Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What is Point of View?

Point of View (POV) is the choice the author makes in determining who will tell the story. Will the story work best if told by a narrator who is not a character or from the perspective of one ore more of the characters?

First person stories – “I” stories – are told as if one of the characters in the story is telling what happened. “I woke up with a headache and headed for the drug store.”

“He” or “she” stories are told either from the narrator’s point of view or one of character’s viewpoints.

The omniscient narrator viewpoint allows the narrator to see all and tell all. It’s the style story teller’s often use when telling a ghost story around a campfire. “It was a dark and stormy night when two teenagers parked out at the old abandoned mansion…”

This style of storytelling allows the author, as narrator, to inject himself or herself into the story to offer an opinion or to express a reaction to the story. Some readers and critics find author intrusion annoying. The literary term is didactic. The big thing to keep in mind is the narrator acts like a god because the narrator sees all, hears all, and may tell all.

There is a softer version of this type of story in which the narrator is less intrusive. The author tells the story from the viewpoint of a single character, like the “I” story, but uses “he” or “she” style writing. “Bob Shay woke up with a headache. He headed for the drug store.”

In this type of story the author parks an imaginary movie camera on top of the head of one of the characters and records what goes on as the character goes through his or her day. This type of writing limits the story to what one character sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels. In some stories, the author moves the camera from one character’s head to another character’s head so you get more than one viewpoint.

Do you have a preference when it comes to POV?

POV is an important component of all stories, including my novel Fulfillment. You may click here for Amazon or click here for paperback. It's pure suspense/thriller, horror, mystery, romance and spiritual warfare told mainly from the POV of Mary, a pregnant teenager with moxie and connections in high places.

Here’s another novel idea…
Enjoy this blog post? Please share it with your friends by clicking the social media buttons below.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What Is a Story Hook?

What is it about a novel that grabs your attention and makes you want to keep reading? Why do you choose one book over another? Authors call it the “hook.” Hooking begins with the front cover where you see the title and the author’s name. If you heard of the author, the name alone may hook you into reading the book. Authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz fall into this category.

How about the title? Does it snag your attention? It should. It was created to grab your interest like a newspaper headline. The other “hook” on the front cover of a paperback novel is the cover art. Creative cover art leads you to turn the page to learn more.

The title of my novel, Fulfillment, raises questions about what is being fulfilled. We all want to achieve some level of fulfillment, so this must be a story where someone achieves it, right? But the cover also tells you that it is a suspense novel so you know something evil or bad is afoot. The image of a baby in the womb strikes you. And there’s that tiny barely there cross casting its long shadow onto the baby. Is this a novel about Jesus or Christians in some way? Maybe it’s about the fulfillment of a prophecy of some sort. But what prophecy? There’s only one way to find out.

You’re hooked.

Okay, you checked out the cover, and if you’re in a bookstore (remember those?), you checked out the back cover copy, all of which is written to hook you into reading the book. So now you open the book. You read the blurb on the inside of the cover that describes the story. More hooks there. Next, you’re on page one, chapter one. You read the first sentence. What do you think? Do you want to keep reading or does the story sound dopey? 

The first sentence should grab your attention and lead you to the second sentence… and the third. You want to know more. What’s this story all about? The first sentence has to be a big hook. The other big hook, usually on page one of chapter one, is what’s called the “inciting incident.” This is the big hook that makes you want to read the entire book to find out what happens or whodunit. If it’s not on page one, it’s usually somewhere in chapter one.

My novel Fulfillment begins: A loud roar shook the house.

Who or what roared? How can a roar shake a house? What kind of house? Whose house? What does the house look like? Read on and find out if you’re hooked.

The inciting incident, as the name implies, is the action or situation that starts the story. For example, a young couple stops at a remote motel late one night. Once settled in their room, the vampire makes her appearance. The inciting incident is the vampire’s appearance. Usually, the author will be a bit more subtle. The inciting incident will be the wife’s disappearance. Or the car breaks down and they have to stop at a nearby farmhouse for help. The farmhouse looks haunted. Is it? What’s that sound the husband just heard? The wife missed it, but something went bump in the night. From this beginning event, the story is off and running.

Notice that the incident that starts the story raises all sorts of questions. What went bump? Is that house really haunted or just old and dilapidated? Why did the car break down? Can they get it going again or do they have to call for road service? Will their cell phones pick up a signal out here in the middle of nowhere? We know something is going to happen because it is a novel after all, isn’t it? But what? Read on and find out. Oops, you’re hooked.

In Fulfillment, the first sentence describes an event that precedes the inciting incident. The actual inciting incident doesn’t appear until later in chapter one when an angel shows up to deliver a message to the main character. And the inciting incident isn’t the angel’s message, as powerful as it is. Rather it’s the main character’s response to the message that starts the story.

The inciting incident alone doesn’t keep you reading, but it helps. The other thing that keeps you reading is the cliff hanger. That’s the hook at the end of the chapter or the bottom of a page or the end of a scene that makes you want to know more. You can’t put the book down because something awful just happened or is about to happen and you have to know what happens next.

The cliff hanger combines with the opening hook. The first sentence of a chapter or scene makes you want to know more by raising a question or issue in the story. The author wants you to think, “Oh crap, now what’s wrong?” Something is preventing the main character from achieving her goal. What is she going to do? Read the chapter or scene and find out because you’re hooked.

For an example of this double hooking, I end chapter 17 of Fulfillment with the following paragraph:

Into Joseph’s carpenter shop floated a horde of shadowy invisibles to join their compatriots hanging from the ceiling. This new group dripped saliva and panted as they hungered for the lifeblood of a man’s soul.

What do you think? Do you want to know more? I begin the next chapter with this paragraph:

In the darkness, a thousand demons swore insults at Joseph. A million more hurled blasphemies as heavy as boulders upon his body. Yet another million hurled spears and arrows of regret, remorse, sadness, and loneliness.

Hooks grab your attention so that you want to know more. They make the story exciting. Hooks are important to the author because they don’t really want you to put the book down. We’re afraid you’ll never pick it back up. Hooks are important to you as a reader because they increase the excitement of the story and make you want to know more. Keep reading stories that grab your attention and hold it until the words “THE END.”

Want to know more about Fulfillment, click here for Amazon or click here for paperback. It's pure suspense/thriller, horror, mystery, romance and spiritual warfare.

Here’s another novel idea…
Enjoy this blog post? Please share it with your friends by clicking the social media buttons below.