do to Harry Dresden. In this case, third person is probably the most effective point of view to choose because the characters are mostly teenagers. And let's face it, teenagers can be hard to listen to for a long time. They lack the sense of experience and grounding that age brings.

In a sense, they are unreliable narrators because they can't do the high-level critical analysis that an adult brain is capable of. (This is a physiological fact. The brain isn't fully developed until age 25 or so. Read this NPR article on the teenage brain if you don't believe me.) So, perhaps you may need to write your YA UF novel from third person to balance out the fact that your teenaged characters don't see things as adults do. Or on the other hand, you may wish to take advantage of this unreliability, as Rajan Khanna suggests in his column on first person narratives in fantasy.

Ultimately, I think the question of first person vs. third person, especially in fantasy, isn't an either-or proposition. It really depends on your character, and your ability as a writer to make the story work in the point of view you choose. Some stories are going to demand third person, because you want to use multiple viewpoints. I'll talk about that in my next POV post. Other stories will be great in first person, and if you can make your character's voice feel welcome enough for a reader to stick with it for 400 pages, go for it.

Now, to tell you in a nutshell what I do: I generally write in third person limited. I can talk about my approach in a future post, but the bottom line is that if I write in first person, my characters end up sounding like me. You can get a sense of what I sound like from some of my humorous posts, like Cheeze-Its Are Out to Get Me. This never seems to work long-term in long fiction. I don't want all my characters to sound like me. Maybe it wouldn't drive you crazy as a reader, but it's not working for me as a writer right now, so I'm not doing it in my fiction.

By contrast, my flash fiction prizewinner, Strange Vacation, shows what I can do when writing in third person. I like the flavor that third person POV brings to my fiction, and my style seems to come out more appealingly in third person, so that's what I'm doing. It's not so much a choice of what I think an agent will like, or what I think will sell. Rather, my choice of point of view is a result of knowing what I do well as a writer and being true to what works for me. I'd encourage you to take the same approach. Do what works for you, because if it doesn't work for you, there's no way it will work for a reader. If you build your writing well enough, they (the readers) will come.

So, to help answer Lissa's question, what do you think? Do you prefer first person or third person, or do you not care as long as the story is good? Do you ever find first person annoying, and if so, when and why? Have you ever been unable to sell a piece of your writing because of the point of view you used in it? Share your insights in the comments below.

Read part 1, From a Certain Point of View.

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2012

From a Certain Point of View

Seeing is in the eye of the beholder.
Image via
Do you remember when Obi-Wan Kenobi lamely explains away telling Luke Skywalker that his father was dead (even though he wasn't) by saying, "What I told you was true from a certain point of view?"

Now, if you don't remember, I think I have to slap you (lovingly, of course) and shoo you off to watch Return of the Jedi. A lack of Star Wars knowledge is sacrilege on this blog. But if you do remember, and I'm sure you do, then you know that how we see things can affect the stories we tell and why we tell them. And the point of view from which a story is told affects the reader and how she perceives the story.

So... deciding on point of view is important for the stories you write. As you no doubt know. And yet, questions about point of view whirl around among authors like leaves in the wind, so I thought I'd talk about it in a blog series.

Let's start with the very basics first, and then we'll get into more complicated issues in later posts. In essence, point of view (which you'll see abbreviated all over the place as POV) is the voice and perspective through which you choose to tell a story. Technically speaking, there are three points of view that you can choose to write from:

First person POV, in which the I tells the story: "I went down to the corner store and bought a soda."
Second person POV, in which you tell the story: "You went down to the corner store..."
Third person POV, in which he or she tells the story: "She went down to the corner store..."

(Personally, I'd add fourth person, for when you write a collective hive mind science fiction story in which we tells the story: "We went down to the corner store and annihilated the puny humans!" But except for situations like this, you're going to stick with the traditional first, second, or third person choices.)
Oh, any excuse to show Luke.
Image via
Don't tell George!

There are some basic reasons why you select one point of view over the others. Among them: Telling a story in first person makes it very immediate, letting the reader feel like it is happening directly to them. It allows for a character with a strong voice and personality to lead the story. You get into the head of that character, and experience their thoughts.

Third person, by contrast, can be somewhat less immediate. But sometimes you want that distance as a storyteller. Third person still gives you a lot of leeway. You can still give characters a strong voice and personality. You can still reveal the character's thoughts. And ironically, sometimes the slight distance created by third person can intensify other reader responses, like the sense that you're on a roller coaster ride that you can't get off, and added sympathy for watching what the character is going through without being able to help them.

Second person doesn't get used nearly as much as first person or third person, and to put it simply, I think this is because second person gives the reader the worst of both worlds. It creates a strong, yet odd voice to hear a story from. It creates a certain immediacy because the reader feels as if she is being spoken to, yet if the reader can't relate to what the character is going through or disagrees with it, that immediacy creates discomfort. Imagine reading a story like this:

"You go to the corner store, where a little boy catches your eye. Cute. Blue eyes. Sweet face. Probably about nine years old. Still innocent enough for your purposes. He'd take such pretty pictures. You eye the cashier and then the store's video cameras, working out just what angle will allow you to snatch the boy without being caught..."

UGH! Wait, what? No!

That's your reaction, right? You don't want to go there as a reader. I don't either. But you see my point. Second person is just immediate enough that you don't want to identify with an awful character. But it's just distant enough that a normal, healthy human being isn't going to tell their story with it. Only a twisted person tells a story that way. Second person creates a weird vibe. If your story demands it, go for it. But it's hard to pull off. I only wrote only short story that way, to play with second person. But I don't think I'd go back to it.

Ask your questions!
In my next post, I'll start answering some questions and addressing some issues that my Twitter and Facebook friends have raised about point of view, including:

Positive and negative feelings about what point of view means
Is it easier/better to write in first person or third person?
What point of view do readers prefer, and why?
What do you do if you're telling a story from multiple points of view?
If I'm looking for examples of who does first person and third person well, where do I go?
How do I know if I'm better off writing in one point of view or the other?

And I'll also share which point of view I prefer to use for my stories and why. I think the answer to that question may help you finetune how you want to write your stories.

If you have any questions I haven't listed that you'd like me to tackle, let me know in the comments here, on Twitter (I'm @chippermuse), or on The Chipper Muse Facebook page, which by the way, I'd love for you to "Like." I know some people have trouble commenting on Blogger, so you're always welcome to move the conversation to Facebook. I chat there too!

Tune in next Friday for more on point of view. And invite your friends to join in. Let's make it a symposium on writing and fun! See you then.

Part 2 - First or Third: Which Viewpoint Should You Use?
Part 3 -  Multiple Viewpoints in Your Fiction
Part 4 - 

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.