First Person; second person; third person; omniscient; third person close: POV and the choice and when to make it - why to make it. This - the last double-digit episode ever - of Horrible Writing.
Welcome to Horrible Writing. The rawest, most candid, in your face writing show on the interwebs, because none of us have time to suck. Let's do this.
Hey everybody; Paul Sating, your Host of Horrible Writing. Happy July. Yes, I realize it's been July come and gone - doesn't matter. It's the second of July when I'm recording this. I'm leaving for Denver in two days, so even though I told you a couple episodes ago that, "Hey, you know if I die, I love you, this will be kind of eerie," well, I actually decided to record one more episode before I left so I could get further ahead of myself. Simply because I've got a lot going on between this show, The Stories We Tell Podcast - check it out if you haven't, it's really cool.
Everybody who's part of this community - the Horrible Writing Writer's Support Group on Facebook (why aren't you there yet?) - you know, those monthly challenges get turned into a podcast. So it's really diverse flash fiction. Very cool to hear what everybody's coming up with. And they get three criteria - and just the broad range of stories that come out of that is truly awesome, and I'm absolutely humbled to have that as part of the show, or part of my production line up.
But I've also got a couple things in the pipe for books. You know that RIP and The Scales have been the major topic of my 2019, and they continue to be. I'm also working on audiobooks. I need to get into the audio space now. I can't keep waiting and hoping for the day when I could possibly hire a voice actor. I take it very seriously. I do a lot of things professionals do. But I'm not so flippant in my regard for voice acting because I think those people are amazing. I cannot do what they do. So it takes a while to do those. And those have chewed up a lot of my time.
And then on top of it, this past week - so the end of June, beginning of July 2019 - I've begun editing my third Subject Found book. I'm not going to say the title of it because my fans of Subject Found is also a podcast (if you haven't checked it out). I love teasing them with what the figure from lore, legend, or myth is going to be for the upcoming season/story. This one is going to be the first time that I actually release the book before I release the audio drama. If I ever do, one: audio drama doesn't really make money. There's some people who do well in it. But for the most part, we, the vast majority of us, maybe break even. Maybe closely ride that black/red line, and then some of us just lose tons.
And I can no longer voluntarily subject myself to that because it hurts my books. I can't put money into book marketing, book advertisements, covers, different types of editing - developmental editors. If I'm going to lose money, I'm going to do it and putting it into books that hopefully will be evergreen and someday sell. Probably when I'm dead, my family will be earning millions off of them. Instead of just audio drama you basically bust your ass for, for months and months at a time, and then just give away for free. And then it doesn't convert to anything beyond somebody buying a sticker for 25 cents at some point. So it doesn't make sense to do that. So the books is the focus, and that's why I'm working already, even though RIP has not been published yet. It's ready, and just working on that audiobook.
And The Scales is almost done from the second pass from my editor. She's just doing light work. She said she was really impressed with the way I fixed the things that she pulled out of it for me. So The Scales will be ready by the end of the summer. Hopefully, I'll be able to jump into that audiobook this summer and get that out. You know, around November time frame. That's what I'm shooting for anyways.
So working on this book, and that ties into the topic of this episode: POV. A lot of writers, new and old, are comfortable in a POV. A single POV. I didn't say they're limited, I said they were comfortable. And that's important for you to recognize about yourself is, more likely than not, you're comfortable with a certain POV and to write outside of that is a challenge.
Again, another reason why I think you need to come over to the Horrible Writing Writer's Support Group on Facebook - why aren't you there yet? - and take part in NJ Boyers monthly challenge that she holds over there because it forces you to step outside of those comfort zones. Any time you feel uncomfortable, you're growing as a person and in your craft. So why wouldn't you, if you take this seriously? Which, by Episode 99, I'm going to assume - if you're listening - you take this seriously. Or you just like the sweet intonations of this guy's voice, which I highly doubt. So it's you taking it seriously.
So think about POV. When you have a new story - flash, short, novel, novella, whatever - what kind of considerations are you putting into motion to determine the point of view that that story is going to be told through? Some of you are saying, "Uh, I don't, Paul." Fair enough. That's great. Let's just be candid, real, and raw and just say what is. Maybe you don't think about POV at all; you just start telling the story. You pantsers - I'm looking at you, right? You sit down, you put the hands at the keyboard - or that mic in your face if you are dictating - and you start telling the story.
Not just pantsers; plotters do it as well. And then those of us, like me, we are hybrids. We do a little bit of both or a lot of little bits of both, but we engage on both sides of that fence. In general, writers, how often do we stop and think about the POV? You'll hear people say quite often, "Whatever serves the story; whatever I feel comfortable with." Well, whatever serves the story is filtered through whatever you're comfortable with. I'll say that again. Because I think it's unfair to ourselves and our story to just make this decision and press forward. "Whatever serves the story." You'll hear a lot - a lot - of writers say that when it comes to point of view.
My argument and the thing I urge you to think about though is: your biases inform your decisions. Think about anything in your life - those beliefs you have. Your political affiliation. The thing you make- the judgments you make; the prejudices - because I want to stay away from that word because it has negative connotations, understandably so. But when we see a person, we judge people. When we see that person in the mall with 42 bags on their arm, we immediately think, "Oh gosh," this is Paul speaking, "they're swimming in debt because they can't afford that stuff," right? We see this world - we see everything - we interact with our reality through filters. One of the big filters is our biases.
So you have a comfort with a certain point of view; most of us do. If you're saying, "I don't," you might be able to validate that by showing us your wealth of books, shorts stories, works that you have out there, to prove otherwise. But I think that's more the exception than the rule. Most of us have that preference. So that's our starting point. And that's critical for you as a writer to understand when you're thinking about POV.
What is my starting point? Well, for me, it's close third. I like staying in third person, but I like getting close. I did that in The Scales. I did that in RIP. I did it definitely in Chasing the Demon, right? All of these things, I stayed close. I did it for the stories in Twelve Deaths of Christmas. Everything I've been doing, I do that. And maybe I'm a little tired of it.
I think with outlining this new book, I've realized, had this character not pushed me to this thought I don't know when it would have come across. I've always thought, "Huh. I'm going to try something. I'll try writing in second person." I don't like it; it's my least favorite. But I'll try it. Okay, I can do first person, it just feels cumbersome to me almost. But I can still do it. So there have been - usually short works - where I will challenge myself to step outside of that comfort zone.
But it wasn't until outlining this book and going through the 42 chapters or whatever it is - it's over 40 - and organizing the timeline and the structure and making sure that it is what I want it to be before I sit down and write. I'm going to fight the temptation to just get working on it. The outline's been done, but I'm reorganizing it now because I don't want to go do the editing work that I've done on The Scales.
So sitting down and looking at those chapter outlines, looking at the timeline of the story and of the characters and some of the issues that are involved in that story (meaning the characters and what they've got going on), I realized, "Oh wow, if I'm going to stay in third close, I'm going to need a number of characters - at least three to serve the story - that I would need to be in third close for. I could do that, but do I want to for this story?" Because there's a particular angle feature that I want highlighted in the telling of this story, and the multiple third person close point of views might detract from that. I believe it will.
And author and former interviewee on this show, Tim Niederriter, had a great comment to make on a post made in the Horrible Writing Writer's Support Group about it. But he talked about fighting the temptation to believe certain things about what the marketplace will tolerate. For one, for example, one of my concerns is contemporary/modern tolerance for omniscient third. I grew up reading omniscient third. A lot of people my age did - that's pretty much how things were written; this all-seeing God eye. I mean, of course, there were books that didn't But especially in epic fantasy when you've got a cast of 30 main characters - you've got to be head-hopping a lot, and it's what I was used to. But I've noticed - I don't know, past ten years of reading - I see less and less and less to the point now in 2019 I can't remember the last time I read a contemporary book that was in omniscient third.
But looking at that outline, I realized I cheat the reader out of the experience if I go close third in scenes that will be problematic. And I can be creative as I want, but there are reasons why I feel that it would be a disservice to the reader. I don't want to talk about it too much. I don't want to give it away, but the protagonist in this story has a disability that affects the way that she sees the world. So I didn't want to do that. And I wanted the story to be rich. And my gut has been telling me for days now as I've been laying out the timeline, that, "Omniscient third, Paul, omniscient third, omniscient third." Because what I do is, I've outlined everything in detail then I go write up little sticky notes of it and layout each chapter on sticky notes for rearrangement if needed. But on the bottom of the sticky notes, I will put what point of view that chapter is in. And I notice I was all over the board. And I would put the characters name/omni - for omniscient.
And over and over and I was fighting the urge to just acquiesce and say, "Hey, this book is going to be omniscient third." At least the point of view through the entire work will be consistent. And then that little critic on my shoulder started barking right? Subject Found series is already challenged in the fact that it's an anthology series. So each book is a stand-alone story, and the first two books were adaptations of existing audio drama podcasts. This third one, the script is already written. So technically even though the audio drama isn't published and probably never will be; it's still an adaptation. So that's something I'm swimming against the stream with as well.
So to now throw this in there and think about the marketability of omniscient third, and then some great comments/recommendations about maybe seeing the force through the tree - the single tree that was blocking my view - great comments. But it wasn't until Tim's comment that I went, "That's it right there." It's not about serving the story - it is - but it's about going with the intuition as a creator. Following your intuition. Following what your gut is telling you to do with stuff. i.e., in this example, me acquiescing and making that decision: "You know what? I am. I'm going to go omniscient third with this and see what happens." Worst case, it blows up in my face; the sun is still going to rise tomorrow.
For you, I want you to do that with your work in progress. What is your point of view? How did you come to that determination? Force yourself to come up with justification. And let me qualify that. I want this to be honest and deeply analytical but get away from, "I'm serving the story. This is the point of view that serves the story." Really deep dive into that. Because again, like I said earlier, your starting point is the point of view that you're comfortable with. How often does that often win out as the point of view through which you tell your stories? Flash, short, or novel/novella length. And if you find that you rarely/ever deviate from that point of view, then are you really serving the story, or the self - the author self?
My bias is writing in third person close. "Oh, this serves the story best." Mmm, maybe it doesn't. I'm not saying you're wrong, but I am saying that as a Horrible Family, we need to be candid, raw, and honest with each other and just look at that.
I put my stuff out there publically because I believe in serving others in the Horrible Writing community through my own experiences. Lifting everybody. Newer - the people coming behind me - I hope I'm helping just as those who came before me put their stuff in the world and I feel has been very helpful in my own pursuits. I hope this helps you as well, and I hope it gives you something to think about.
Having said that, if you haven't already, and you're interested in selling more of your books, I'm going to ask you: go wherever you get your books. Novel Idea to Podcast: How to Sell More Books Through Podcasting is out there wide. It's not just Amazon; you can pick it up through wherever - on Amazon or you can go to bookstoread.com/novelideatopodcast. Tons of insight, equipment stuff, posting, marketing, considerations. For those of you who are writers who have things out there, and how you can find an audience; audience now, fans now, and for the future.
For those of you who don't have something published yet, don't let that stop you from picking that up. Again, there's nothing there now, that you could start working on now, to start building your fan base (your following) so that when you do start putting those things out there for sale - i.e., your book - you'll have a base from which to launch. So again, over on Amazon or bookstoread.com/novelideatopodcast.
For those of you who have not, please go leave a rating and review for this show if you find this show to be helpful. Ratings and reviews are a great way to legitimize the show to people who are unfamiliar with it. So take a couple minutes maybe to leave the rating and a review. It would be greatly appreciated.
And of course, if you would like to support this show, help keep it going, head over to patreon.com/paulsating. You get this early. You get The Stories We Tell early. You get exclusive bonus content for everything I do: exclusive stories, audiobooks, you name it. Alright. Until the mass of 100th episode - gosh I can't believe we're going to hit 100 - keep being epic.
This has been Horrible Writing, and hopefully, after this episode, you suck less than you did at the beginning. I am Paul Sating; your host extraordinaire. You can find me over on the TwitterVerse @writinghorrible, and over at paulsating.com/horrible-writing. Until next time, suck less.
Transcription by Renzee Lee over at Renzee Lee Freelancing. For fast turn around times on content writing, transcription, and editing services, email Renzee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally Posted: August 2019