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Professional shoulder devil

Writer of some things, maker of other things

Crafty (in every sense of the word)

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O is for Omniscient: The Right Way to Head-Hop

O is for Omniscient: The Right Way to Head-Hop

(Standard spoiler disclaimer applies to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, book flavor.)

Considering how haphazard my planning for the month has been (M’s post was written way back in January, while this one is coming to you from the far-distant land of four days ago), it’s a bit funny how thing seem to be lining up.  Yesterday’s post talked about how writing in first-person can present certain problems.  But going in the opposite direction isn’t guaranteed smooth sailing, either.

“Head-hopping” has gotten to be something of a bad word in the reading world.  It refers to a third-person omniscient view that doesn’t constrain itself to a single viewpoint character, but dips freely into whichever thoughts and reactions might be relevant.  This can get kind of confusing, especially if a reader missed the part where the POV changed, or if a character’s direct thoughts are thrown in without sufficient attribution.  Current conventional wisdom seems to favor a sort of revolving limited perspective than an omniscient one, only changing viewpoints with a scene or chapter break.  Of course, if you’re cutting quickly enough that you end up with scenes shorter than a page, it can feel just as disjointed, if not more so.  (See the latter half of The Good Fairies of New York for a good example of that.)

However, it is possible to execute this technique well, because really, it’s possible to execute any technique well.  For today’s master class, let’s turn to the late, great Douglas Adams.

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N is for Narrator: The Pitfalls of POV

N is for Narrator: The Pitfalls of POV

(Standard spoiler disclaimer applies to Dragonhaven.)

One of the very first things we have to decide in writing fiction is the identity of the narrator.  First or third?  Multiple narrators?  Limited or omniscient?  True, this is something that can change a lot while writing, but you’ve got to make a decision in order to start stringing words together at all.  The choice of narrator affects, and is affected by, a host of factors: genre and category expectations, which characters are privy to what events and knowledge, series considerations, thematic goals, and so on.  But what happens when these factors point in different directions?

Robin McKinley’s Dragonhaven, the story of a young boy who illegally raises an orphaned dragon, is written in first person, narrated by Jake.  On the face of it, first person seems like the rather obvious choice.  The conceit is that this is a memoir documenting an event that is famous in Jake’s world, while in our world, the intimate and confessional nature of first person lends itself very well to YA.

But the problem is twofold.  

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M is for Motivation: For Love of a Ship

M is for Motivation: For Love of a Ship

(Standard spoiler warning applies to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.)

I be feeling a bit nostalgic today, mates.  So let’s talk about one of my favorite scenes in film history.  It’s not a particularly spectacular scene by most standards, but it encapsulates a concept that’s executed so beautifully, it makes my crusty writer’s heart weep with joy.  And possibly with a teensy bit of drunkenness, because rum.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CMsyVwEf8c&w=500&start=100

(Scene starts at 1:40)

Sometimes it can be difficult to pin down what exactly makes a character so compelling.  Jack Sparrow is undeniably one of the great, iconic characters in cinema, but why?  Is it Johnny Depp’s inspired insanity?  The clever dialogue?  Just a really good costume?

No, from a writer’s perspective, I think the answer in this case is simple: Jack Sparrow is singularly memorable because he is singularly motivated.  He may seem to rapidly change sides as the balance of power shifts, but really, everything he does throughout the film–without exaggeration, every single move he makes and line he speaks–is all designed to bring him closer to his goal of recovering the Black Pearl.  Even his desire for revenge on Barbossa is secondary and incidental to getting his ship.

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The Reading List

Here’s a rundown of stuff online that I dig.  Clicky for more details!

 Writing Stuff

Agent Savant

BookEnds, LLC *

Confessions of a Wandering Heart

Janet Reid, Literary Agent

Miss Snark *

Pub Rants

Query Shark

Rachelle Gardner

The Review Hart

Sarah Negovitch

SlushPile Hell

Terrible Minds

TV Tropes

Writer’s Digest

WTF Bad Fantasy Covers

WTF Bad Romance Covers

Not Writing Stuff

Amy Mebberson

Cinema Sins

The Comics Curmudgeon

Darths and Droids

Dear Prudence

Disney Gents from Last Night

Disney Ladies from Last Night

DM of the Rings *

Heal Yourself, Skeletor

Least I Could Do

Narbonic *

The Order of the Stick

Questionable Content

Scandinavia and the World

Skin Horse

Two Lumps

XKCD

Zero Punctuation

* No longer updated, but archives of awesome

Contact me

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Other online hangouts:

Goodreads

NaNoWriMo

Offscript Studios on Etsy

Different stuff gets posted different places.  More info!